Erap Enters Plea of Not Guilty to Impeach Charges; 16-Page Defense Sent to Senate

Article excerpt

The lawyers of President Estrada yesterday entered into the records of the impeachment proceedings a plea of 'not guilty' for their client on the four impeachment charges filed against him by the House of Representatives.

They also submitted to the Senate the chief executive's comment on the four articles of impeachment.

In a 16-page answer and plea, the President's lawyers asked the Senate impeachment tribunal to absolve their client of the four articles of impeachment against him which, they said, were lacking in both form and substance.

Representing Estrada in the proceedings, lawyers Andres Narvasa, Estelito Mendoza, and Raul Daza argued that the charges against their client have failed to satisfy the legal requirements for the substantiality of a case.

Citing Sec. 1, Rule 8 of the Rules on Civil Procedure, they said "the 'complaint' or 'Articles of Impeachment' hardly meets requirement that a complaint contain 'in a methodical and logical form, a plain, concise, and direct statement of the ultimate facts on which the party pleadings relies for his claim."

The defense, likewise, cited Sec. 9, Rule 110 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure which requires the sufficiency of the charges "to enable a person of common understanding to know what offense is intended to be charged."

"The structure of the (impeachment charge) is unorthodox, many of the specifications are in newspaper articles which cannot take the place of allegation of ultimate facts; the language, accusatory, necessarily in terms conclusory," Estrada's counsel noted.

The chief executive is facing cases of bribery, betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption, and culpable violation of the constitution on various grounds.

Bribery case has been hurled against the President on the allegation of Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson that he had been receiving protection money from jueteng gambling lords.

Singson's accusation that Estrada had a kickback of P130 million from Ilocos Sur's 20% share in the country's tobacco excise tax collection, was used, on the other hand, as a ground for the filing of graft suit against him. Alongside the alleged tax scandal is the issue of President's unexplained accumulation of assets and acquisition of grand mansion, which was reported by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

For betrayal of public trust, Estrada's alleged intervention to manipulate the probe of the Securities and Exchange Commission on BW Resources for manipulation of the stockmarket, was cited in the charge sheet.

The case of culpable violation of the Constitution, was lobbed against the chief executive allegedly for assigning luxury vehicles to certain ranking officials, and appointing individuals to multiple government positions._____

P30-M approved

The Senate and the House of Representatives are now financially ready to conduct the trial of President Estrada after the Senate adopted Senate concurrent resolution 32 appropriating P30 million for the impeachment proceedings.

The Senate approved in last Wednesday night's regular session the resolution co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Francisco S. Tatad and Sen. John H. Osmena, chairman of the Senate finance committee, declaring the P30 million provided for in the current 2000 budget of both House as savings.

The savings came from the budget of the joint congressional oversight committee on public expenditures embedded in the 2000 General Appropriations Act (GAA), otherwise known as the national budget.

"This amount is still available and may be declared as savings to augment the budget of both Houses in order for the body to cope with its unforeseen activities, including the impeachment proceedings requiring additional expenditures," the concurrent resolution stated.

The approved resolution specified that P5 million is allocated for the expenditure requirements of the 11-member prosecution panel from the Lower House while the P25 million is for the impeachment tribunal composed of three 22-member Senate and Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. …