Bohol takes Sandigan verdict with sobriety
by Rey Anthony Chiu
Tagbilaran City (13 September) -- SOBRIETY was how Boholanos took the guilty charge the Sandiganbayan handed upon former President Joseph Estrada.
While the authorities deployed some 6000 policemen in Manila over fears that the verdict would be met with violence, in Bohol, it was business day as usual with slightly a pause in the throb.
And while some vocal Boholanos aired opinions over the local airlanes hours before the Sandiganbayan was to read its verdict, more Boholanos took to their own positions and assumed a wait and see attitude on the verdict.
"It's good our prayers were heard," said one Roman Catholic priest who has been openly asking his parishioners to learn to accept whatever comes out of the verdict.
Here, even militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) through chairman John Ruiz, said they accept the decision to convict. None of their allied groups came out of the streets to join the few Erap supporters who gathered near the Sandiganbayan.
"The verdict offers a small measure of justice and is acceptable insofar as it points out the wrongdoings of the former president," Bayan website declared.
The case, which took up the better part of six years to resolve started when the Ombudsman filed a P4.097B plunder case against the former president in April of 2001.
The plunder case was the made up of four charges: acceptance of P545 million in protection money from "jueteng", misappropriation of P130 million in tobacco excise taxes, collection of a P189.7-million commission from the sale of real estate firm Belle Corp. shares, and depositing P3,233,104,173.17 in a bank account under the name Jose Velarde.
Also named co-accused were Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, Charlie "Atong" Ang, Edward Serapio, Yolanda Ricaforte, Alma Alfaro, Eleuterio Tan (a.k.a. Eleuterio Ramas Tan or Mr. Uy) and Jane Doe (a.k.a. Delia Rajas).
While Ang entered a plea bargain later, businessman Jaime Dichaves was added as a respondent.
Rendering its decision to Criminal Case No. 26558, the court found the former president guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of plunder but acquits Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada and Atty. Edward S. Serapio of the crime.
For such, he former chief executive is to suffer from reclusion Perpetua with the accessory penalties of civil interdiction during the period of sentence and perpetual absolute disqualification.
The court also ordered the forfeiture in favor of the government of the sum of P545,291M with interest and income earned which is inclusive of P200M deposited in the account of the Erap Muslim Youth Foundation, P189M inclusive of interests and income earned of the money deposited in the Jose Velarde account.
The court also ordered the forfeiture of a house and lot dubbed as "Boracay Mansion" located at #100 11th Street, New Manila, Quezon City. (PIA) [top]