Damage and prejudice

The Belle Corporation scheme was the least known of the four counts of plunder filed against Joseph Estrada. The section discussing the scheme in the Sandiganbayan special division’s 262-page decision, however, provides probably the most damning evidence against the ex-president.

The scheme involved the purchase by the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System,  upon Estrada’s express and increasingly agitated instructions, of almost P2 billion in Belle Corporation shares, in order for the country’s Chief Executive to earn a commission of P200 million. (Actually, P189.7 million, after transaction and other fees were deducted.) The court eventually traced the exact amount to the infamous Jose Velarde account.

The section on the scheme is dozens of pages long; its last two paragraphs, however, sum up the case against Estrada thumpingly:

THE DAMAGE AND PREJUDICE TO THE FILIPINO PEOPLE

As stated earlier, SSS and GSIS used the funds belonging to its millions of members to buy Belle Shares upon instruction of FPres. Estrada who benefited for his personal gain from the P189,700,000.00 commission paid in consideration of the purchase of the Belle shares by SSS and GSIS . The money paid by GSIS and SSS for the Belle Shares are public funds which belong to the millions of GSIS and SSS members.  The amount of P189,700,000.00 deposited to the Jose Velarde account of FPres. Estrada are public funds which came from the proceeds of the sale received by SSI Management through Eastern Securities from GSIS and SSS.  The Billions of Pesos that could have otherwise been used to pay benefits to SSS and GSIS members were diverted to buying Belle Shares to comply with FPres. Estrada’s instructions in order that FPres. Estrada could receive his P187,900,000.00 commission to the damage and prejudice of the millions of GSIS and SSS members who were deprived of the use of such funds and worse, who now stand to suffer the loss amounting to millions of pesos since the Belle shares are presently priced less than their acquisition cost. [From an average price of P3.14 per share to P0.69 per share as of December 29, 2000 (Exh. 250-J-2) and between P0.40 to P 0.50 per share as of February 11, 2002]

The Court finds that FPres. Estrada took advantage of his official position, authority, relationship, connection and influence to unjustly enrich himself at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines: a)  by instructing, directing and ordering, for his personal gain and benefit, by way of receiving commission, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) through its President Mr. Federico Pascual and the Social Security System (SSS) through its President, Mr. Carlos Arellano, to purchase shares of stock Belle Corporation, as a consequence of which, during the period October 13 to 21, 1999 GSIS bought 351,878,000 shares of Belle Corporation and paid One Billion One Hundred Two Million Nine Hundred Sixty Five Thousand Six Hundred Seven Pesos And Fifty Centavos (P1,102,965,607.50) while SSS, on October 21, 1999, bought 249,679,000 shares at the value of P784,551,150.00 at an average price of P3.14/share [TSN, February 14, 2005, p.78] or a combined total of at least One Billion Eight Hundred Eight Seven Million Five Hundred Sixteen Thousand Seven Hundred Fifty Seven Pesos And Fifty Centavos (P1,887,516,757.50); b) by accepting and receiving, a commission in the amount of One Hundred Eighty Nine Million Seven Hundred Thousand Pesos [P189,700,000.00] as consideration for the purchase by GSIS and SSS of the shares of stock of Belle Corporation pursuant to his instructions which amount was deposited in the Equitable-PCI Bank S/A 0160-62501-5 under the account name “Jose Velarde” of which FPres. Estrada is the real and beneficial owner; c) by depriving the millions of members of GSIS and SSS of the use of public funds in the amount of at least One Billion Eight Hundred Eight Seven Million Five Hundred Sixteen Thousand Seven Hundred Fifty Seven Pesos And Fifty Centavos (P1,887,516,757.50) for payment of their benefits in order that he can receive his commission of One Hundred Eighty Nine Million Seven Hundred Thousand Pesos (P189,700,000.00) which likewise constitute public funds for his personal benefit and enrichment  thus causing damage and prejudice to the Filipino people and the Government. 

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Damage and prejudice

  1. Bayanimc

    Grave doubt existed in the case of the so-called BW commissions. The prosecution did present a witness, Willy Ocier, who testified that he had given a check of over P100 million in commissions for the sale of the BW shares, but Ocier also admitted that the commission went to Jaime Dichaves and there certainly was no evidence that Dichaves had given this to Estrada. The prosecution claimed that the commissions were deposited in the account of Jose Velarde,

    It will have to be stressed that Estrada was acquitted on the Jose Velarde plunder charge. This being the case, how is it possible then for Estrada to be found guilty of having gotten the BW commission when the funds went into the Velarde account, that has been proved to belong to Dichaves, not to Estrada?

