Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Erap Appeal

Estrada asks Sandiganbayan to reverse conviction

Former president Joseph Estrada has filed a motion for reconsideration asking the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court’s special division to reverse its September 12 verdict convicting him of plunder.

In his motion, Estrada, through his lawyers, said the court erred when it convicted him by acquitted his alleged co-conspirators.

The motion also said Estrada had been denied his right to be presumed innocent and had been convicted “on the basis of surmises, inferences and speculative evidence,” and that “the court had pyramided inference upon inference to build a case for conviction against President Estrada.”

"This cannot be done under our rules of evidence," it stressed.

"The crime of plunder is basically a crime involving conspiracy by many persons, and the two alleged conspirators of President Estrada, namely, Attorney 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 motion said

"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," it added.

Estrada’s motion also claimed the anti-graft court admitted “inadmissible hearsay” evidence, "which violated the right of the accused to confront [the] witnesses against him."

They pointed that while the court rejected the testimony of former Ilocos Sur governor Luis "Chavit" Singson, which led to the acquittal of Serapio and the younger Estrada, Singson’s testimony about Estrada was accepted, along with other collaborating evidence.

"The court used, by way of corroboration, the listahan, or ledgers, prepared by or under the supervision of the same witness. This is a bootstrapping argument, where the written ‘ledgers’ of the witness were used to corroborate the oral testimony of that witness,” the motion said.

The motion said this was against the rules of evidence and was “also unusual because it was proven that Chavit Singson manufactured formal documents to show that the P200 million tobacco excise tax was fully liquidated and settled,” it said.

The motion also said Estrada was convicted based on “circumstantial evidence” although “the factual bases for such evidence were not proven.”

It said the Sandiganbayan also erred when it assumed that the four counts of plunder he had been charged with were separate and independent acts instead of being considered the means through which only one crime of plunder was committed.

"As a result, under the decision of Sept. 12, 2007, the accused was burdened four times heavier than the prosecution,” it said.

“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,” it added. “This violates the sporting idea of fair play, which is the essence of due process, and it resulted in mistrial."

The motion also said the prosecution failed to prove that the crimes Estrada was accused of had been committed “by reason of his public office.”

"The decision of the Sandiganbayan, while calling the acts attributed to the accused as ‘plunder,’ actually convicted him of illegal gambling,” the motion said.

But even then, it said, “no evidence was presented to prove this allegation. In fact, there was even no evidence to prove that there was illegal gambling. Since the money allegedly collected by the principal witness, Chavit Singson, [was] all private moneys, the other element of plunder alleged…’unjustly enriching himself or themselves at the expense and to the damage of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines,’ had no proof to stand on.”

“An accused can be convicted of an offense only when it is both charged and proved," it stressed

Estrada was convicted after the court said the evidence showed he had accepted kickbacks from the illegal numbers game “jueteng” and receiving a commission from the sales of shares of stock in Belle Corp.

He was sentenced to reclusion perpetua, which carries a jail term of between 20 to 40 years imprisonment.