Philippines' ex-president Estrada appeals conviction for plunder
Sep 26, 2007, 7:39 GMT
Manila - Former Philippine president Joseph Estrada on Wednesday appealed his conviction of plunder and life sentence for large-scale corruption, insisting that he did not amass illegal wealth during his 30-month rule.
The Sandiganbayan anti-graft court convicted Estrada of plunder, or theft of public funds in excess of 1 million dollars, and sentenced him to life in prison on September 12.
In the motion for reconsideration, lawyers of the 70-year-old former leader cited five grounds for the appeal, including technical issues on alleged violations of Estrada's rights as an accused.
'Wherefore, accused respectfully prays that the decision of the Honourable Court be reversed and set aside and another be rendered acquitting the accused,' the appeal read.
The 63-page motion also stressed that contrary to allegations by state prosecutors, it was not Estrada but others who 'did amass, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth.'
It added that Estrada was 'deprived of his constitutional right to presumption of innocence as the court convicted him on the basis of surmises, inferences and speculative evidence.'
Estrada's lawyers filed the appeal a day after the former president met with Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno to discuss the possibility of a pardon by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Puno said that during the meeting, Estrada told him that he did not want to apply for a pardon, which implies an admission of guilt, and would rather first exhaust all legal remedies to secure his freedom before discussing the matter.
State prosecutors, civil-society groups and anti-corruption organizations have opposed the grant of absolute pardon for Estrada, who remains detained in his 15-hectare vacation house in Tanay town, just east of Manila.
Dante Jimenez, president of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, warned Arroyo against pushing through with her plan to pardon Estrada.
'President Arroyo should think not only twice but a thousand times before granting Estrada absolute pardon,' he said. 'She is playing with fire. This will be a catastrophe. This could lead to people power.'
Despite the objections, Puno said he would continue to discuss the possibility of a pardon with Estrada's camp, noting that recent public opinion surveys show that a majority of Filipinos would favour a pardon for the former president.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur