Erap is Guilty of Plunder

Former president Joseph Estrada is guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of plunder and is sentenced to life imprisonment, the Sandiganbayan Special Division ruled Wednesday. At the same time, the anti-graft court found the former president's son, Sen. Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, and lawyer Edwardo Serapio innocent of plunder.

A perjury case against the former president was dismissed.

The Sandiganbayan ordered the forfeiture in favor of the government of P542,701,000 with interest and income earned inclusive of the amount of P200 million deposited in a foundation set up by Estrada for Muslim scholars.

The anti-graft court also ordered the forfeiture of P189 million inclusive of interest and income earned deposited in the Jose Velarde account as well as the Boracay mansion in New Manila, Quezon City.

The court also ruled that Estrada will remain detained at his resthouse in Tanay, Rizal “until further orders from this court.”

“The period within which accused former president Joseph Ejercito Estrada has been under detention shall be credited to him in full as long as he agrees voluntarily in writing to abide by the same disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted prisoners,” the anti-graft court said.

Estrada is charged with plunder, made up of four counts of corruption, involving diversion of funds amounting to about P4 billion ($85 million). He was also charged with perjury.

The charges include taking commissions in the purchase of shares by government insurance funds, payoffs from gambling lords, diverting tobacco taxes for personal use and maintaining a bank account under a false name. The perjury charge relates to misrepresentation on earned income.

The former leader, meantime, has been absolved from the perjury charge.

Estrada, hero of the downtrodden during years as a matinee idol, has called the charges trumped up and says he was hounded out of office by a coalition of the elite, including senior army officers, corporate leaders and Catholic bishops.

Born Joseph Ejercito to a well-to-do Manila family he dropped out of school in his teens, was thrown out of home by his father and took the name Estrada from a telephone book.

He shot to movie stardom at 24 and in 1998 was elected president by a record margin.

His win was viewed as a turning point in national politics because Estrada was not a member of one of the traditional political dynasties.

But his term in office was marked by reports of policy decisions taken after late-night drinking bouts, millions of pesos won or lost in gambling sessions and innumerable tales of mistresses and their lavish lifestyles.

Estrada has never denied that he was fond of wine or women, but has said that was part of his movie star life, and that he gave it all up when he became president.


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