I wrote three quick paragraphs on the Estrada guilty verdict — more precisely on the ex-president’s lawyers’ motion to dispense with a full reading of both decisions — for Inquirer Current this morning, and was rewarded with a flurry of comments. (The first came in 10:36 am; the 30th, the most recent of the publishable comments as of the time of writing, clocked in at 8:20 pm.)
I am happy to hear from many new voices, as well as from our old reliables; they line up on either side of the divide, and even beyond.
The concern I raised, about the possibly political cast of the defense counsel’s motion, is shared by some commenters and scorned by others; colleague Manolo’s column in the Inquirer tomorrow (that is, Thursday) raises a variant of the same concern, albeit only in passing.
By jumping to the dispositive portions, or so it seems to me, we missed a great opportunity to educate ourselves and others; for the first couple of hours after the promulgation, news commentaries were limited mostly to speculation.
(I winced when I saw the otherwise capable Karen Davila ask a teary-eyed Jinggoy Estrada the following leading and falsely premised question: "The public doesn’t understand why you and Attorney Serapio were acquitted while President Erap was convicted," she said, more or less, in Filipino. "Aren’t your cases related?" Well, YES, but … )
The biggest question, once the news that Estrada was convicted on only two of the four counts of plunder began to circulate, involved the status of the Velarde account. Wasn’t the charge related to the Velarde account thrown out by the Sandiganbayan? That would have made the soft-spoken heroism of Clarissa Ocampo irrelevant. As it turns out, Ocampo’s testimony (and Estrada’s admission that he had indeed signed as Jose Velarde) proved crucial to his conviction indeed. (Tomorrow’s Inquirer editorial is titled: "He was Velarde.")
So what was that bit about the fourth charge being insufficiently proven? The court ruled that while the Velarde account contained a massive amount of money, there was no proof that the money was ill-gotten — except, that is, for some P189 million traced back to the Belle commissions.
The plunder decision can be downloaded from the links here. An excellent timeline of the historic Estrada trial, prepared by Kate Pedroso of Inquirer Research, is available here. (The full-length version, currently still not available online, is about 100,000 characters long. Erap plunder trial book, anyone?)
If downloading is a problem, and you want a copy of the Sandiganbayan decision by email, please let me know at email@example.com