Estrada to take witness stand in Oct
Former President Joseph Estrada will take the witness stand for the first time in October to defend himself against corruption charges, his lawyers said Thursday, reports AP.
Estrada will tell the Philippine anti-graft court that he never made false declarations about his assets and that he did not hold interests in 50 companies, as prosecutors allege, the defence lawyers said in a deposition.
"I have the opportunity now to answer all these charges against me,'' Estrada told reporters after a pre-trial hearing under tight security the anti-graft court. "I am willing to sacrifice to face the charges against me.''
Estrada appeared Thursday on the charge of perjury, the lesser of two main charges he faces. The other is the capital offence of plunder. Prosecutors said they will prove in the trial, scheduled to start Oct. 29, that Estrada lied when he declared net assets of $700,000 in 1999.
Prosecutors told the court Estrada really had more than $1.49 million in several bank accounts. Prosecutors also alleged Thursday that Estrada had interests in 50 companies. Prosecutors said they will use testimony from bank executives to show Estrada had the cash.
Estrada's defence team said the ousted leader will testify on his own behalf, for the first time since the corruption allegations surfaced late last year, to deny the allegations. Estrada did not address the court during Thursday's pre-trial hearing, which is the final step before trial.
The hearing, meant to allow lawyers to mark exhibits and agree on the presentation of evidence in the perjury case, was Estrada's third appearance at his corruption trial.
Hundreds of police lined up outside the court as Estrada, currently detained at a Manila military hospital, was escorted inside, but there were no demonstrations.
The perjury case stems from allegations that Estrada underdeclared his assets shortly after becoming president.
Estrada was arrested April 25 on the capital plunder charge, for allegedly amassing about $74 million in payoffs from illegal gambling operators and kickbacks from tobacco taxes during his 31 months in office. He was arraigned July 10.
After an aborted six-week impeachment trial, Estrada was ousted from office in January amid massive protests against his alleged corruption. The military and police had withdrawn support from him and several of his Cabinet secretaries resigned.
On May 1, tens of thousands of pro-Estrada demonstrators stormed the presidential palace to protest his arrest. Six people were killed as the Estrada backers clashed with police and military.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who took over from Estrada on Jan. 20, accused opposition politicians of organising the clashes in an attempt to run her out of office.
Estrada, a former action film star, was elected in 1998 on a pro-poor, anti-corruption platform with one of the largest margins in recent memory.
source: Asia Pacific /bangladesh.com/, Aug 2, 2001