Erap lawyers show video of GMA to prove conspiracy theory
- Mike Frialde () - June 8, 2006 - 12:00am
Lawyers for ousted president Joseph Estrada sought to prove yesterday that there was a conspiracy to depose the former leader by presenting a video of President Arroyo saying that some military factions were turning against him in 2000.

Estrada, 69, briefly took the witness stand in his defense for the eighth time in three months before the court adjourned for another week to prepare for his cross-examination.

He has dismissed as politically motivated charges he amassed about P4 billion from illegal gambling payoffs, tax kickbacks and commissions, as well as a perjury charge for allegedly underreporting his assets in 1999.

He has been on trial since 2001, the year a popular uprising forced him out of office and swept in his then-vice president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The defense wrapped up its presentation with a video of Mrs. Arroyo making a speech in February 2001, a month after Estrada was toppled.

In that speech, she made impromptu remarks about her predecessor’s ouster, saying she was introduced in January 2000 to "a group who already then was working for eventual withdrawal of support" from Estrada.

"I was talking to five different (military) groups and they didn’t know about one another," Mrs. Arroyo said in the video that was shown in the courtroom.

She said the group included one police general who later became the national police chief, possibly Leandro Mendoza, and that their roles contributed to the success of what became known as "EDSA II" — the bloodless, military-backed revolt that removed Estrada from power.

Estrada told reporters later that the video only added to "the evidence of conspiracy."

Last week in court, he accused members of the Philippine elite — powerful businessmen, military generals, former President Fidel Ramos and late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin — of conspiring to topple him because they "could not accept" his landslide poll victory in 1998.

Estrada complained Wednesday that the prosecution was not ready for his cross-examination.

"Maybe they have nothing to prove," he told reporters.

"I am ready for cross-examination. I want this case to be finished so people will know the truth," he said. "I have nothing to hide. I am willing to testify. I am willing to be cross-examined and have nothing to fear."

Taking the witness stand at the special Division of the Sandiganbayan for the final day of his direct examination, Estrada said he secured a copy of the video from a member of the Council on Philippine Affairs (COPA).

Defense lawyers said Mrs. Arroyo delivered a speech before COPA members on Feb. 21, 2001 at a hotel in Makati City in which she related her version of events leading to EDSA II.

Mrs. Arroyo said in the video that she met with a group consisting of Mendoza, a certain Col. C. B. Garcia and a retired general.

Estrada lawyer Jose Flaminiano told the court that they showed the video to establish circumstantial evidence that Mrs. Arroyo did make a speech about the events leading to EDSA II and to strengthen the defense panel’s claim that Mrs. Arroyo participated in a conspiracy to oust Estrada: "There is circumstantial evidence that there was such a speech. We merely wanted to strengthen our position that there was such a speech made by Mrs. Arroyo. We are proceeding cautiously. We do not want to subpoena Mrs. Arroyo. We do not want to provoke an issue," Flaminiano said.

Before the video was shown, Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio protested, saying there was no need to show the video because the legitimacy of Mrs. Arroyo’s presidency was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Sandiganbayan Special Division chairwoman Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro allowed the defense panel to show the video and told Villa-Ignacio that the court took note of his objection.

Previously, Estrada testified in court that he was the victim of a conspiracy to unseat him. He said the conspiracy was hatched by police and military generals, members of the Ayala and Lopez families, the Makati Business Club, some Catholic bishops, Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson, Mrs. Arroyo and her husband Miguel Arroyo.

Villa-Ignacio said the video seemed to weaken, rather than strengthen, speculations of a conspiracy to oust Estrada.

"That video should not have been shown as (Estrada’s) lawyers have not laid the basis for it," he said. "It also strengthened our position. How can there be a conspiracy when President Arroyo said the groups did not know about each other?" With AP

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