Erap asks court to reverse verdict

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE– FORMER President Joseph Estrada yesterday asked the Sandiganbayan Special Division to reverse its verdict convicting him of the crime of plunder.

In a 63-page petition, Estrada said the decision should be reversed because there was a mistrial of his plunder case.

He claimed that the anti-graft court made a mistake when it convicted him but acquitted his alleged co-conspirators.

“The crime of plunder is basically a crime involving conspiracy by many persons, and the two alleged conspirators of President Estrada, namely, Atty. Edward Serapio and Senator [Jose] Jinggoy Estrada, were acquitted by the court. Due to the failure of the information to include the other co-conspirators, this is fatal to the prosecution,” the former leader said in his motionf for reconsideration.

“An allegation of conspiracy, or one that would impute criminal liability to an accused for the act of another or others, is indispensable in order to hold such person equally guilty with the others. Failure to include in the information the co-conspirators as defendants would deprive the accused of his right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, in violation of the constitutional guarantee,” he added.

He said he was convicted “on the basis of surmises, inferences and speculative evidence.”

The court, he added, admitted “inadmissible hearsay evidence” which is a clear violation of the rights of the accused to confront the witnesses against him.

While the court rejected the testimony of former Ilocos Sur Gov. “Chavit” Singson against Serapio and Senator Estrada which led to their acquittal, the Justices accepted Singson’s testimony against Estrada.

Estrada said the Sandiganbayan assumed that the four counts of plunder he had been charged with were separate and independent acts.

“In other words, the accused, if he worked for an acquittal, would have to prove his innocence four times, while the prosecution would have to prove only one of the four counts to obtain a conviction. This violates the sporting idea of fair play, which is the essence of due process, and it resulted in mistrial,” he noted.