    It is claimed that the justices placed more weight on the testimonies of then GSIS chairman Federico Pascual and SSS chairman Carlos Arellano, that as Estrada had called them on the sale of the shares, they translated this to presidential pressure on them to sell, even when the defense proved that purchase and sales of stocks are a matter of the board’s decisions, which was admitted by the two former Estrada officials.

    Not even bothered with by the justices was that then Justice Secretary Hernando Perez was threatening Pascual and Arellano with charging them as co-accused in the plunder case, which was non-bailable. Just what do the justices think they would do to evade time in jail as co-accused in a plunder case?

    The crime of plunder, as explained by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, has to do with the the malversation of public funds, or raids on the public treasury.

    One must then ask: Where was the plunder then that the Sandiganbayan Special Division justices claimed Erap Estrada committed when they declared him guilty of plunder in two instances, namely, the commissions from the BW shares of stocks and the jueteng payoffs while acquitting him of two other plunder charges, namely, the P130-million tobacco excise tax diversion and the Jose Velarde account, since neither the BW commissions nor the jueteng payoffs came from public funds?

    Plunder then should have referred to the P130-million tobacco tax funds diversion, but Erap was acquitted of this crime and in the case of the commission from the BW shares sale, this, too, can’t be considered public funds. So where was the plunder and what public funds were malversed by Estrada?

    What is evident is that Estrada has been convicted not on the merits of the case but definitely on political grounds.

    The conviction of Estrada was in the cards from the day the Supreme Court justices chose to become active players in a plot to oust Estrada, followed up by their decision vesting legitimacy on Gloria’s accession to Malacañang through a coup d’etat and then creating a special court just to try Estrada.

  2. Bayanimc, thanks for posting. I cannot reply at length, because I am using only my phone to access this. But suffice it to say that all the answers to your questions can be found in the decision. 1. Miriam is flat-out wrong. Public funds are only one of six possible sources of illegal wealth enumerated in the plunder law. 2. The Jose Velarde account was proven beyond any doubt to be Erap’s. The court ruled that the prosecution failed to prove that ALL the money in the account was ill-gotten—except for P189.7 million, directly traceable as Erap’s commission from the purchase of Belle shares.

    It’s all there, actually, in the decision itself.

  3. Bayanimc

    There might be legal holes in the Sandiganbayan Special Division’s guilty ruling on the plunder case that would warrant defense team’s motion for reconsideration.

    One of these errors is the Sandiganbayan’s decision to dismiss the first specification of the plunder charge related to the jueteng payoffs in relation to Estrada’s son, Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and lawyer Edward Serapio, both of whom were acquitted by the court. It was the alleged by the prosecutor that the younger Estrada received kickbacks from his father’s jueteng collections in Bulacan province. At the same time, the prosecutor alleged that Serapio was involved in putting P200 million of jueteng money into the bank account of the Erap Muslim Youth Foundation; if there was a genuine case against the deposed leader on jueteng kickbacks, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Serapio should not have been acquitted.

    It could be pointed out the Sandiganbayan decision is not worth the paper it is written on. Just one question out of the many possible questions” When you charge three defendants with conspiracy, how do you acquit two and find the third guilty?”

    It should also be stressed that the prosecution also failed to present any evidence that former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson was an accomplice of Estrada in the collection of jueteng money.

    Singson was made a state witness, but prosecutors did not indicate that Singson was an accomplice of President Estrada. They should have cited it. That could be one of the biggest blunders of the prosecution. There was no single jueteng lord witness presented by the prosecution to prove that Singson collected jueteng money. The court took the ledger prepared by Singson himself as Grade A evidence, heheheh.

    In the case of the specification that Estrada had received commissions from the government’s purchase of Belle Corp. shares in 1999, there was not one credible witness who could prove that Estrada received the commissions. The check was made out to Jaime Dichaves by prosecution witness Willy Ocier.

    Hence, neither case provided evidence that proves the criminal charges beyond reasonable doubt, in my view.

  4. dorianvar

    What I don’t understand in this case is why the prosecution did not go after Willy Ocier as well, who was the main beneficiary of this alleged crime. Remember that Mr. Estrada received only P200MM, while the rest of the P1.9 billion went to Mr. Ocier for shares that tanked later. Mr. Ocier’s willingness to pay the P200MM bribe implied that he knew he was getting a sweetheart deal from GSIS and SSS. Clearly, he was not the least guilty that would qualify him to become a state witness. Or, at the very least, if the prosecution had to offer him immunity to testify against Estrada, they should have required him to return the proceeds of the sweetheart deal to rectify the wrong committed against SSS and GSIS. Without that rectification, the prosecution, I believe, was duty bound to go after him as well. But it did not. Well, that’s justice for us in the Philippines.

  5. jacquie palaganas

    bwahahahahahahah

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