News Commentary

Estrada lawyer, private prosecutor nearly come to blows

- Jose Rodel Clapano -
A pre-trial conference on the plunder case against jailed former President Joseph Estrada almost turned into fisticuffs the other day after opposing lawyers raised sexual preferences in a heated spat.

Defense lawyer Ray-mund Fortun said the incident happened inside the office of Sandiganbayan third division clerk of court Lily Biton during a pre-trial conference.

Fortun said the defense panel, led by lawyer Cleofe Verzola, found it odd that a lawyer, identified as volunteer private prosecutor Miguel Silos, was "dictating" on the prosecution panel although he had not entered his appearance in the meeting.

"(Silos) did not even have the courtesy to identify himself. He did not give his name. He did not even want to enter his appearance. But he was dictating on the prosecution panel," Fortun said.

Perhaps intimidated by Silos, Verzola asked the lawyer to identify himself for the record but Silos supposedly gave a stinging reply: "Never mind my name. I came here on my own."

The defense lawyers recognized Silos as among the volunteer lawyers who helped the House prosecution panel during Estrada’s aborted impeachment trial in the Senate.

Fortun claimed that during the impeachment trial, Silos caused the distribution of press statements containing the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee testimony of an executive of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR).

The PAGCOR official had testified before a meeting of the committee that Estrada earned some P100 million in commissions from the PAGCOR’s approval of the controversial Bingo 2-Ball.

Knowing that Silos was a partner of the Carpio, Villaraza and Cruz law office, which is believed to be close to Malacañang, the defense lawyers claimed he came to the meeting at the instance of the Palace.

Fortun said Silos’ senior partner Carpio was a lawyer of President Arroyo while Villaraza was allegedly the lawyer who tried to persuade Estrada buddy Charlie "Atong" Ang to testify against the former president.

Silos, however, claimed he was only a volunteer lawyer helping the prosecution panel and vehemently denied he was representing Malacañang.

But Verzola, apparently offended, walked out of the meeting leaving Fortun to face Silos’ ire.

"Are you calling me a liar, asshole?" Silos fumed at Fortun, who claimed he turned away to avoid a fight but Silos allegedly called him a homosexual and supposedly disparaged his mother.

"What did you say? Did you call me a fairy? Let’s see who is better hung," Fortun himself admitted saying in Filipino when he was piqued by Silos’ remarks.

Fortun admitted that he then challenged Silos to step out of the Sandiganbayan to settle their differences in the old fashioned way but cooler heads intervened.

Private prosecutor Arno Sanidad, who was present at the meeting, said the heated argument was a minor incident. But he himself couldn’t stop from further needling Fortun.

"Guwapo kasi itong co-prosecutor namin, eh. (It just so happens that our co-prosecutor is handsome)," a grinning Sanidad said.

Special Prosecutor Humphrey Monteroso also downplayed the incident as "miscommunication" but also couldn’t restrain himself.

"Reality hurts," Monteroso said.
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