Impeachment Tribunal Cautioned
Maglalang, Ferdie J., Manila Bulletin
Malacanang cautioned the Senate impeachment tribunal yesterday against allowing the 11man prosecution team to fish for evidence in its case against President Estrada because it is undermining the integrity of the banking system.
In an official statement, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Ernesto Maceda said the prosecution team is merely mounting a "fishing expedition" designed to destabilize the economy and put up pressure on the President.
He said the fishing expedition is a "grand design" of the United Opposition to sabotage the economy "because it is geared to spook the banking sector and possibly lead to bank runs, and worse, economic chaos."
"The prosecution team is like a trawler that has cast a broad net over the banking community to catch anything and everything in its path, hoping against hope to snare evidence that would finally nail down President Estrada," he said.
Maceda, who has been designated as a personal spokesman of Estrada, explained that the prosecution team is now playing up to the media because it knows that its charges against the President "have no leg to stand on."
Meanwhile, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Gov. Rafael Buenaventura said the Senate impeachment court should resole whether or not to allow as admissible evidence the bank records allegedly used by President Estrada.
"I am hoping that the Chief Justice (Hilario Davide) will make sure that there is a basis for asking for these testimonies and that they are relevant to the case itself," he told over radio station DZRH.
He was referring to a reported plan of the prosecution team to subpoena confidential accounts reportedly used by President Estrada to hide his alleged ill-gotten wealth as well as to obtain testimonies of four other bank officials.
"Kasi kung nagdadamay lang, it might create some problems. It is important that we try to keep people calm. Hindi iyong you keep making accusations here and there," he added.
Although he commended the impartial and orderly conduct of the Senate impeachment trial in the past 12 days, Buenaventura said there should be strict observance of the laws and regulations in volunteering bank documents.
"They have to follow the law, that's why they have their lawyers. I'm hoping the prosecution and the defense will not try to sacrifice the banking system. Hindi iyong walang due process na you must give the account," he said.
Both Maceda and Buenaventura took issue on the voluntary revelation of Clarissa Ocampo, Equitable PCI senior vice president, to submit bank records without an express permission from the account's duly registered client.
Although Ocampo's lengthy testimonies have been placed on official record of the impeachment trial, Davide and the members of the Senate court have yet to rule whether to admit those bank records as evidence when it resumes trial on Jan. 2.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Gov. Rafael Buenaventura ruled out yesterday any violation of Philippine banking laws if President Estrada had indeed used an alias in opening and maintaining a P500-million bank account.
In a radio interview, Buenaventura saidthere is no law prohibiting any person from opening and maintaining a numbered account using an alias, especialy when the depositor opts for absolute confidentiality for fear of his own safety.
"There is actually no law that prohibits it," he said, referring to the so-called Jose Velarde account which a prosecution witness tagged as belonging to President Estrada who is now facing impeachment charges in the Senate.
"Having a numbered account is allowed, even abroad, but you have to identify who is the owner of that numbered account," he added.
Before adjourning for the holidays, Clarissa Ocampo, senior vice president of Equitable PCI Bank, testified she personally facilitated a trust account of P500 million for the President who allegedly used the name Jose Velarde. …