Estrada’s plunder conviction remembered


Historical “Million People March” to Luneta

More than 75 years ago on August 19, 1938, on the occasion of his 60th birthday, Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel Luis Quezon reflected on the “state of the Philippine soul” in a speech delivered to 40,000 students and teachers.

“We lack the superb courage which impels action because it is right,” he said. “Our greatest fear is not to do wrong, but to be caught doing wrong. Our conception of virtue is conventional. We take religion lightly and we think lip-service equivalent to a deep, abiding faith. Patriotism among us is only skin deep and incapable of inspiring heroic deeds.”

Quezon was likely predicting the corrupt mindset of the politicians that would follow in the decades to come, politicians who can talk the “lip service” talk but who can only walk the “skin deep” walk.

On the other hand, the patriotism that is “inspiring heroic deeds” is coming from the Filipino people, many of whom joined the “Million People March” against pork barrel held in Manila’s Rizal Park on August 26 which was directed at eradicating a corrupt system of governmental fund distribution that is rife with abuse.

Former president Joseph Estrada’s mug shot after being charged with plunder

The march and the netizens’ revolt that spurred it were inspired by disclosures of how certain members of the Philippine Congress directed the P200 million allocated annually to each member of the Senate and P70 million to each House member for their use in projects that were supposed to benefit the Filipino people.

The whistle blowers revealed that at least P10 billion of those funds were illegally diverted by these government officials through businesswoman, now fugitive, Janet Lim-Napoles, to certain non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that merely served as convenient conduits for the funds to be kicked back to the pockets of the members of Congress.

The problem is that it may take years for the government to amass the evidence necessary to file plunder charges against the government officials who conspired with Napoles to pocket the people’s money for their own personal use. Not every member of Congress will be as candidly clueless as Rep. Lani Mercado, wife of Sen. Bong Revilla, who justified the pork barrel practice by claiming that her family has substantial personal expenses to pay for.

The problem is deeper than simply gathering sufficient forensic evidence to file plunder charges against the corrupt officials. It goes deeper even where the charges result in guilty verdicts against the scofflaws. It is the failure of the people to connect the dots.

On September 19, 2007, I wrote about the guilty verdict that was handed down by the Sandigan Bayan (Philippine Anti-Graft Court) against former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada on plunder charges (“No Tears for Estrada”). Perhaps it is time to review the facts of Estrada’s plunder conviction to avoid a repetition of what allowed a convicted plunderer to be elected mayor of Manila.

It took six years for the Sandigan Bayan court to try the Estrada case, most of it due to delays caused by Estrada himself. At one point, he fired all his attorneys so that a mistrial could occur. But after the court provided him with new attorneys, whom he rejected, Estrada retained new counsel and proceeded with the case. His strategy then was to delay it until his closest personal friend, Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ), whom he personally coaxed into running, could win the presidency in the May 2004 elections and dismiss all the charges against him.

But when Fernando Poe Jr.  lost, Estrada had no choice but to proceed with the trial, with a strategy directed towards destroying the credibility of the court and depicting the trial as “politically motivated” to justify his removal from office. Very little was done by his lawyers to debunk the voluminous evidence presented in court.

Dozens of witnesses described how Estrada collected billions of Philippine pesos in “jueteng” protection money which, witnesses testified, they regularly delivered in cash to his Polk Street mansion in San Juan in Metro Manila. It was like a mob scene from “The Sopranos.” Credible witnesses also testified that when Estrada was president, he directed his appointees in the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS) to purchase a combined total of 681,733,000 shares of stock of the Belle Corporation worth P1,847,578,057.50 ($40-M).

Estrada now Manila Mayor

Carlos Arellano testified that he was a childhood friend of Estrada who appointed him chairman and president of the SSS in 1998. On October 6, 1999, he received a call from Estrada instructing him to buy Belle Corporation stock. He said he hesitated to do so because the SSS had an investment committee which selected the stocks to invest in for the millions of Filipinos who had contributed to it. However, after further prodding from Estrada, Arellano purchased P900 million in Belle stocks on October 21, 1999, just 15 days after he was directed to do so.

