Manila, April 24, 2003 -- Veteran lawmaker Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. told a media forum yesterday that he may run for president in next year's elections and will make a decision soon.

If he does run, he will do so as a candidate of his political party PDP-Laban instead of the coalition of ousted President Joseph Estrada, said Pimentel, a member of the opposition.

"We're trying to get our team going," he said, after which he will formally announce his bid. He did not say when he might make a decision.

Pimentel, who hails from Cagayan de Oro City, is said to have a strong following in Mindanao, which has a sizeable Muslim population.

Meanwhile, Pimentel said he is willing to testify in Estrada's plunder trial. "Yes, I will testify if I am subpoenaed," he said.

He was reacting to reports that Estrada wants to begin his defense with a testimony from Pimentel on key evidence against him.

However, Pimentel said he won't testify for Estrada, who happened to be a kumpare since the ousted leader was a sponsor in the wedding of the lawmaker's son.

"I will tell the truth on what I saw inside the second envelope," he said, referring to an envelope believed to contain documents pertaining to an alleged secret bank account owned by Estrada under the name Jose Velarde.

"I have taken risks all my life. I will stand by the truth," he said.

Responding to reporters' questions, Pimentel said he saw documents relating to the account but declined to say if it was incriminating evidence, saying he was not in a position to make a judgment.

"If what they want from me is my testimony on the contents of the second envelope, they could just subpoena the evidence. The effect of my testimony would actually depend on the judges' appreciation of the envelope's contents," he said.

Pimentel was Senate president during Estrada's aborted impeachment trial in January 2001. He was among 10 senators who voted to open the envelope but they were outvoted by 11 Estrada allies.

Estrada is now on trial before the Sandiganbayan for corruption and economic plunder, charges that carry the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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