Erap Lawyers Assess High Court Order
Tuazon, Brenda Piquero, Manila Bulletin
The Supreme Court declined to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the plunder trial of former President Estrada the other day not because of lack of merit, but because certain motions pending before the Sandiganbayan have not yet been resolved by the Sandiganbayan.
This was the opinion of Estrada's lawyers who were not able to attend the first hearing at the Sandiganbayan Monday, adding that their motion's merit for trial deferment was not even discussed by the High Court when it met the other day.
Mr. Estrada, invoking the rule of law and due process as enshrined in the Constitution, has challenged the constitutionality of the plunder law.
A restraining order was expected by Estrada's lawyers on their plea for trial deferment because the Supreme Court had already indicated that it will resolve in the middle of this month the issue of whether the plunder law is constitutional or not.
Estrada's lawyers issued the statement to counter malicious media comments contending that the Supreme Court, by not issuing the TRO, has raised the signal that it would uphold the constitutionality of the plunder law.
Television commentators were racing each other Monday evening in reporting to their national audience that the Supreme Court's non-issuance of the TRO stopping the Estrada hearing "was ominous" as an indication of its intent to declare the plunder law constitutional.
Several TV reporters and anchormen even commented that with the Supreme Court's ruling, Mr. Estrada and his son, former San Juan Mayor Jinggoy Estrada, would spend the rest of their lives in jail.
"By their malicious reporting, they are propping the public mind against our clients while throwing to the winds any respect for the rule of law and due process enshrined in the Constitution," the Estrada lawyers said.
Supreme Court legal quarters said Monday that Estrada's request for trial deferment stood on legal and moral grounds, citing that a deferment for at least four weeks of the Sandigan trial would give the Supreme Court enough time to resolve the issue of constitutionality or unconstitutionality of the plunder law.
The same legal quarters said that the HIgh Court's non-issuance of the TRO for trial deferment, on the ground of prematurity, "does not mean that the plea of the former President is unmeritorious."
In setting aside the issuance of the TRO, they added, the Supreme Court merely ruled that it has no jurisdiction on the issue pending resolutions by the Sandiganbayan on the same issue.
The Estrada lawyers had filed their motion for trial deferment contending that "much time may be wasted" as the constitutionality of the plunder law or Republic Act 7080 is being challenged. …