Commentary: Erap's conviction elucidated
Tacloban City (September 20) -- Life went on, the people getting on with their usual tasks, the government went on with its business, the business sector confidence strengthened, even before the echoes of the Sandiganbayan's promulgation finding former President Joseph Estrada guilty of plunder, died down.
Yet the opposition, to no avail, is still trying to mobilize mass action to protest the verdict against their fallen leader. Even respected lawyer Mario Ongkiko doubted whether they can pull it off because during the promulgation, there were more peacekeepers than rallyists.
The Sandiganbayan has already spoken in the case of People of the Philippines versus Joseph Estrada. This was the court before which Estrada submitted himself in deference to our judicial processes, and yet now that the same court has handed down a guilty verdict, Estrada's family, friends, and political allies refuse to accept the court's decision.
During a rally in Makati yesterday, Estrada's supporters claimed that the former president was convicted with haste, and that the decision was not based upon law and convincing evidence.
University of the East law school Dean Amado Valdez is of the opinion that Estrada was found guilty because of a fatal flaw in the strategy of the defense. He said they appealed more to the public than to the court's reasoning.
"They focused on propaganda," Valdez said. "They thought the court would eventually follow what they wanted the people 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."
Now that it's all over but the appeal, Atty. Te says, "If Estrada really wants to go down as a hero of the masses, don't appeal. Serve out your 40 years. But it's his life, no one can tell him what to do. All of these people around him are just muddling up the situation.
The opposition and other Estrada supporters claim that theSandiganbayan special division that decided the case was created solely to convict the former president. Atty. Ongkiko stressed that "It was the Supreme Court that created the Sandiganbayan special division."
Atty. Te for his part said, "It's like beating a dead horse … the opposition can't get their acts together anyway."
He added, "…it's very difficult to ascribe credibility to the opposition. Politics is perception. If these people perceive that Estrada is still useful to them, then they will keep using his name. It's just a matter of trying to create a groundswell."
A perusal of the full text of the decision however shows otherwise. The court in fact had gone to painstaking lengths to make a thorough exposition of all the evidence presented in the case which ultimately led to its decision finding Estrada guilty as charged.
Unfortunately, the public was not given a chance to evaluate the same because, by motion of Estrada's lawyers, only the dispositive portion (the part of the decision that contains the actual ruling of the court) was read during the televised promulgation.
In the aftermath of the promulgation, veteran defense lawyer Teddy Te mused, "The strange thing for me was that they fought so hard to have the proceedings televised and yet they asked for a reading of only the dispositive portion.
Atty. Ongkiko offered the opinion that it was obviously a strategy on the part of Estrada's lawyers, saying, "they didn't want the people to see what led the court to come up with a guilty verdict."
A few parts of the lengthy decision that were not read during the promulgation are quoted below. These are facts that were proven during the course of the trial and that led the court to pronounce a guilty verdict against Estrada:
"The total amount of money Gov. Singson collected from jueteng operations for former President Estrada starting November 1998 to August 2000 was Five Hundred Forty Million Pesos (P540M) more or less, according to Gov. Singson. Gov. Singson personally delivered about two hundred million pesos (P200M) to former Pres. Estrada.xxx"
"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 former Pres. Estrada…XXX"
"The paper trail of the P200M deposited for the Erap Muslim Youth 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 former Pres. Estrada's instructions in order that former Pres. Estrada could receive his P187,900,000.00 commission…xxx"
The decision fully discusses many more proven facts in the case but it is simply too lengthy to include here. The full text of the decision comes to 262 pages, and is available for download at sandigan.supremecourt.gov.ph. (PIA 8) [top]