Erap verdict to go out Sept. 12

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The Sandiganbayan will hand down its verdict on the plunder case against former President Joseph Estrada on September 12, a day before the 90-day period within which it must render a decision lapses.

A court insider said that the Sandiganbayan will formally announce the date on Friday.

Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio said the last day of the 90-day period falls on September 13, since the case was submitted for decision on June 15.

The number 13 is considered to be unlucky for Estrada. He was the country’s 13th President when he was unseated by a popular uprising in 2001. He was also impeached by the House of Representatives on November 13, 2000.

Estrada’s supporters are expected to hold demonstrations when the verdict is handed down. This early, the Eastern Police District on Thursday reminded them that they can not hold their rallies at the EDSA Shrine in Mandaluyong City.

Eastern Police chief, Supt. Luizo Ticman, said the no-rally policy would be strictly enforced at the shrine.

Estrada has been under house arrest in Tanay, Rizal, while he waits for the verdict.

Around 6,000 riot policemen will be guarding the Sandiganbayan in Quezon City and other critical areas in Metro Manila on promulgation day. Standing by would be 2,000 soldiers.

On Wednesday business leaders called for unity and sobriety as the Sandiganbayan decides on Estrada’s case so as not to disrupt the country’s robust economic performance.

Miguel Varela, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry honorary chairman, said the case “should not be seen as a stumbling block to the gains the country has achieved over the last five years.”

Varela said the business community will support an amnesty of presidential pardon for Estrada if he is found guilty.

Donald Dee, PCCI chairman, said the decision, whether favorable or unfavorable to the former President, is a manifestation of a living democracy in the Philippines.

“This is the time to put everything behind and move on immediately after the case has been decided,” Dee said.

Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines and Philexport, said he is confident the verdict would not shake up the peso and trading markets.

“We have enough fuel to keep our economy running. The peso and stock markets have been stable due to the positive developments in the local economy. Macroeconomic fundamentals are well in place to minimize the negative effects from the forthcoming verdict,” Ortiz-Luis said.

A senior administration lawmaker in the House of Representatives on Thursday urged Estrada supporters to accept whatever verdict the Sandiganbayan renders.

“We call on them to observe sobriety throughout the period that we await the court’s decision. And if they find the court’s verdict adverse to them, then they should resort to the appeals process instead of destabilization and fomenting unrest,” Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Simeon Datumanong said.