Behind Malacanang

malanang.jpgBEHIND PALACE WALLS. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo congratulates outgoing Japanese Ambassador Ryuichiro Yamazaki after conferring on him the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Datu in Malacañang on the day the Sandiganbayan convicted her predecessor Joseph Estrada of plunder. Arroyo stayed in the Palace on the recommendation of her security aides. INQUIRER/PHOTO BY LYN RILLON


tears.jpgTEARS FOR AN IDOL. A loyalist cries after the Sandiganbayan verdict finding former President Joseph Estrada guilty of plunder. INQUIRER/EDWIN BACASMAS

Young Supporter

supporter.jpgSTAND BY YOUR MAN. Former senator Loi Ejercito Estrada with son Jude Estrada interviewed by the media after the Sandiganbayan verdict finding her husband, deposed president Joseph Estrada, guilty of plunder. INQUIRER/AUGUST DELA CRUZ

Loi Ejercito Estrada

loi.jpgSTAND BY YOUR MAN. Former senator Loi Ejercito Estrada with son Jude Estrada interviewed by the media after the Sandiganbayan verdict finding her husband, deposed president Joseph Estrada, guilty of plunder. INQUIRER/AUGUST DELA CRUZ


jinggoy.jpgRELIEF. Sen Jinggoy Estrada, son and co-accused of ousted president Joseph Estrada, wipes away sweat as he talks to media outside the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court following his acquittal on plunder charges along with lawyer Edward Serapio. The former president was found guilty. INQUIRER/AUGUST DELA CRUZ

Guilty of plunder

estrada.jpgGUILTY. Deposed president Joseph Estrada is interviewed by journalists outside the courtroom of the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court after he was found guilty of plunder. AFP/ROMEO GACAD


freerap.jpgSenator Jose ‘Jinggoy’ Estrada walks past a poster of demanding freedom for his father, former president Joseph Estrada, after a press conference assailing full page newspaper ads that the opposition said aim to condition people’s minds to a guilty verdict on the plunder case against the deposed leader. INQUIRER/REM ZAMORA

We will survive Estrada acquittal, says Palace

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Last updated 04:40am (Mla time) 07/05/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Wednesday said it will survive an acquittal of jailed President Joseph Estrada from the plunder charges that were the basis for the Edsa People Power II event that propelled President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to power six years ago.


“This administration will survive any condition. Definitely, no question about that,” said Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita when asked on what could be an adverse reaction from Estrada’s supporters if the Sandiganbayan finds their leader innocent of the charges that led to his ouster in 2001 and his stay in jail over the last six years.


“We (the Arroyo administration) are only going by our laws. That is important. It’s one thing to accuse, it’s another to prove the accusation and we have the courts to do that,” said Ermita.


But Ermita noted that a guilty verdict on Estrada could very well incite an equally strong reaction from his followers which was why the Palace had been preparing contingency plans for any scenario.


“We will have to see first the reaction of the public whether the verdict is guilty or not guilty and act accordingly. She is the president of the entire Filipino people. She should make sure that the situation on the ground is peaceful,” said Ermita.


Ermita, however, would not say what scenario Malacañang felt would have more serious reaction.


He was adamant that Malacañang has kept its hands off the case throughout the trial period and that it would not dare touch the Sandiganbayan’s final decision.


“The Sandiganbayan is a separate body. The accused is a former president and therefore he should be given due respect. Let’s just follow what the law says as far as such a case is concerned,” said Ermita.


When asked if he considered the event a possible threat to national security, Ermita said: “He’s a very important personality. I would like to think that whoever was the proponent or is the proponent of that one-page ad is precisely in their own group.”


Ermita was reacting to a one-page ad in newspapers Wednesday that appealed for sobriety in the face of the Sandiganbayan’s impending decision on the Estrada case.


“Some sectors are saying this could be a national threat but if you are following the case of the former president you will see how transparent the litigation of the case has been and they will see when the verdict comes out if it follows the rule of law or not. It’s very transparent and maybe that would mitigate against it being a serious threat against national security,” said Ermita.

Cojuangco seeks day in court on UCPB ownership

By Jocelyn Uy
Last updated 06:25am (Mla time) 06/22/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. is pressing his fight for the ownership of the United Coconut Planters Bank, which the Sandiganbayan has awarded to the government saying it was illegally acquired using coconut levy funds.


In a petition filed with the Sandiganbayan First Division, Cojuangco moved for a hearing on the ownership dispute, claiming that the anti-graft court did not grant him an opportunity to present evidence on his counter-claim.


In 2003, the Sandiganbayan handed down a partial summary judgment of the case, ruling that Cojuangco through the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) had illegally acquired the UCPB, then known as the First United Bank, using coco levy funds.


It forfeited Cojuangco’s shares in the bank and awarded them to the government. At the time, the value of the UCPB shares was estimated at about P100 billion.


The decision also affirmed earlier rulings that Presidential Decree 755, issued by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos authorizing the PCA to buy a bank with the coco levy funds for the benefit of coconut farmers, was illegal.


The Sandiganbayan affirmed its 2003 ruling last May, dismissing a petition from Cojuangco and the Philippine Coconut Producers Federation Inc. (Cocofed) asking for a “full-blown trial” of the case.


It said all pertinent issues had already been addressed by the court so that there was no point in proceeding with a full-blown trial or with the presentation of evidence by the parties in the case.


It noted that a trial would be futile as the defense of Cojuangco and the Cocofed relied heavily on PD 755 which had already been declared as “constitutionally infirm.”


In asking the Sandiganbayan to reconsider its ruling, Cojuangco counsel Estelito Mendoza said his client must be allowed to present evidence in his defense.


He said the decision was in violation of Cojuangco’s right to due process and the right to be heard by assuming “an established fact, a controverted fact.”

Anti-graft court lets Estrada go to son’s wedding

Last updated 07:17am (Mla time) 06/07/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Not only did detained former President Joseph Estrada get the anti-graft court’s permission to attend his son’s wedding this Saturday, he can also party all night and sleep over at his San Juan residence.


The Sandiganbayan on Wednesday granted Estrada’s request to be at the wedding of San Juan Mayor Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito, after the police and public prosecutors in his P4-billion plunder case posed no objections.


Ejercito, Estrada’s son by former actress Guia Gomez, will be marrying Maria Hyacinth “Cindy” Lotuaco on June 9 at 6 p.m. at the John the Baptist Church on Pinaglabanan Street in the municipality of San Juan.


The court said the 70-year-old father of the groom can also proceed to the reception to be held at the NBC Tent, Fort Bonifacio Global City, in Taguig City.


It was actually the Philippine National Police which “recommended” that Estrada be allowed to stay overnight in his residence on Polk Street in North Greenhills in San Juan “considering the reception may last very late at night,” the court noted in its order.


Estrada should be on his way back to detention at this vacation estate in Tanay, Rizal, by 8 a.m. the next day, it said.


Unless approved by the court, the media may not interview Estrada during this furlough, the order added.


The Sandiganbayan earlier rejected Estrada’s request for the wedding to be held in Tanay.


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