POSTSCRIPT / January 4, 2001 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Defense lawyers eclipsed by trying-hard senators?

DEFENSE lawyer Estelito Mendoza still has to explain away the involvement of his office in the reported manufacturing of substitute bank documents showing Jaime Dichavez’s name in place of Jose Velarde’s and thereby remove the smoking gun from the signing left hand of President Estrada.

Caught in a corner, Mendoza had to confirm the testimony of Equitable PCI Bank senior vice president Clarissa Ocampo that she was there when some individuals involved in the projected substitution worked on the documents in Mendoza’s office.

Mendoza tried squirming out by claiming that while he was in his office at the time, he did not fully realize what was going on and that he did not witness any signing of documents.

With this, is not Mendoza disqualifying himself from the impeachment trial? Or even disbarring himself altogether?

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THE reported attempt to tamper with the evidence partly explains why we had to issue a warning earlier that Jose Velarde is still on the loose and is free to continue operating.

One disadvantage of the prosecution in the impeachment trial is that President Estrada, unlike other government official facing serious charges, has not been suspended. He is above the law that apparently applies only to lower officials.

Preventive suspension as a precautionary step is intended precisely to prevent an indicted official from tampering with evidence, intimidating witnesses and committing other acts that would impede justice.

Are we equal before the law, or has lawlessness started to rule the land?

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IT is becoming increasingly clear that based alone on the Jose Velarde transactions with the Equitable PCI Bank and related acts, Joseph Ejercito Estrada does not deserve to stay one minute longer in the presidency.

The damning evidence has so piled up that now the defense appears to have had to resort to manufacturing documents and relying on the backup of senator-allies of the President.

We cannot blame defense lawyers if they put up a spirited defense of their client. But we cannot say the same thing for some senators who have forgotten that they are judges and not retained counsel in the trial.

Some senators, including non-lawyers, even try harder — sometimes outperforming the defense lawyers themselves — one would think the honorable senators are being paid much more than the lawyers.

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POLL SURVEY: To be honest about it, when we asked readers to tell us who they think was the Mad Bomber or the mastermind of the Dec. 30 bombing spree in Metro Manila, we had an inkling of what many of them would say.

But in fairness to the person(s) that some readers had linked to the bombing, no proof was offered by our respondents. What some of them did was merely to give some analyses.

We don’t expect the drift of the responses to change, so we are closing the survey. Meanwhile, here are some of the early responses without, we repeat, any offer of proof for their conclusions:

Normacamp, aol: Who is the unibomber? He is a lone man who walks like a goose and has big belly.

E.Pangan, Tinton Falls, New Jersey: My prediction is that there will be more intermittent bombings in public places to be capped by the ambush or assassination of a very prominent person. If this happens, then there is no doubt the mastermind of the Saturday bombings is the one we have in mind now.

Hanzel Leano, 31, Marikina: The mad bomber is none other than the government. Not necessarily the President, but those who are at risk of losing everything they have if and when Erap is booted out. These include people in key positions with access to the systems, people and hardware needed to carry out such a precisely orchestrated effort. These people may include members of the midnight Cabinet, close Chinoy friends, family members and former generals jaded during the Ramos administration.

Olen Francisco, batelco: The bombers have left a striking signature to their ruthless act. If we look at a city map of Metro Manila, we’ll find that the proximity of explosives deployment were concentrated to adjacent cities. If we try to connect the dots we would have come up with a double triangle, tops pointing to the west where Malacañang is situated. Also, if we pile the triangles like matchsticks and remove the two vertical sticks we’d have come up with a letter E. Duh!

Ysmael Quitoriano: The mysterious person hiding behind the name Jose Velarde is also the same mysterious mastermind of the terroristic bombing in Manila. He has all the motive and the money to finance such covert operation. Mysterious? In the movies, yes! In real life, not anymore!

Ruffy Salcon, 39, Canada: Who has the motive, resources, desperation and proven ruthlessness in the past few years? None other than the Estrada administration who may be scripting a remake of martial law 2000. Or a faction within the military who may be drumming out a scenario of taking over government from the Estrada regime with the excuse that they are doing this because the present government is incapable.

FLETCHN, aol: I believe the real mad bomber(s) point to some quarters of the presidential family since they, understandably, gain to lose the most if the “head” of the family is chopped off. Curiously, and if you consult with any psychiatrist, the President, in one of his media interviews ago, made a comment addressed specifically to his friends and families to abstain from being involved in vengeance or violence. Was it in his subconscious that he was referring to his very closest family, perhaps his male children? I also find it very disturbing that this President always allude to people harassing or putting him down, thus he portrays himself as being “inaapi.”

Boyet Abalos, San Francisco Bay Area, CA: Who else is capable of doing multiple bombings at one time? Who else will benefit the most? Where else can you find a government immediately ready with a prepared statement right after the bombing and even before the dust settles down? To me, this is the handiwork of Estrada and his minions willing to spill precious blood just to hang on to power.

Rogelio M. Beare Jr., 28, Iloilo City: The most logical choice would be the Abu Sayyaf. I do not think that the government would kill civilians just to divert attention from empeachment trials nor any political group would benefit from this evil move. Note that last week two ASG members were caught and they admitted that they are in Manila for bombing missions. The fact that it was done on Christmas season (a Christian celebration) strikes me as an ideal time for ASG to sow terror.

RosrayTG, aol: Estrada is the only one with the motive to scare would-be demonstrators off the streets to avoid an EDSA II. Estrada has the resources to carry out such a dastardly act with military expertise and efficiency. Estrada and his gang have all the opportunity or the freedom and facility to recruit and deploy criminals carrying explosives all over Metro Manila without being detected. And, of course, none will be apprehended. There may be scripted zarzuelas later on. I would give Estrada the benefit of the doubt that he alone masterminded the bombings. This could have been the idea of that adviser Maceda and/or ex-Marcos Gestapo-man Ping Lacson. Of course, with the approval of that dumb actor.

Erwin Celestino, Canada: The recent spate of serial bombings was masterminded by a person so close and loyal to Erap. They have done this cowardly act simply to sow terror and confusion upon the population for apparent reasons. The government has the resources and capability to undertake such horrific orgies of deliberately causing death and destruction to lives and properties.

Ched Arzadon, 38, mother of 3, Dagupan City: My immediate gut feel reaction when I learned about the bombings was that it was perpetuated by no less than President Erap himself and his crime lord buddies, especially Atong Ang. Violence and coercion are vintage marks of politician-basaguleros. Lately we learned about the assassination attempts on Singson, the abduction of Dacer, the death threats on Yasay, other witnesses, senators and other key players in the impeachment trial. If he won’t spare his buddies and prominent people, why would he care for the ordinary powerless masa?

Benjamin Vallejo Jr., 33, Ateneo de Manila University: I don’t agree that the usual suspects (CPP-NPA, MILF, Abu Sayyaf) are behind these terrorist attacks. These groups are unlikely to have the degree of precision, political savvy and organization needed to pull off an attack like that. This attack is similar to that done by the IRA and Protestant militias in Northern Ireland. Obviously the intent is to derail an important political event. In Northern Ireland, that event was the peace talks between the Catholic and Protestant parties. In our country it is obviously the impeachment trial. The plotters likely had the benefit of military organization and possibly foreign training.

P. A. Meneses, San Juan: Just a few hours after the bombings, Estrada was quick to point his finger at the political opposition, the MILF, Abu Sayyaf, NPA, etc. It has become this President’s wont to lay the blame for anything, and everything, that goes wrong under his watch on anybody, and everybody, but himself. However, according to the teachings of Buddha, “it is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 4, 2001)

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