Surveys Doubt Ex-President Will Get Fair Verdict

September 4, 2007 at 11:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 04 Sept) – Will former President Joseph Estrada get a “fair decision” from the Sandiganbayan when it hands down a verdict on his plunder and perjury cases possibly next week?

A survey in the Mega Manila area conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS) showed that a “significant plurality” of Filipinos or 65 percent of the respondents were either “doubtful” or “undecided” when asked about their perception of the impartiality of the Sandiganbayan to render “a fair decision” on the Estrada case.
According to the survey that was conducted in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces last July, 34 percent of the respondents said they had “much trust” in the Sandiganbayan to make a fair decision.

However, 26 percent said they had “little trust” while a significant 39 percent of the respondents refused to give an answer, indicating they were undecided, when asked about the impartiality of the anti-graft court.

In the event the Sandiganbayan hands down a guilty verdict, Senate Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said his father would appeal his case before the Supreme Court, adding that they were confident he would get a fair trial from the high tribunal as it has proven its independence from Malacañang in the past.

The survey was commissioned by the United Opposition (UNO) as part of its continuing program to gauge public opinion and was conducted on 600 respondents in the Mega Manila area covering the National Capital Region and the four provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna. The poll was conducted on July 18-20 and has a plus or minus four percent margin of error.

The Sandiganbayan is expected to issue a decision on the case before Sept. 14. The court heard the final arguments of the defense and the prosecution lawyers last June 15.

Sources said one of the reasons why UNO leaders decided to conduct the survey was to determine the public impact of claims from Estrada allies that Malacañang was allegedly “pulling strings” to ensure a guilty verdict.

Critics alleged that the Malacañang can not afford an Estrada acquittal as it would revisit legitimacy questions about the Arroyo government and trigger more political instability. Malacañang and allies of President Arroyo have repeatedly denied the allegations.

When asked whether they agreed with criticisms that “pinaglalaruan ni Pangulong Arroyo si dating Pangulong Estrada,” 58 percent of the respondents said they agreed with the statement while 24 percent said they disagreed.

Among those who believed President Arroyo was “toying” with Estrada, 39 percent said they “strongly agreed” while 19 percent said they “somewhat agreed.” Among those who answered in the negative, 10 percent said they “strongly disagreed” while 13 percent said they “somewhat disagreed.” One percent of those surveyed refused to comment.

The survey also revealed that in the event the Sandiganbayan hands down a guilty verdict, an overwhelming 82 percent of the respondents said Estrada should remain in his Tanay estate while his case will be reviewed by the Supreme Court. Sixteen percent said he should be transferred to the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa.

In the same survey, a total of 86 percent said President Gloria Macapacal Arroyo should pardon Estrada in the event the Sandiganbayan hands down a guilty verdict on Estrada.

Forty-eight percent opined Estrada should be pardoned “immediately” while 38 percent said he should be pardoned “after some time.” A low 13 percent said the former president should not be pardoned.

What observers found significant was that 79 percent who said Estrada should be pardoned came from the Classes A, B, and C and not from the lower classes, known to be Estrada’s strong support base.

In the southern Philippines, Estrada still enjoys a huge support, especially in Jolo and Basilan islands and other Muslim areas, where much of development projects had been prioritized during his term. Estrada’s foundation also helped a lot of Muslims in the region. (Marlene Salgado)

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