MANILA Mayor and former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada is no longer qualified to run for the country’s highest post, according to a legal expert.
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said in a statement that a Supreme Court (SC) ruling affirming Estrada’s resignation as president adds to his disqualification to run again for president in 2016.
The argument that Estrada did not finish his term of six years as president is not a valid ground to allow him to run again for president because of the constitutional prohibition under Section 4, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution which bars “any reelection” of an elected president, Macalintal said.
He cited the opinion of Father Joaquin Bernas, an authority in constitutional law and a delegate to the Constitutional Commission (ConCom) which drafted the 1987 constitution: “Reelection means either election immediately after a term or election even after some interruption.”
“You only get one shot to serve as elected president. There should be absolutely no second election at all,” Macalintal quoted a similar opinion issued by former Comelec Chairman Christian Monsod who was also a ConCom delegate.
It is true Estrada did not finish his six-year term of office as president. But this was due to his “voluntary resignation” from the said office, according to Macalintal.
“That his resignation was voluntary was clearly ruled upon by the SC when Estrada himself filed a petition before the high court to clarify the status of his having left Malacanang in January 2001,” he added.
Macalintal also cited the case of Estrada versus Desierto, where the SC held on March 2, 2001, that “Estrada resigned as president and he cannot feigned ignorance of this fact when he told his then executive secretary Ed Angara: ‘Ayoko na, masyado nang masakit’ (‘I quit, it’s already too painful’).”
The SC held that “Ayoko na’ (‘I quit’) are words of resignation which are high grade evidence that Estrada has resigned,” Macalintal explained.
According to Macalintal, the SC decided that the resignation of Estrada “cannot be doubted” as it was confirmed, among others, by his “press release that he was leaving Malacanang and acknowledging the oath-taking of (President Arroyo) as President of the Republic without reservation about its legality.”
The SC concluded that “the press release was Estrada’s valedictory, his final act of farewell. His presidency is now in the past tense,” he said
Macalintal said that Estrada’s contention that he was coerced to leave the presidency was likewise debunked by the SC, there being no evidence to vitiate the voluntariness of his resignation as “no harm, not even a scratch, was suffered by him, the members of his family, and his Cabinet, when they left Malacanang to justify a conclusion that he was coerced to resign.”
Thus, Estrada’s “voluntary resignation” from the presidency in 2001 cannot be a valid ground to justify another bid for the same position in 2016, Macalintal said.
He added that Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution clearly provides that “any voluntary renunciation of the office cannot be considered as an interruption in the continuity of the service for the full term for which he was elected.”