“TO THE FILIPINO – definitely worth writing for.” This apt dedication by Australian journalist Greg Hutchinson and Malaya columnist Ellen Tordesillas of their book, Hot Money, Warm Bodies: The Downfall of Philippine President Joseph Estrada (Anvil Publishing, Inc., 2001), is a fitting introduction to the blow-by-blow account of People Power II.

Hutchinson and Tordesillas chronologically outline the details of the historic event. The book includes a biography of Estrada, the “Robin Hood” of the masa, his ascension to power and his unexpected end.

By citing the extensive investigations and researches of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Pinoy Times, and Newsbreak, the authors present Estrada’s corrupt practices.

The book covers 17 chapters, divided into three sections–“Pre-trial,” “Senate Trial,” and “Court of the Streets,” tracing the fall of Estrada from the time Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson exposed the jueteng scandal.

As journalists, Hutchinson and Tordesillas cover the impeachment trial with deep perspective, sans technicalities.

The book presents contrasting points on Estrada’s last days in power, taking into consideration the views of the fallen leader’s circle of friends and political analysts.

The book also cites the error committed by the United States in recognizing Arroyo as the president even before Estrada released a statement rejecting her oath-taking at the EDSA Shrine on Jan. 20. The authors note that the U.S. State Department was in chaos around that time because of the preparation for the oath-taking of President George W. Bush that day.

Apparently, the U.S. State Department had not double-checked the announcement of Mike Arroyo that Estrada had resigned.

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Estrada did not resign, but left Malacañang nevertheless. The book paints his departure poignantly.

“Having the presidency taken from him by a repeat of People Power, and suffering the indignity of having him and his family whisked out of the palace back door to avoid the angry crowds threatening to storm Malacañang if he did not leave quickly, was an anti-climax anathema to his character and experience,” Hutchinson writes.

Not the last of it

The book’s epilogue written by Tordesillas covers the so-called EDSA III, the May 1 siege by Estrada loyalists of Malacañang after their idol was arrested for plunder on April 25.

Hot Money, Warm Bodies also includes comprehensive charts and diagrams of the jueteng payoffs, illustrating the mechanism behind the corruption, and the movement of jueteng money based on the testimonies and evidence presented by the impeachment trial’s prosecution panel. It also provides a chart of the P130 million alleged kickback gained by Estrada for the release of Republic Act 7171, or the Tobacco Excise Tax Law.

It also has pictures of the momentous scenes of EDSA II, Estrada’s mistresses, his final hours at Malacañang, his arrest, and the failed power grab that was EDSA III.

The book also contains copies of the letter of President Arroyo to Chief Justice Hilario Davide asking him to administer her oath to avoid civil unrest, and Estrada’s statement before he left Malacañang, questioning the constitutionality of Arroyo’s presidency.

With balanced details and intelligent insights, Hutchinson analyzes People Power in the context of the Filipino culture’s fiesta celebration.

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Like a traditional fiesta, both People Power I and II are celebrations of the distinct Filipino character–uprisings that bring drastic but unsustained changes in the socio-political structure of the country.

In the end, the authors anticipate more events of the same nature. “Nobody thinks the country has seen the last of it (People Power),” they write. Ma. Lynda C. Corpuz

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