Friday, October 12, 2012

February 21, 2001, CNN, Estrada reprieve won't last: Philippine government, by Amabelle Layug,

February 21, 2001, CNN, Estrada reprieve won't last: Philippine government, by Amabelle Layug, writer, Web posted at: 7:52 AM EST (1252 GMT)

Manila, Philippines -- Philippines' top justice official is vowing to pursue corruption charges against Joseph Estrada despite a 30-day reprieve for the deposed leader.

Justice Secretary Hernando Perez told on Wednesday that a Supreme Court decision to bar any charges from being filed against Estrada won't hurt the government's resolve to implicate the former president.

The order was issued on Tuesday, and suspends the filing of any criminal charges against Estrada for the next 30 days, to give justices more time to consider the ex-leader's petitions.

The Court is considering whether Estrada remains president and retains immunity from prosecution.

Estrada abandoned the presidential palace on January 20 amid mass street protests over corruption allegations.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, vice president at the time, was sworn in to finish Estrada's term, ending in 2004.

Estrada says he never signed a resignation letter and is only on leave. His attorneys admit he has little chance of regaining the presidency, but the immunity issue is critical for the man who has sworn he will not go into exile.

New charges

Perez said he is gearing to press new charges against Estrada involving as much as 300 million dollars.

Estrada's mistresses would not be spared from prosecution, he said, adding that other charges would be filed immediately if prosecutors gather enough evidence.

Earlier, Desierto, whose task it is to prosecute corrupt government officials, revealed that one of Estrada's mistresses owned a bank account with around 13 million dollars in it.

Investigations will continue

Perez's call on Wednesday echoed a comment last week by the ombudsman, vowing to pursue new criminal charges against Estrada.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court issued a "gag order" against Perez and Desierto and their lawyers on Tuesday, preventing them from issuing statements on the Estrada cases.

But Perez said the order was a "mere reminder not to discuss the cases already being tackled by the courts."

Nevertheless, he said, they are not prevented from discussing new cases that would be filed against Estrada, his cronies, and his mistresses.

Private prosecutors allege Estrada amassed as much as 300 million dollars during 31 months in office and stashed it in 15 accounts in 15 banks under at least six aliases.

Estrada has denied any wrongdoing.

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