Federico Pascual (not the journalist and newspaper columnist in Manila) testified that he was the president of the GSIS in 1999, appointed by Estrada, when he was instructed to purchase Belle shares. He hesitated to do the president’s bidding, he said, because the Belle Corporation was involved in jai-alai and gambling and had a “speculative flavor”. But after receiving another call from Estrada on October 9, 1999, he went ahead and authorized the purchase by GSIS of P1.1-B (pesos) in Belle stock.

A close crony of Estrada, Jaime Dichaves, facilitated the transaction. Belle Corporation executives testified that they issued a cashier’s check to Dichaves in the amount of P189-M (International Exchange Bank Check No. 6000159271 dated November 5, 1999) as his 10% commission for securing the purchase by SSS and GSIS of close to P2-B (pesos) in Belle stocks.

Bank executives then testified that Dichaves deposited the check into his account and issued a check in the same amount, which he then deposited in to the Equitable Bank account of “Jose Velarde.” Dichaves deposited an additional amount of P74-M (pesos) into the same account.

Clarissa Ocampo, an Equitable Bank manager, testified that she personally witnessed Estrada sign his name as “Jose Velarde” in withdrawing funds from the Equitable Bank, an allegation that was openly admitted by Estrada himself. Bank executives testified that other bank accounts in the same bank were in the names of Jose Velarde and Loi Ejercito (Estrada’s legal wife).

Bank executives also testified that it was from this same Jose Velarde account that Estrada purchased the “Boracay Mansion” near Wack Wack Golf Club for the use of his favored mistress, Laarni Enriquez. The man who facilitated the purchase of this mansion was Jose Luis Yulo who, because of this “housing” experience was then appointed Estrada’s Secretary of Housing, replacing the very competent Karina Constantino-David.

The evidence was just too overwhelming and too blatant for the Sandigan Bayan justices to ignore. They found Estrada guilty of plunder, beyond a reasonable doubt.

When GSIS and SSS bought Belle stocks in 1999, they were priced at P3.14 a share. One year later, on December 29, 2000, their value had sunk dramatically to 60 centavos a share. Two years later, they had gone down to 40 centavos a share. Now they are virtually worthless.

That was what I wrote six years ago. Instead of being sentenced to life imprisonment for his crime, Estrada accepted a plea deal with then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In exchange for a presidential pardon from Arroyo (who likely hoped that she would set a precedent for herself), Estrada agreed never to run for public office again.

(Send comments to or mail them to the law offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 4127 or call 415.334.7800.)

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Alex Alvarez

    Did the government manage to get back what was stolen by Mayor Estrada? Kaya iyan ang hirap sa house arrest, dapat sa Muntinlupa nakakulong or sa palawan penal colony…….wala tayong magagawa, hinayaan nating mangyari eh….sa dapat ngayon, sa kulungan sila… lahat ng mamamayan na gustong tumakbo pero convicted of any crime, di dapat hinahayaang makatakbo sa public service. amyendahan na ang cory konstitution…

  • hagnonoyboy

    Hnid ba ang NAIA 3-PIATCO fiascoay adhil din sa corruption ni Estrada? Dapat
    kasuha uli si estarda ng mga kaso na hindi na natapos nuon trial nya!!! Si Jinggoy, of course, like father like son–sa kalaboso ang tuloy!

  • aeon888

    There is no one to blame but the gullible and forgetful Filipino voters. Convicted drug addict Ronald Singson was elected again for Congress, Gov. Chavit Singson still gets elected even after personally admitting and testifying in court that he brought jueteng money to Erap (in short, Chavit is an illegal gambling lord), Convicted child rapist Romeo Jalosjos got elected 3 times as a congressman even when in Jail, ex-Mayor Ruben Ecleo was also elected as congressman even though he was a known drug addict and murderer of his wife and her family, wife of well known jueteng lord Pineda got elected as Governor defeating a very good opponent, the wives of the dreaded Ampatuans got elected as mayors in place of their jailed husbands, even the Arroyos and the Marcoses are still in power even though everybody knows how corrupt they are.
    So who put them in power? The Filipino voters. Sad but true.

    • Noel

      Exactly. And why are they now questioning Erap being elected as Mayor of Manila?

