Philippines senator Estrada refuses to enter plea in plunder case

admin   •   June 30, 2014   •   2004

Senator Jose ‘Jinggoy’ Estrada (C), son of former Philippine President Joseph Estrada , waves as he arrives at the graft court for his arraignment in Manila June 30, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/NOEL CELIS/POOL

(Reuters) – A Philippine lawmaker, the son of a former president ousted in 2001 on corruption charges, refused to enter a plea on Monday on charges he plundered $4.2 million from his congressional fund, saying the charges were politically motivated.

Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, an action movie hero-turned senator and eldest son of former president and now Manila mayor Joseph, stood silently in the court when the charges were read out.

One of the three judges then entered a plea for opposition senator Estrada of “not guilty”. Estrada faces life imprisonment if convicted for plundering more than 183 million pesos ($4.20 million) from his congressional funds from 2004 to 2010.

After the court proceeding, Estrada said President Benigno Aquino was not serious about fighting graft but was persecuting the political opposition.

“The Ombudsman haphazardly filed an information before the Sandiganbayan… without strong evidence against me,” said Estrada, reading a statement, referring to the anti-graft court.

“This also further bolsters what I’ve been saying all along that this is politically motivated with no other intent but to persecute the members of the opposition while protecting their allies.”

In 2010, President Benigno Aquino won the presidency on the platform of good governance and transparency, with plunder cases are central to his effort to shed the country’s image as one of the most corrupt in Asia.

But he has failed to wipe out graft in government and has been increasingly under attack for coddling political allies accused of corruption.

Prosecutors had tried to amend the charges against Estrada to show he was “collecting” and not merely “receiving” kickbacks from a businesswoman who allegedly devised the scheme to divert congressional funds to non-existent non-government organizations implementing agricultural projects.

But they withdrew their motion when the court denied it.

Estrada said prosecutors filed a defective case against him and believed the court should grant him bail to walk free from the police camp where he has been held for a week.

Two other opposition senators are facing similar plunder charges, one has been arraigned and another, a 90-year-old, is appealing to avoid detention due to his old age and poor health. Prosecutors said the senators had siphoned of funds, known as “pork barrel”, to non-existent non-government organizations.($1 = 43.6150 Philippine Pesos)

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato and Lara Murallos; Editing by Michael Perry)

JBC extends application period for CA, CTA, Sandiganbayan vacancies

Robie de Guzman   •   August 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Judicial and Bar Council on Thursday announced it has extended the application period for several vacant positions in the Court of Appeals (CA), and other courts.

In an advisory, the JBC said it moved the deadline from August 25 to September 25 following requests for extension of the deadline of submission of documents owing to the difficulty in securing documents in view of the imposition of modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite were placed under MECQ from August 4 to 18. It has now shifted to general community quarantine status.

The JBC said there are job openings in the CA, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) as well as in the Legal Education Board.

CA vacancies are for the positions left by Justices Rodil Zalameda, Edgardo Delos Santos, Mario Lopez, and Samuel Gaerlan who were appointed to the Supreme Court; Justices Luisa Padilla and Jane Aurora Lantion who compulsorily retired in January 2020.

The opening in Sandiganbayan is for the position left by the late Justice Reynaldo Cruz, while the CTA vacancies are for the positions formerly held by retired Justices Cielito Mindaro-Grulla and Esperanza Fabon-Victorino.

The JBC also said applications are also open for several positions in the Legal Education Board.

The council reminded applicants to access the online application scheduler in its website on or before August 25 to register and selected the date they will submit their documents.

Applicants must also submit the complete and accurate digitized versions of their documents through electronic mail on their selected date and time of appointment in the scheduler.

The submission of hard copies of documentary requirements, however, is suspended until further notice, the JBC said.

Trump urges U.S. to halt most social activity in virus fight, warns of recession

UNTV News   •   March 17, 2020

President Donald Trump urged Americans on Monday (March 16) to halt most social activities for 15 days and not congregate in groups larger than 10 people in a newly aggressive effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

Announcing new guidelines from his coronavirus task force, the president said people should avoid discretionary travel and not go to bars, restaurants, food courts or gyms.

As stocks tumbled, Trump warned that a recession was possible, a development that could affect his chances of re-election in November. The Republican president said he was focused on addressing the health crisis and that the economy would get better once that was in line.

The task force implored young people to follow the new guidelines even though they were at lesser risk of suffering if they contract the virus. Older people, especially those with underlying health problems, are at the greatest risk if they develop the respiratory disease.

Reporters staggered their seating, sitting in every other seat in the White House briefing room, to follow social distancing measures.

Trump said the worst of the virus could be over by July, August or later. He called it an invisible enemy.

The president has taken criticism for playing down the seriousness of the virus in the early days of its U.S. spread. On Monday, when asked, he gave himself a good grade for his response.

“I’d rate it a 10. I think we’ve done a great job,” he said.

Trump said a nationwide curfew was not under consideration at this point.

Normally a cheerleader for the U.S. economy, he acknowledged the possibility of a recession while brushing off another dramatic decline on stock markets as investors worried about the virus.

“We’re not thinking in terms of recession, we’re thinking in terms of the virus. Once we stop, I think there’s a tremendous pent up demand, both in terms of the stock market and in terms of the economy,” Trump said. The president has long considered soaring stock markets to be a sign of his administration’s success.

Trump said the administration had talked regularly about domestic travel restrictions but hoped not to have to put such measures in place.

He said he thought it would still be possible for G7 leaders to meet at the Camp David retreat in Maryland in June. Trump upset European countries, which make up a large part of the G7, by instituting travel restrictions from European countries without consulting with them first. (Reuters)

(Production: Katharine Jackson)

Streets deserted in Milan during coronavirus lockdown

UNTV News   •   March 11, 2020

A handful of people were seen on the streets of Milan on Wednesday morning (March 12) following stringent measures imposed to contain the coronavirus.

Shops and restaurants closed, hundreds of flights were cancelled and streets emptied across Italy on Tuesday (March 10), the first day of an unprecedented, nationwide lockdown imposed to slow Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus.

Just hours after the dramatic new restrictions came into force, health authorities announced the death toll had jumped by 168 to 631, the largest rise in absolute numbers since the contagion came to light on Feb. 21.

The total number of confirmed cases rose at a much slower rate than recently seen, hitting 10,149 against a previous 9,172, but officials warned that the region at the epicentre, Lombardy, had provided incomplete data.

The government has told all Italians to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel until April 3, radically widening steps already taken in much of the wealthy north, which is the epicentre of the spreading contagion. (Reuters)

(Production: Marissa Davison)

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