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Timeline of former Philippine president Joseph Estrada's trial

By dpa news     Sep 10, 2007 in Politics
A Philippine anti-graft court is scheduled to hand down on Wednesday its verdict on the six-year corruption trial of former president Joseph Estrada. Below are the highlights of the six-year trial.
January 20, 2001 - Former president Joseph Estrada was ousted by a military-backed mass uprising over allegations of large-scale corruption. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who was vice president then, took over the post.
April 4, 2001 - The Ombudsman filed plunder charges and several other related cases against Estrada for allegedly amassing illegal wealth of about 4 billion pesos (87 million dollars), mainly from illegal gambling payoffs and tax kickbacks.
April 25, 2001 - The Sandiganbayan anti-graft court issued an arrest warrant against Estrada and other co-accused, including his eldest son, now Senator Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada. The father and son were immediately arrested and detained at the national police headquarters.
May 1, 2001 - An angry mob of Estrada supporters stormed the Malacanang presidential palace after days of protests. Four people were killed and dozens injured in a riot that erupted as police and military blocked the demonstrators.
July 10, 2001 - Estrada and his co-accused were arraigned by the Sandiganbayan for plunder and perjury charges. They refused to enter a plea, prompting the court to record a not-guilty plea for them.
October 1, 2001 - The trial commenced. For the next 18 months, the prosecution built its case against Estrada, presenting 76 witnesses and more than 1,500 pieces of documentary evidence. The prosecution rested its case on April 28, 2003.
Among the prosecution's key witnesses were Estrada's former drinking and gambling buddy, Ilocos Sur Governor Luis "Chavit" Singson, who alleged that he gave the former president 130 million pesos in kickbacks from tobacco excise taxes. Singson also testified that Estrada pocketed 545 million pesos in payoffs from illegal gambling operators.
The prosecution also presented bank executive Clarissa Ocampo, who testified that she was a foot away from Estrada when he signed bank documents using the alias "Jose Velarde" to hide billions of pesos in a secret account.
March 6, 2003 - The Sandiganbayan allowed Estrada's son and co-accused to post bail after ruling that the prosecution failed to present strong evidence that he connived with his father.
July 12, 2004 - The Sandiganbayan allowed Estrada to be placed under house arrest in his 15-hectare villa in Tanay town in Rizal province, just east of Manila. Before his house arrest, the former president was detained for various periods at the national police headquarters, a military hospital in Manila and an army camp outside the capital.
Shortly thereafter, the defence began to present their witnesses to disprove the charges against Estrada. They presented a total of 80 witnesses and 276 pages of summaries of rebuttals.
Among the key witnesses were Beatriz Bagsit, a former bank executive who alleged that prosecution witness Clarissa Ocampo lied about the "Jose Velarde" account, insisting that Estrada was merely a guarantor for the account owned by a businessman-friend of the former president.
March 22, 2006 - Estrada took the witness stand and personally denied the charges against him. He told the Sandiganbayan court that if he was guilty, he would have accepted the offer of the Arroyo administration for him to just flee the country shortly after he was ousted so that the cases against him would no longer be filed.
June 28, 2006 - The prosecution ended its cross-examination of Estrada.
July 15, 2007 - The trial came to a close with the Sandiganbayan hearing final arguments from the two sides. The court had 90 days to come out with a decision.
September 12, 2007 - The Sandiganbayan is scheduled to hand down its verdict. If convicted of plunder, or theft of public funds in excess of 1 million dollars, Estrada faces life imprisonment. The offense used to be punishable by the maximum penalty of death, but the Philippines abolished capital punishment in 2006. dpa gl jg jh