The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled with finality that deposed President Joseph Estrada has no legal impediment to seek public office after he was given an absolute pardon by his successor, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The SC en banc, on Tuesday, ruled to junk a motion for reconsideration filed by case intervenor, former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, who sought to have Estrada unseated, arguing that the ousted leader’s prior conviction for plunder disqualified him from seeking public office.
The main petitioner, Alicia Risos-Vidal, who was Lim’s counsel during the canvassing of votes, did not file a motion for reconsideration, prompting the former mayor to step in as intervenor.
Lim, who sought reelection, lost to Estrada in the May 2013 elections. Estrada garnered 349,770 votes as against Lim who got 307,291 votes.
“The court denied the motion for reconsideration filed by intervenor, former Mayor Alfredo Lim, on the ground that no substantial argument was raised to merit a reconsideration,” the High Court said.
Last January 21, with a vote of 11-3, with one justice inhibiting, the SC en banc dismissed the petition that sought to reverse a ruling of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) junking the disqualification case filed against Estrada.
Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro penned the decision.
De Castro headed the Sandiganbayan Special Division that tried Estrada for plunder on September 12, 2007.
SC Justice Diosdado Peralta was also among the Sandiganbayan magistrates who ruled to convict the deposed President.
Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza took no part in the case because he represented the Comelec during the trial when he was Solicitor-General.
Justice Marvic Leonen, the original ponente of the case, was outvoted in the decision.
In the majority ruling, the justices said the executive clemency given to Estrada by then President Arroyo was an absolute pardon.
“The main issue considered by the court was the characterization of the pardon extended by [Arroyo] to respondent former President-current Mayor Joseph Estrada after the latter’s conviction for plunder. The majority characterized the pardon extended by Mrs. Arroyo to stand as candidate in the last mayoralty elections. Likewise, Mr. Estrada’s acceptance of the absolute pardon removed the disqualifications arising under Section 40 of the Local Government Code in relation to Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code.”
The provisions of the Local Government Code and Omnibus Elections Code deal with disqualifications on running for elective posts.
Majority of the justices debunked the view of Leonen that the pardon given to Estrada on October 25, 2007 was conditional because of the wordings that say: “Whereas, Joseph Ejercito Estrada has publicly committed to no longer seek any elective position or office.”
The majority of the justices viewed that Estrada’s civil and political rights have been restored.
Then-President Arroyo immediately pardoned Estrada after he was convicted for plunder by the Sandiganbayan Special Division on September 12, 2007.
Despite signing an undertaking that he will no longer seek public office, Estrada however, decided to run for President in the May 2010 elections where he placed second to then Sen. Benigno Aquino 3rd.
A similar disqualification case was filed against Estrada but the SC did not issue a ruling on the merits after the case became “moot and academic.”