No Pardon for Estrada, Says Philippine Government

Published February 23rd, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Ousted Philippines leader Joseph Estrada can expect no pardon from a new government which wants him jailed for corruption, Justice Secretary Hernando Perez said Friday. 

Estrada, toppled in a popular uprising last month, is fighting to avoid arrest and has asked the Supreme Court to recognize him as the legitimate president and grant him immunity from lawsuits. 

He alleges he was illegally ousted. 

But the government of his successor, Gloria Arroyo, has received backing from abroad and on Friday won plaudits from a group of US Republican congressmen. 

Government lawyers were due to file charges against Estrada next week but the Supreme Court has blocked the move for 30 days while it evaluated his plea. 

"The grant of pardons is the prerogative of the president, but I don't think he will get one," Perez said on DZMM radio. "If a high government official is found guilty of wrongdoing and he gets a pardon instead of serving the sentence, what kind of example are we setting? It would encourage future presidents to steal." 

State ombudsman Aniano Desierto has said there was sufficient evidence to indict Estrada on charges ranging from plunder to or large-scale corruption which is punishable by death. 

Desierto was set to file criminal charges against Estrada next week but the high court order has gagged him. 

"What I think would happen is that he (Estrada) would first have to be imprisoned. After a while, he would be considered for pardon," justice secretary Perez said. 

Arroyo on Wednesday pledged to pursue those engaged in corruption during the Estrada regime. 

"We are required to bring justice to those who violated the trust of the people," Arroyo said in a speech to businessmen. 

"There can be no healing without cleansing. There can be no reconciliation without justice." 

US Republican congressmen Dana Rohrabacher, Darrell Issa and Roger Wicker of Mississippi called on Arroyo earlier Friday and endorsed the legitimacy of her government. 

They said Arroyo was "totally legitimate in her authority," and that Estrada was ousted because he "sold out" the interest of the Filipinos. 

"The current president has legal authority and the United States government and other governments have fully recognized that authority," a palace statement quoted the three as saying. 

Estrada's lawyer, Rene Saguisag meanwhile warned he will ask the Supreme Court to cite in contempt Desierto for allegedly ignoring an earlier order preventing him from speaking about the corruption cases being readied against the ex-president. 

Saguisag said he would put Desierto on "probation" and that a contempt motion will be filed soon depending "on his behavior in the next few days." 

"He shouldn't be talking at all on all these. It's prohibited. His behavior is out of line," Saguisag told reporters. 

Estrada on Friday also asked Desierto to take himself out of the corruption inquiry because he has allegedly made statements already implying guilt. 

"This would prove that this man should inhibit himself because he has made false statements. You can see that Desierto is not fair," Estrada said over radio station DZEC run by a religious sect that backs him -- MANILA (AFP) 

 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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