Friday, October 26, 2007

Was that the fastest pardon of a convicted, corrupt and unrepentant ex-President ever?

Here's the list--

1. Former South Korea President Chun Doo Hwan was convicted for, among other crimes, accepting $275 Million in bribes. He was sentenced to life in prison. How much time did he serve in an actual prison before he was pardoned by President Kim Dae Jung? Two years.

2. Former South Korean President Roh Tae Woo was also convicted for the same charges of bribery with Chun and sentenced to 17 years in prison. Like his predecessor Chun, he also served two years in prison before being pardoned. After their pardons, both Chun and Roh also publicly apologized for their crimes.

3. Former Argentine president and junta-co-dictator Jorge Videla was convicted of various human rights violations ranging from torture to murder during Argentina's post-Peron "dirty war" period. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1985. He served five years before being pardoned in 1990 by a later successor, President Carlos Menem. But it didn't end there: that pardon was revoked by the Argentine Supreme Court in April this year. The court reinstated Videla's conviction and sent him back to prison.

4. And here’s an example that might prompt a nod of recognition, involving as it does a corrupt female leader and her corrupt husband. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto didn’t go to jail for corruption charges involving $1.5 Billion in ill-gotten wealth. But her husband did. He was imprisoned for eight years, before being allowed to post bail. Bhutto herself went into a long exile abroad.

But before you can make that wish for the same fate to befall some other, more familiar, couple, here’s the twist. Last week, Pakistani military dictator Parvez Musharraf (who himself, as military chief, enjoys the corrupt proceeds of a $5 billion military-controlled industrial and commercial empire) granted Bhutto and her husband amnesty. Bhutto then decided to end her exile, clearly expecting some kind of perverted heroine’s homecoming or even a political resurrection courtesy of Musharraf, her new partner-in-impunity. Instead, her convoy was bombed. She survived, but there is clearly a lesson to be learned there, in that rubble.

Elsewhere in those parts of the world that are arguably as corrupt as ours, corrupt ex-leaders (and, in the last case, the spouse of one) were made to serve a significant length of time in prison before they were granted pardon or amnesty. No, don’t argue that Erap already served six years of his life sentence, more than his fellow criminals in our examples. Those other corrupt ex-dictators and ex-presidents did not serve time in some non-prison contemplating the harshness of rest house life while eating lechon every other day. They suffered for their crimes. Some of them even actually regretted what they did and asked for forgiveness. Estrada? This criminal and his pardoner just chalked up another ignominious record for the Philippines -- a pardon issued only 1 month and 2 weeks after conviction, with not a single day of that period being spent in prison.

(Next post, I will finish what I started the other day. Or maybe, if I can get rid of autumn-induced laziness, I can come up with an answer to the question: can the People of the Philippines still charge the pardoned Estrada with a new and different crime, not barred by double jeopardy, and punishable with up to 14 years in prison under Section 4 of Republic Act 9160?)


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