JDV TO ERAP: RETURN TO JUDICIARY PROCESS; FVR: 'STOP ACTING'
Manila, March 10, 2002 (STAR) Jailed former President Joseph Estrada should return to the judicial process for parliamentary diplomacy to successfully avert the looming political crisis, Speaker Jose de Venecia said yesterday.
"Even with the best of intentions, we will not undertake the peacemaking, back-channeling effort unless the former president, who is facing trial, accepts the imperative to place himself under the jurisdiction of the court," De Venecia declared.
Estrada, however, immediately rejected the proposal, reiterating he had lost faith in the justice system.
"Hindi ako papayag (I won’t agree)," he told The STAR last night. "They are trying to box me in… I will not go back to the justice system as long as there are no reforms. I have nothing against the justice system, only against the ones running it."
Meanwhile, Malacañang advised Estrada to take his complaints against the Sandiganbayan to the Supreme Court.
In an informal meeting last Thursday convened by Sen. Blas Ople, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Sen. Edgardo Angara and De Venecia decided to try "parliamentary diplomacy" to solve the crisis created by Estrada’s decision to fire his lawyers in the ongoing trial for corruption charges including perjury and the capital offense of plunder.
The House and Senate leaders asked De Venecia to launch the political initiative.
"We will continue to pursue and undertake parliamentary diplomacy if there is full recognition of the need to return to the judicial process," De Venecia said.
De Venecia said he would tell Ople, Pimentel and Angara of his proposal on Estrada’s submission to the judicial process in their next meeting.
Estrada has been lambasting the Sandiganbayan and the Supreme Court, aside from the Arroyo administration, for alleged bias and pre-judgment of his cases. He said that with such pre-judgment, he may as well subject himself to lethal injection, even as he fired all his lawyers and rejected court-appointed defense counsels to further drive home his point.
"Like all citizens of the Republic, Mr. Estrada must have a healthy respect of the law and the judicial system. I now appeal to him to return to the judicial process," De Venecia stressed.
He said that consultations on the Estrada issue should involve not only political parties but also former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Corazon Aquino, leaders of civil society, the Church and business sectors to forge a "solid" consensus.
"We need to get the true sentiment of the public. After that, we will act to defuse the political tension so that we can now concentrate fully our energies and talents on economic development," he added.
He said the consultation process is well under way and the final decision on the final course of action will be made "on the basis of what is best for the nation and our people."
Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said Estrada was merely trying to play the underdog and win public sympathy at the expense of the Sandiganbayan justices, specifically members of the special division handling the plunder case.
Tiglao also said the Palace has dissuaded De Venecia from trying to find a political solution to the controversy.
He said De Venecia’s move to talk with the political opposition regarding Estrada’s request to be allowed to go to the US was not sanctioned by the President, adding that the issue should be left to the Sandiganbayan to resolve.
‘Stop acting,’ FVR tells Estrada
This developed as the deposed president’s severe criticism of the Sandiganbayan drew sharp reactions from various sectors including former Fidel V. Ramos.
Militant groups such as the Plunder Watch, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and Pamalakaya chastised the former leader for making a mockery of the country’s judicial system and claiming that the anti-graft court has been persecuting him instead of conducting a fair trial of the corruption cases filed against him by the government.
Ramos advised Estrada to "stop acting" like he is following a movie script.
"He is not in the movies anymore. He should face the situation just like anybody else.," Ramos said.
At the same time, Ramos revealed that backdoor negotiations were going on in a bid to strike a balance on Estrada’s petition to be allowed to go to the United States to seek medical attention for his ailing knees.
On the other hand, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Estrada’s plan to boycott the Sandiganbayan trial was meant to create a political crisis that would undermine the Arroyo administration.
Sources at Camp Crame said certain opposition leaders were also plotting to harm Estrada to provoke his loyal supporters into taking violent actions.
"The people behind the former president’s refusal to attend his trial only wanted to make it appear he is being persecuted if he is bodily brought to the Sandiganbayan," a source said.
Chief Superintendent Rosalio Magsino, head of the PNP’s Public Safety and Protective Office, had been ordered to monitor the former president’s movements at the Veteran’s Memorial Hospital where he is being detained.
Intelligence reports had it that pro-Estrada forces would stage a vigil at the VMMC premises in the evening of March 13 to prevent the police from bringing him to the Sandiganbayan for the trial the following day.
However, sectoral Rep. Etta Rosales downplayed Estrada’s capability to muster enough supporters to pose a threat to the government.
Rosales also said Estrada’s admission that he signed bank documents as Jose Velarde could have made his supporters change their minds.
Meanwhile, Rosales said the trial should push through even if Estrada refuses to be represented by lawyers.
Plunder Watch said the Sandiganbayan should call Estrada’s bluff and send him to jail.
The group assailed Estrada for "trying to turn the tables on those who want justice and the rule of law upheld."
"How can Mr. Estrada cry injustice when it is he and his lawyers who have been trying to sabotage this plunder trial from day one. It is Estrada who is making a circus of the court and a mockery of our justice system," Plunder Watch spokesman Fr. Jose Dizon said.
He noted that Estrada’s lawyers had been employing delaying tactics and continued to cast doubts on the Sandiganbayan justices while getting special treatment for their client.
"They have no objective whatsoever of seeing this case through because they know the evidence against Estrada is overwhelming," Dizon added.
Bayan said Estrada should be sent to a sanitarium instead of the jail.
"Estrada believes he is still president of the Republic. That is a severe case of delusion bordering on the psychotic. He should be sent immediately to the mental hospital where he rightfully belongs," Bayan secretary general Teodoro Casiño said.
So-called "running priest" Fr. Roberto Reyes described Estrada as a "very dangerous" man.
Reyes also scored the Catholic church hierarchy for being mum on Estrada’s histrionics.
Pamalakaya said Estrada "deserves the best actor trophy for his recent performances."
Pamalakaya chairman Rodolfo Sambajon said the ousted leader should face the charges and suffer the penalties of the sins (he) committed against the Filipino people." — Efren Danao, Marichu Villanueva, Jaime Laude, Rey Arquiza, Sandy Araneta, Katherine Adraneda, Jose Rodel Clapano, Teddy Molina
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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