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Commentary: On Erap conviction

Tuguegarao City (September 19) -- Local government employees here appreciated the government's success in the Erap Case.

They said Sandiganbayan's conviction after six years of litigation did not only serve as vindication but also provided recognition for the efforts of people who started the case against the former president.

The case will long be remembered in the history of the Philippines and the first ever that a president of the republic was convicted for plunder.

They said this should serve as a warning to other officials who may be proned to commit the same mistake as Erap did.

Erap's conviction proved of the government's efforts to rid the bureaucracy of corruption, they said.

Why Erap was convicted

Hard evidence – this was the basis for the conviction of former President Erap Estrada for the crime of plunder by the Sandiganbayan.

Consider these facts that were proven during the trial which led the court to decide that he is guilty:

"The total amount of money Gov. Singson collected from jueteng operations for FPres. Estrada starting November1998 to August 2000 was Five Hundred Forty Million Pesos (P450,000,000.00) more or less, according to Gov. Singson. Gov. Singson personally delivered about Two Hundred Milion Pesos (P200,000,000.00) to FPres."

"Bank officials, such as Salvador R. Serrano, Patrick Dee Cheng, and Carolina S. Guerrero, testified to the existence of checks paid by Chavit Singson which landed in the accounts of persons associated with FPres. Estrada…xxx"

"The paper trail of P200,000,000.00 deposited for the Erap Muslim Foundation, Inc. incontrovertibly established that the said sum of money came from jueteng collections through the cashier's/managers checks purchased by (Yolanda) Ricaforte using the deposits in the accounts that she opened…xxx"

"The Billions of Pesos that could have otherwise been used to pay benefits to SSS and GSIS members were diverted to buying Belle Shares to comply with FPres. Estrada's instructions in order that FPres could receive his P187,000,000.00 commission…xxx"

These are just but parts of the 262-page decision that was not read in full during the promulgation upon motion of Estrada's lawyers that only the part of the decision that contains the actual ruling be read.

Veteran defense lawyer Theodore Te found it strange that Estrada's lawyers fought so hard to have the proceedings televised but they asked for the reading of only the dispositive portion of the decision.Atty. Mario Ongkiko, on the other hand, opines that it was obviously a strategy of Estrada's lawyers. "They didn't want the people to see what led the court to come up with a guilty verdict", he said.Dean Amado Valdez of the University of the East Law School believes that Estrada was convicted because of a fatal flaw in the strategy of the defense where they appealed more to the public than to the court's reasoning.

"They focused on propaganda, they thought the court would eventually follow what they wanted the people wanted to believe – that everything was just part of a big political conspiracy and Estrada was the hero being trampled on by those out to get him. But in the end, the lawyers' strategy backfired", Valdez said. (PIA Cagayan) [top]

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