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.