MANILA, Philippines?It was her second mea culpa, but this time former President Corazon Aquino said it in his presence.
Ex-President Joseph Estrada said he felt vindicated.
At the star-studded launch Monday of former Speaker Jose de Venecia?s book that gave accounts of scandals that had hounded President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Aquino asked Estrada for forgiveness for joining the Edsa II uprising that ousted him.
?I am one of those who plead guilty for the 2001 (uprising). Lahat naman tayo nagkakamali. Patawarin mo na lang ako (All of us make mistakes. Forgive me),? Aquino said in her brief but well-received remarks at the Podium mall in Ortigas Center, Pasig City.
She made her statement right after Estrada?s speech where he had ribbed De Venecia for joining Edsa II, for which he said he had given him his ?full and absolute pardon? as an exercise of his executive privilege.
Aquino thanked De Venecia for his behind-the-scenes stories of shenanigans in the Arroyo administration.
?Thank you, Joe, for coming out at last. Matagal na kitang hinihintay na sumali sa amin eh (I?ve been waiting for a long time for you to join us). So, better late than never,? said Aquino.
Aquino, who is undergoing treatment for colon cancer and rarely attends public gatherings, said she was praying for all Filipinos to unite so that the country could progress and get leaders who would serve them.
After her remarks, Aquino left, accompanied by Estrada, who saw her to her car.
He later told reporters that Aquino?s remarks were unexpected, but he said he was ?very happy.?
?That alone vindicates, coming from a respectable President, the icon and symbol of democracy,? Estrada said.
Earlier mea culpa
The heroine of the People Power Revolution of 1986 that ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos called on Ms Arroyo to step down in the midst of widespread protests in July 2005 over revelations in the ?Hello Garci? tapes that she stole the 2004 election, a charge she has vehemently denied.
In October that same year, Aquino said in a gathering with preacher Eddie Villanueva that she regretted having joined the 2001 people power protest against Estrada, saying ?I thought GMA (Ms Arroyo) would be a better alternative to Estrada.?
Estrada was then under house arrest. He was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court in 2007, but was subsequently pardoned by Ms Arroyo.
Former President Fidel Ramos arrived after Aquino and Estrada had left the launch of ?Global Filipino: The Authorized Biography of Jose de Venecia Jr., the Visionary Five-Time Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Philippines,? written by a veteran American journalist.
De Venecia broke away from Ms Arroyo after his namesake son implicated her husband in allegations of bribery and overprice in the scuttled $329-million NBN-ZTE contract to digitally wire the nation?s bureaucracy. The younger De Venecia was a losing bidder in the deal.
Although ousted as Speaker, De Venecia remains in Congress as Pangasinan representative.
Speaking to reporters, De Venecia said Ms Arroyo should not be ?another Putin,? referring to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia, who assumed the post after becoming president.
De Venecia said that moves in Congress to amend the Constitution were aimed as installing Ms Arroyo as head of government in the planned shift to a parliamentary system after her term ends in 2010.
?That?s why they?re trying to amend the Constitution, it?s a very serious plan,? he said. ?Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.?
De Venecia also disclosed that he was forming a rainbow coalition in the first quarter of 2009 to fight Charter change, corruption and poverty. ?It will be a contract with Filipinos,? he said.
In his remarks, Estrada brought the house down when he congratulated De Venecia for his book.
?Those who attended Edsa Dos now realize that it was a big mistake, and it seems that this now includes JDV [De Venecia?s initials],? he said.
Estrada joked that he and the former Speaker were ?men of conviction,? but he was different in the sense that he had been actually convicted?of plunder.
?My advice to JDV is if you want to be a certified man of conviction, wait for your turn,? he said, to laughter from the audience.
He also said he and De Venecia?s fight for the presidency in 1998 was honorable, and whatever mudslinging was there took place at the lower levels of the campaign.
?Had he won, he might have been the one impeached by a conspiracy of power-hungry politicians, civil society and segments of the Church,? he said.
The deposed President also joked that he got a headache from reading De Venecia?s biography, which he said was lengthy like the former Speaker?s speeches.
But he said that someone else had a bigger headache from the book?Malacañang.
Among those who showed up at the book launch were former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora, party-list Representatives Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, former National Security Adviser Jose Almonte; former Commission on Elections Chair Christian Monsod, Washington Sycip, former Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman; former Bangko Sentral Governor Gabriel Singson; former Sen. Francisco Tatad; former ambassadors Roy Señeres and Lauro Baja.