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Posted on: Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Ex-president Estrada still doesn't get it

In the uncertain hours before the "People Power" crowd began to surge toward Malacanang last week, before it was certain that the military was firmly in the camp of Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President Joseph Estrada had the opportunity, like Ferdinand Marcos before him, to take the marbles and run.

But he simply couldn’t believe his time was past.

Amazingly, he still doesn’t get it. In a country still confused by the legal mechanics of the swift transfer of power, Estrada still hints of a return to power.

This is foolish and dangerous talk — foolish because Arroyo is firmly in control and the country supports her; dangerous because people could get hurt if they get involved with pro-Estrada plotting.

Meanwhile, senators are talking about a face-saving resumption of the impeachment trial. The trial collapsed last week when senators loyal to him suppressed evidence against him.

It’s too late for that. As he’s no longer in office, he no longer enjoys the luxury of a process leading merely to dismissal. Senators will not find it so quick and easy to restore their badly tarnished institution.

The Arroyo administration now is right to bar Estrada, his relatives and cronies from leaving the country. They should be vigorously and promptly prosecuted for the serious criminal charges they face.

The new leaders of the Philippines must get this behind them so they can turn to their most important work — work that Estrada sadly neglected — that is, narrowing the enormous gap between rich and poor.

The new Bush administration must move quickly to encourage Arroyo to effect social reform.

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