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Estrada told to reply to request to start perjury trial

By Tetch Torres
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:05:00 06/27/2008

Filed Under: Joseph Estrada, Graft & Corruption, Trials, trial

MANILA, Philippines -- The special division of the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court has ordered former president Joseph Estrada to comment on the manifestation of the Ombudsman's Special Prosecutor to begin trying him for perjury in connection with his 1999 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

During Friday?s hearing, the anti-graft court, chaired by Presiding Justice Diosdado Peralta, gave Estrada's counsel 10 days to submit his comment. The prosecution was given five days to submit its reply.

Deputy Special Prosecutor Robert Kallos told the anti-graft court that the case against Estrada remains "active" because the perjury case decided by the anti-graft court in 2007 involved the 1998 SALN.

The case bogged down in 2001 after the late presiding justice Francis Garchitorena, then chairman of the first division, barred the presentation of documentary evidence on the grounds that the prosecutors failed to enumerate these in the list submitted during the pre-trial conference.

The evidence supposedly consists of banking papers showing that Estrada maintained two accounts containing at least P74 million pesos when he only declared a net worth of only P35 million, including non-cash assets.

Former senator Rene Saguisag, co-lead counsel for Estrada at the time, declared the case "dead in the water" after Garchitorena's ruling.

Government lawyers challenged Garchitorena's ruling and filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court on December 21, 2001.

In a minute resolution dated on September 18, 2007, the high court ruled that the petition had become "moot and academic" in light of Estrada's acquittal for perjury by the Sandiganbayan special division.

The anti-graft court said, after the submission of the comment and reply, the case will be submitted for resolution.

Meanwhile, the court has submitted for resolution the manifestation of Banco De Oro (formerly Equitable PCI-Bank), which said it cannot determine "without hazard to itself" who to turn over to the P1.1-billion Jose Velarde assets because of claims to the account by the Wellex Group owned by "plastics king" William Gatchalian and a freeze order by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).



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