Resign or face ouster – a call from UP

A growing number of Filipinos have seen enough, heard enough, to be able to form a conclusion about Joseph Estrada the president — he is destroying the nation.  They want him out as soon as possible. They cannot wait for a tedious impeachment process to strip him of his position.  They are asking him to do the country a favor by resigning now.

Last Friday, October 13th, the faculty, students, staff, and alumni of the University of the Philippines gathered in their individual capacity to draw a statement manifesting their collective distress over what is happening to the country.  The statement echoes the public’s disgust with the president’s disgraceful behavior in the last two years, which frames current perceptions of his involvement in the jueteng scandal. Chavit Singson’s revelations, to them, only affirm what everyone has long suspected about Estrada – that he is incapable of rising above himself to become president of a whole nation.  He should be removed if he does not have the decency to step down.

The statement, which I am reproducing here, invites other Filipinos who care for the country to add their names to this urgent call.

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Estrada – Resign or face ouster!

The nation bleeds.  Estrada’s continuation in office puts the country in grave peril in these uncertain times.

Charges of corruption, cronyism, and incompetence have consistently shadowed the presidency of Joseph Estrada.  Two PCIJ Reports document his extensive businesses and staggering real estate property acquisitions since he assumed the presidency in 1998.  Now he has been tagged by one of his long-time and closest friends, Governor Luis Chavit Singson, as “the lord of all jueteng lords”, who regularly receives protection money from the country’s illegal gambling operators.

In other cultures, people of honor sometimes commit suicide to redeem their names in the face of lesser accusations. But President Estrada has been content to issue blanket denials.  He has failed to explain himself to the satisfaction of a shocked nation.  Cynically, he has dismissed all these charges as nothing but the evil machinations of a discredited political opposition.

Believing that he could do anything because he enjoys the trust and confidence of the Filipino masses, he has conducted himself without regard for the honor and prestige of the office he occupies.

He has defiantly surrounded himself with cronies who are known to have financed his electoral campaign.  One of his first acts as president was to appoint friends and drinking buddies as presidential advisers and consultants, giving them the power to intervene in the affairs of government agencies and institutions.  He habitually intercedes for his favored friends by calling public officials and asking them to accommodate their requests.

He has turned his back on the sole reason why the Filipino masses made him president – to lift them from a life of degrading poverty.  In the last two years, he busied himself more in looking after the interests of his cronies than in fulfilling his promises to the country’s poor.

Under his government, workers’ wages have been frozen, squatter settlements demolished, and large tracts of agricultural land converted to avoid land reform. In a bid to raise his approval ratings, he ordered an ill-conceived all-out war in Mindanao that canceled all the peace efforts of previous administrations and consigned thousands of ordinary folk to a painful life in refugee camps.

In the face of massive poverty, he lives a life of luxury marked by a personal fondness for high-stakes gambling and midnight drinking sessions.

The result of these impulsive and scandalous actions has been the erosion of public trust in the president’s capacity to govern, and the decline in investor confidence in the economy.  A shameful budget deficit threatens to bring government operations to a halt.  Unable to recover from the BW stock manipulation scandal involving close presidential friends, the stock market languishes in a region that is elsewhere seeing continuing recovery from the 1997 crisis.  Worst of all, the value of the Philippine peso has dramatically plunged to an all-time low of P48.50 to the dollar, mirroring the fragile state to which Estrada’s presidency has brought the nation’s economy.

We, faculty members, staff, students, and alumni of the University of the Philippines, call upon President Estrada to do our people a favor by resigning now, or else face impeachment or removal by other means.

We call upon the decent members of the Cabinet, particularly the UP alumni, to express their displeasure over the conduct of the presidency by resigning now.

We call upon members of LAMP, the president’s party, to immediately dissociate themselves from this disgraceful president. We call upon members of Congress to heed the sentiments of our people, and to think of the long-term interests of the Filipino nation, by refusing to be part of the grand concealment of Estrada’s failings as a leader.

We call on our people to stand up and be counted during these difficult times, to unite and manifest their outrage, and to involve themselves in the urgent reconstruction of our national life so that our children may have a chance at a better life in this century.


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