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Estrada pardon draws positive reaction in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- In contrast to the largely negative reaction in the Visayas, the pardon given by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to ousted president Joseph Estrada drew mostly favorable comment from politicians in Mindanao, including a visiting opposition senator.

Senator Loren Legarda said during a brief visit here that the pardon "will send a signal of healing of some wounds."

She told reporters that the former president has suffered enough and it was time to end that suffering.

"He will now have a time for himself and his family," said Legarda, who ran but lost as running mate of Estrada’s bosom buddy Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 presidential election.

Another opposition figure, Lanao del Norte Representative Vicente Belmonte said the pardon was a step toward national reconciliation.

"Estrada can still be a king-maker," Belmonte said when asked if the continued incarceration of the former president could affect the Arroyo administration's grip on power.

In Butuan City, eight lawmakers allied with Arroyo said they supported the granting of executive clemency to Estrada.

In a joint statement, Representatives Guillermo Romarate, Jr. (1st district, Surigao del Norte), Francisco Matugas (2nd district, Surigao del Norte) , Edelmiro Amante (2nd district, Agusan del Norte), Jose Aquino (1st district, Butuan City-Agusan del Norte), Rodolfo Plaza (lone district, Agusan del Sur), Glenda Ecleo (lone district, Dinagat Island), Philip Pichay (1st district, Surigao del Norte) and Florencia Garay (2nd district, Surigao del Norte), said the grant of pardon to Estrada would usher in national unity and reconciliation.

"It's high time to grant him (Estrada) pardon for the sake of national unity and reconciliation," the lawmakers said.

They said with the freedom of Estrada, the acknowledged leader of the opposition, Arroyo's economic and development programs could now finally take off.

In Zamboanga City, Estrada’s close friend, Lepeng Wee, said the Filipino masses have long waited to see the end of the disgraced leader’s ordeal.

"We rejoice at his freedom and we are truly happy for his family that is once more complete and reunited. May this day also bring the healing of our nation," Wee said.

Local officials in Southern Mindanao also praised the granting of pardon to the former president.

In Davao del Sur, Governor Douglas Cagas, another Arroyo ally, said the presidential pardon was proof of President Arroyo's determination to pursue national reconciliation.

Digos City Vice Mayor Joseph PeƱas, Bansalan Mayor Edwin Reyes and Malita Mayor Benjamin Bautista said even if she knew that the pardon would cause an uproar among those who wanted Estrada in jail, Arroyo wanted to show that reconciliation could be achieved only through forgiveness.



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