Ex-Philippine President Estrada Refuses to Plead to Perjury
Deposed Philippine president Joseph Estrada refused to plead to a charge of perjury in an intense court appearance Wednesday, as he began a legal fight for his life over corruption-linked charges.
"I have no choice but to follow the advice of my lawyers," Estrada told Justice Francis Garchitorena. "I will not enter a plea."
The refusal was taken as a not guilty plea, and Garchitorena set a pre-trial hearing for August 2.
Estrada will next appear in the anti-graft court on July 10 to be arraigned on the most serious charge of plunder, which carries the death sentence.
The unprecedented reading of a corruption charge against a former Philippine president, held amid tight security, was delayed 30 minutes as Estrada lawyer Rene Saguisag argued in vain for the hearing to be postponed.
Saguisag told reporters outside the court that the judge's decision was "nothing to get excited about." Special prosecutor Leonardo Tamayo said it was automatic in the Philippines to treat a refusal to plead as not guilty.
Legal analysts believed Estrada refused to plea because he did not want to recognize the jurisdiction of the court -- MANILA (AFP)
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