News Commentary

For Erap, Imelda, no crocodile tears for Sin

- Marichu A. Villanueva -
No crocodile tears for them.

This was the apparent reaction of both deposed President Joseph Estrada and former First Lady Imelda Marcos on news of Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin’s death on Tuesday.

Both said they had long forgiven the most outspoken and politically active prince of the Church who was instrumental in their removal from power.

But neither Estrada nor Mrs. Marcos could bring themselves to say they mourned the death of the late cardinal.

Sin, 76, succumbed to multiple organ failure after suffering a long-standing renal condition. His remains lie at the Manila Cathedral.

Mrs. Marcos left Malacañang with her husband, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, following the first EDSA people power revolt in 1986; Estrada left office after a similar street protest in 2001. The late cardinal was key to mobilizing public support for their ouster.

Reached by The STAR yesterday for a statement on Sin’s passing, the usually verbose Estrada paused before issuing three words: "Bless his soul."

"Let us pray for the repose of his soul," he hastily added.

Estrada, who is currently under detention at his 18-hectare property in Tanay, Rizal while undergoing trial for plunder before the Sandiganbayan, disclosed that he has, in fact, prayed one "Our Father" for Sin since his death on Tuesday.

"I offered a Mass for him at the chapel here," he told The STAR. Estrada has his own chapel, among other amenities, at his sprawling estate.

"I have forgiven everybody, including him, and I have included him in my prayers every day," said Estrada, who maintains he is still president despite the ouster.

Sin had been the most vocal critic of Estrada, even during the height of the popular candidate’s presidential campaign in 1998. The Church leader, condemning Estrada’s known womanizing, drinking and gambling, was quoted as telling voters: "Anybody except Erap."

The late Manila archbishop had called upon Filipinos to join the military-led breakaway group that ousted Marcos from Malacañang in 1986 through a peaceful street protest that became known as "EDSA I" for the main avenue on which it gathered strength. The removal of Marcos led to the election of Corazon Aquino, wife of slain senator Benigno Aquino and a fierce Marcos critic.

Mrs. Marcos, while hardly grief-stricken by the news of Sin’s death, offered these words of reconciliation: "With the death of Cardinal Sin, we Filipinos must be all united in spirit so we can move forward to a great future for the country."

Mrs. Marcos even had words of sobriety to address the current presidential crisis facing Mrs. Arroyo. When asked whether she had exhorted her followers not to call for the President’s ouster, Mrs. Marcos clarified: "She has not been impeached and has not resigned, so let us all get together and be one and united to move forward our country."

The STAR reached the former first lady Tuesday night at the Manila Mandarin Hotel, where she was escorted by her lawyer-friend James Linn to the reception for visiting Republic of Gambia President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh.

Mrs. Marcos, 76, admitted she still has qualms about Sin’s role in bringing to power "two un-elected female presidents to replace two duly elected male presidents."

"And look, where did this put our country now?" she asked.

Asked if she would pay her last respects to Sin in person, Mrs. Marcos replied: "Oh, that would be OA (overacting) of me."

Still, she insisted she and her late husband had never lost their faith as Catholics, despite the role of the Church in their removal from power.
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