ERAP PLUNDER TRIAL: PROSECUTION ASKS FOR MORE TIME

Quezon City, March 27, 2003 -- After two years and 71 witnesses, the
government is still uncomfortable about its presentation in the plunder
case against former President Joseph Estrada.

The prosecution announced at the end of the hearing yesterday that it is
calling two more witnesses.

This despite saying in February that it has only three more witnesses - all
testifying in connection with the trust and savings account of San Juan
Mayor Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito.

The three have already testified, with the third continuing his testimony
next week.

Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio refused to divulge the identities
of the new witnesses but said one is "also a bank official" while the other
is "from Malacaņang."

He said their testimony became necessary to clarify some new issues raised
during the defense's cross-examination. He said the prosecution panel is
now eyeing the first week of April to terminate its case.

De oficio defense counsel Noel Malaya assailed the prosecution's tactics
noting that the new "deadline" is the fourth commitment it has made.

In October last year, former Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, as head of
prosecution panel, told the court that the prosecution was ready to
conclude its presentation by November. This was moved to December, then to
the "second week of February."

Villa Ignacio explained that it is difficult to stick to a definite number
of witnesses since testimony during direct and cross-examination could give
rise to matters that may need to be explored further and which could be
done only by putting more witnesses on the stand.

"They are not prosecuting. It is plain and simple persecution," Malaya said.

Estrada's spokesman, Raymund Fortun, said, "it is their (prosecutors') last
gasp attempts to save their pitiful case."


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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