Erap on critics of house arrest: So un-civil, so un-Christian

- Christina Mendez, Marichu A. Villanueva1 -
How can they call themselves Christian and civil if they lack compassion and civility?

Deposed President Joseph Estrada scored yesterday critics for being "un-civil and un-Christian," saying they had blown out of proportion his two visits to his rest house in Tanay, Rizal, located across the road from Camp Capinpin where he is detained.

Estrada called up The STAR to denounce the Plunder Watch group led by lawyer Marichu Lambino and Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa Ignacio for spreading "disinformation" about his supposed "house arrest" at his rest house.

"I’m keeping silent here, I don’t know why they are making a fuss," Estrada fumed.

He admitted that he was allowed to leave his detention area twice to visit his rest house when large groups of his supporters could not be accommodated at Camp Capinpin for security reasons.

He was profuse in expressing his gratitude to former President Corazon Aquino, whom he described as a woman who is "true" to her Catholic faith, for supporting President Arroyo in allowing him to visit his rest house.

"This is supposedly a Catholic country," he said. "Why is it that some of our countrymen do not even have compassion?"

"We’re a Catholic nation and yet they are so inhuman," he said, referring to Lambino and Villa Ignacio. "Why do they insist that I might escape as reason to keep me in detention? I have no plans to escape and I never intend to escape."

Estrada even defended Mrs. Arroyo’s disclosure of his furloughs to media.

"She is trying to show compassion," he said of the President. "She was probably just startled that it had been told to other people."

Estrada also concurred with the official Malacañang statement that there were no secret or political deals involved in his being allowed to visit his rest house.

Meanwhile, faced with impeachment threats, the President refused to comment further on the matter, leaving it up to Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye to answer questions on the issue of Estrada’s unsanctioned visits to his rest house in Tanay.

On Saturday, she said Estrada is "entitled to the fullest humanitarian consideration allowed by law," even if "nothing is accorded (Estrada) or taken away without the say of the court."

According to Bunye, the Palace maintains that "no secret deal was made, no politics was involved and that all actions taken were for humanitarian considerations and pursuant to law."

In his daily press briefing, Bunye denied that Mrs. Arroyo’s lenience toward Estrada is part of efforts to gain the support of the influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) sect for her bid for a full six-year term in the coming elections.

"What we know is that the former president has been transferred to this camp and that was done precisely to secure his person," Bunye said.

He added that Estrada’s rest house "is less than 100 meters away" from Camp Capinpin and that "on one occasion, he was allowed to visit that rest house but, at the end of the day, he returned to his detention area."

"The mandate of the jailers is to keep (Estrada) in custody so that he’s always available," he said, adding that "moving one hundred meters does not violate the mandate given to (Estrada’s) jailers."

The Sandiganbayan ordered Philippine National Police Director Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. to explain why the PNP should not be held liable for allowing Estrada to leave his detention area without sanction by the court.

Sandiganbayan special division spokesman Renato Bocar said the court issued a "show cause" order for Ebdane and Chief Superintendent Rolando Sacramento to explain Estrada’s visit to his rest house, even in the absence of a court order.

"They were asked to explain why they should not be cited in contempt," Bocar said, adding that Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Minita Chico-Nazario and Justices Edilberto Sandoval and Teresita Leonardo-de Castro will no longer wait for a similar motion from the prosecution.

A hearing on the matter was set for tomorrow. Ebdane and Sacramento were also compelled to personally appear before the court.

Bocar added that Estrada will no longer be called to attend, mainly because he was not included in the show cause order.

He said the Sandiganbayan justices were "surprised" to learn of Estrada’s visit to his rest house "without permission" from the graft court.

Villa Ignacio, in the meantime, cleared the President of any liability in the matter, saying Mrs. Arroyo’s statement that she wanted Estrada treated humanely "was just an expression of desire for Estrada to be treated that way."

In the absence of a written document showing she issued marching orders over the heads of the Sandiganbayan magistrates, there is no way the President can be dragged into the legal issue of whether Estrada’s transfer was legal or not, he said.

Villa Ignacio said the prosecution intends to sue the PNP for "leniency" and "laxity" in the performance of their duties.

Ebdane has ordered the relief of Estrada’s entire security detail over allegations they let him slip out of detention.

In what was perceived as a move to save his own neck, Ebdane said an investigation into the matter will focus solely on the 14-man police detail guarding Estrada.

The PNP chief also ordered PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM) chief Director Eduardo Matillano to determine if there was any abuse of authority on the part of task group head Superintendent Melchor Ysulat in allowing Estrada to leave his detention area.

Estrada’s lawyer, Raymund Fortun, earlier said the former president has visited his rest house twice, but said the issue "has been blown out of proportion."

"Our mandate as a detention force is to insure the security and safety of the detainee and to bring him before the court as directed," Ebdane said at a press conference. "What must now be determined is whether there was abuse by the custodial force in the exercise of its jurisdiction to reasonably regulate the disposition of the detainee, which is the subject of the investigation I have ordered."

During the press conference, PNP chief legal counsel Doroteo Reyes admitted that Estrada’s security personnel may have erred in allowing the former president to go to his 15-hectare property across the Army’s Jungle Fighter camp.

Reyes said Estrada’s security detail may have "acted within their jurisdiction."

Ebdane ordered Sacramento to relieve Ysulat and his team yesterday and replace the entire security detail with another task group to prevent a repeat of the "VIP" treatment accorded Estrada.

He also welcomed the filing of charges, if any, against the PNP should the private prosecutors handling Estrada’s case push through with their intended lawsuit. This, he said, will give the PNP a chance to air its side.

The Public Interest Law Center led by Lambino said it would file a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against the President and other officials for the "crime of connivance" with Estrada.

Ebdane denied allegations that the relief and investigation of Estrada’s entire security detail were done upon orders of Mrs. Arroyo.

"With all candor, I can say that (the President) has nothing to do with this. That is why we initiated the relief and investigation of the custodial unit to find out what happened," he said.

In Malolos, Bulacan, the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) condemned the "mockery of justice" committed by Estrada and the President.

"We wish to remind (the President) and the government’s peace negotiating panel that Zenaida Llesis and other political detainees are the ones who need immediate and unconditional release, rather than Estrada and his cohorts, who shamelessly plundered the nation’s wealth," PCPR said in a statement.

Zenaida is a nursing mother whose one-year-old baby, Gabriela, is recovering from serious heart and liver ailments. Her case has been raised as an urgent concern in the last round of peace talks between the government and communist rebel leaders in Oslo, Norway.

"It is deplorable that (the President) cites ‘humanitarian reasons’ to justify the special privileges granted Estrada while she ignores the case of Zenaida and her baby, who truly need humanitarian considerations," the PCPR said, as they called for Zenaida’s immediate release. — With Delon Porcalla, James Managhaya, AP











  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with