Jinggoy Estrada
JINGGOY IN MICHIGAN. Filipino-American community leaders and former Philippine Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada (in blue jacket) pose for photographers shortly after the latter delivered a speech at an event held last May 20 at the Hibachi Buffet in Sterling Heights, Michigan. At least 120 people attended the event organized by the Michigan Concerned Citizens. Among the leaders in photo are Brenda San Agustin and Van Ong.

CHICAGO (JGL) – If former Philippine president and now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” E. Estrada did not adopt his screen name, Estrada, as his official family name, the name of his son, former Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, would be Jose P. Ejercito, Jr.

Jinggoy is on course to follow his father’s footsteps, either as an actor or as a politician. The elder Estrada was an award-winning actor, San Juan mayor, Manila mayor, senator, vice president and president. Jinggoy had become actor, San Juan mayor and senator.

Jinggoy was still in kindergarten when I first met his father while I was an entertainment reporter for Pilipino/Daily Star before martial law.

Last May 20, Jinggoy spoke before 124 Concerned Citizens of Michigan in Hibachi Buffet Restaurant at 33431 Van Dyke Road in the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights in what could be his comeback vehicle to reclaim his Senate seat in the 2019 Philippine mid-term senatorial elections.

My former colleague in the Philippine daily Manila Bulletin, Tony Antonio, who now edits Filipino Star News in Michigan, said early this year he got a call from an aide of Jinggoy who asked if it is possible for him to organize a community event in Michigan and have the former senator as guest speaker.

At that time, Jinggoy had just been released from jail after he was granted bail on charges of plunder. Jinggoy has denied the charges.

Tony later went to the Philippines to find out how Filipino Americans in Michigan could help in the rehabilitation of the victims displaced by Mayon Volcano eruptions. While there, he met with Jinggoy to verify if he really wanted to speak before the Filipino Americans in Michigan.

But before visiting the former senator, Tony asked his friend, Willie Dechavez, president of the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) in Michigan, if his group was willing to host Estrada’s visit in Michigan. Without much ado, Dechavez signed Tony’s proposal.

After Estrada submitted Willie’s letter-invitation to the Sandiganbayan, the anti-graft court allowed Jinggoy to travel. Letting Jinggoy travel became hot news as it caught by surprise USP4GG national officers Loida Nicolas Lewis, national chair, and Rodel E. Rodis, national president.

Despite the opposition by Lewis and Rodis before the Sandiganbayan to Dichavez’s use of USP4GG name in the letter, Estrada was allowed by the Sandiganbayan to travel to the U.S. The Sandiganbayan ruled that the prosecution failed to substantiate the allegations and it could not base its decision on newspaper clippings.

As a student of law, Estrada knows that when he speaks today, he could not discuss the merits of his case because of the so-called sub-judice rule.

However, it is important to Estrada to disclose before audiences the plunder charges he is facing. If he wins in the senatorial elections, even if he loses in the plunder case, he could still serve as senator as what had happened in the case of former Senators Ninoy Aquino and Antonio “Sonny” F. Trillanes IV, who won in the senatorial elections even while they campaigned from jail. Both of them were eventually freed. Ninoy was allowed to go to the U.S. for medical treatment following a heart attack while Sonny was eventually allowed to occupy his senatorial seat.

Freeing a jailed politician running for office is a belief arising from the Latin proverb that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Some say this does not mean that the “voice of the many is wise and good, but only that it is irresistible,” like the People Power Revolution in 1986.

It is also an application of the condonation doctrine that the Philippine Supreme Court in the recent case of Ombudsman v. Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara [G.R. No. 216871, Dec. 6, 2017] in which although it found the doctrine to have “no legal authority” [which was] “adopted from one class of US rulings way back in 1959 and thus, out of touch from reality and now rendered obsolete by the current legal regime” and yet it upheld the same doctrine because it found that the misconduct of Vergara “was done in a prior term and that the subject public official was eventually re-elected by the same body politic.”

If Jinggoy loses in the senatorial elections in 2019 and the plunder case, his only way out is pardon by the sitting Philippine president. This was what happened to his father, who was convicted of charges but pardoned by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. This restored the civil rights that allowed him to run in the election and win the Manila mayoral seat.

The fortunes of politicians are unpredictable. Who would have thought that Erap’s friend, Malaysia’s reformist icon Anwar Ibrahim, convicted of sodomy, would be freed after receiving a royal pardon, paving the way for a political comeback?

For politicians, it seems, hope springs eternal.