Law a breath of fresh air for Arroyo and Estrada

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 June, 2006, 12:00am

Along with the 1,200 inmates on death row, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and deposed president Joseph Estrada stand to benefit from the law scrapping capital punishment.

Dante Jimenez, chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, accused Mrs Arroyo of succumbing to church pressure in getting the measure 'railroaded like a bullet train ... we understand the president is going to kiss the hand of the Pope' soon.

President Arroyo will visit the Vatican soon. Although billed as a religious visit by a Catholic president, it has subtle political undertones. In 1981, Ferdinand Marcos shored up his tattered political reputation with a papal visit.

Mrs Arroyo herself has claimed that the late Pope John Paul II played a key role in her political plans by persuading her to run in the 2004 polls. Sources said Manila was trying to arrange a papal meeting.

As for Estrada, he faces the death penalty if convicted of the crime of plunder. But with executions scrapped, life imprisonment would be the harshest sentence he would face.

While the Senate version of the law rules out parole for crimes like plunder, it still allows the granting of presidential pardons.

Now with Estrada's trial finally in full swing, his possible conviction has been very much on the minds of his relatives and friends.

Days before Congress was due to deliberate on scrapping the death penalty, a personal friend of Estrada said Mrs Arroyo had no choice but to push for the scrapping of capital punishment because of Estrada.

Were the court to convict Estrada, 'his followers would never stand for the death penalty'.