Manila, August 1, 2003 (Star) The Sandiganbayan summoned yesterday Philippine National Police chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane and his aide, Chief Superintendent Prospero Noble of the National Police Security Protection Office, to defend themselves against contempt raps filed by lawyers of jailed former President Joseph Estrada.

The summons referred to Estradaís alleged "unlawful" transfer from his place of detention at the height of a failed mutiny July 27, which defense lawyers said dispensed with a court order.

Ebdane and Noble were ordered to appear at the sala of the anti-graft courtís special division at 8:30 a.m. today based on the motion for indirect contempt filed by Estrada lawyers Alan Paguia and Manuel Pamaran.

The PNP officials earlier explained their move to transfer Estrada from his hospital suite at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), where he has been detained for two years, to Camp Aguinaldo during the mutiny launched by junior military officers, as "a matter of national security that has to be decided immediately."

Officials said they had received reports of a possible rescue attempt by supporters backing the military rebellion and a plan to reinstall Estrada as chief executive for three days.

"The PNP has strong reason to believe based on intelligence reports obtained, that a mass rally at VMMC will be held by pro-Erap supporters and that some elements, while the situation in Makati is ongoing, would rescue the former president from where he is now and will be taken to an undisclosed location," Ebdane said.

"Thus, the PNP chief sees the need in the interest of national security, public order and safety, and as a preventive measure so as not to endanger the safety and security of the former president, to transfer his detention," Ebdane said, in defense of the governmentís decision.

In a four-page manifestation, PNP legal service director Doroteo Reyes informed the justices that under the special circumstances the government was in during the weekend mutiny, authorities had to ensure the safety of the former president.

The PNP also invoked the Sandiganbayan order in April 2001, which gave the agency discretionary authority to transfer Estradaís place of detention provided that Sheriff Ed Urieta and Estradaís counsel are informed an hour in advance.

Pamaran, however, argued that approval of the court cannot be dispensed with. "Only the court has the power to order his transfer of confinement. No other branch of government can interfere. And of all places, they brought him (Erap) to a military camp. Respect or due deference to the court should have been given," Pamaran asserted. For his part, Paguia complained that the authority of the Sandiganbayan was set aside. "They did not show us anything. There was no court order. They forced President Estrada against his will. He was transferred from civilian custody to a military authority," Paguia said. "They should have secured the VMMC instead."

Special prosecutor Dennis Villa Ignacio, however, said there was no reason to cite members of the PNP for contempt because they only did their job, which was to secure the deposed president in times of danger.

"I precisely donít see double standard here because of the urgency of the situation. The situation at that time was uncertain. The defense panel should have even commended the PNP," he reiterated. "They should even be thankful to the PNP for taking good care of their client."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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