  • koolkid_inthehouse

    Dumb donkey Filipinos can’t fathom the corruption of Ejercito Estrada nor of the present pork scam.

    The same dumb donkey Filipinos elected his two sons, named as one of the scam artist of senate.

    If Filipinos are not dumb donkeys this scam, corruption will not happen.

    ML Quezon is right, ‘plunderers, traitors and economic terrorists’ are not patriotic.

    • sanjuan683

      Hindi sinabi ni Quezon yun iba ang sinabi niya. Mas gugustuhin niya patakbuhin ng mga unggoy hell ng mga Pinoy ang Pinas kaysa patakbuhin ng mga Amerikano. O hayan ang nangyayari sa gobierno pinatakbo nga ng mga corrupt. hehehehehehe Bakit marunong pa kayo sa mas maraming bumoto kay Erap sa gusto nila yun. Kayo talaga ayaw tumanggap ng pagkatalo. Booooooo

      • Noel

        Kung titignan natin ang kasaysayan, tutulungan ng Amerika ang isang bansa pero may kapalit.

      • koolkid_inthehouse

        Dumb donkey, look at Japan. The American invaded Japan. They were defeated because their samurai weapons are no matched to the modern gats of Americanos. Instead of sulking and blaming the invaders, they hired a lot of foreigners to train the Japanese people, help with their infrastructures, learned engineering and new technologies. Americans wants to trade with Japan, to sell American goods. Look at it now, Japan is now selling goods to USA. Japanese don’t have a dumb donkey culture.

        Philippines is already an economic powerhouse in Asia during that time. Look what’s happening? How did Filipinos became dumb donkeys? Majority of smart Filipinos are working abroad, they knew that their are no jobs waiting for them in this country. All the good jobs are taken by political dynasties family members.

        If you have brain dumb donkey, you can connect the dots why this country is still going down.

      • Noel

        Had the US not meddled politically and economically in the Phil like what they did in most third world countries, the Phil would not be what it is today. Uncle Sam spoiled Marcos for 20 years only to dump him later for cutting half of the US bases and he began to disobey America’s dictates. America helped the anti-Marcos groups to oust Marcos. She helped put Cory in Malacanang.

        America imports law materials from the Phil at the cheapest prices then sell them back to the Phil in finished products ten times the prices. American supplies the Phil military with used materials that were as old as WW2. Maintenance is even more expensive than the aids given.

      • koolkid_inthehouse

        you’re changing topics again.
        US has good intentions to help the PHilippines. The US meddled because of outside threats of communism spreading in Asia.
        Look at Taiwan, US has strong influence in that small island too. The same thing in Japan. It’s the dumb donkey mentality of Filipinos that screw up this country.

        For example, Ejercito Estrada was convicted plunderer and elected mayor of the biggest city in this country. Figure that out. The same dumb donkey Filipinos elected two sons and one now named as one of plunderer again. A half brother is waiting for the opportunity too. Why they elected Nancy Binay?

        Tell me what’s the US influence on the election of senators and congresspersons?

        This country until now can’t process it’s own raw materials because the Filipino people are dumb donkeys. If you believe on your elected officials that they’re doing good for this country then you dumb donkey Filipinos can blame yourself. If you’re not dumb donkey then you’re elected government officials are NOT doing their job to build infrastructure that can process raw materials. Don’t blame the US because they’re working hard to outperform all countries in manufacturing and developing new technologies. They’re spending huge amount on R&D while in the Philippines, your elected senators and congresspersons are using your money to build mansions and buy expensive toys and buy your cheap vote during election time.

        Figure that out dumb donkey Filipinos. You got scrwed and fried on your own fats.

        Don’t blame the foreigners. Blame yourself dumb donkeys.

      • Noel

        Following your stupeed argument, then American voters were dumb gorillas for electing Bush who invaded Iraq and messed up the US economy.

      • koolkid_inthehouse

        you’re a full bloodied dumb donkey. You’re saying Bush is corrupt by invading Iraq or the US economy crashed?

      • kumilos_tayo

        Even i’m a filipino 100 percent agree with you.. but i’m not dumb donkey.. Even i’m not in the Philippines i’ve tried to convince may own kababayans not to vote binays, estradas, honasan and corrupt officials but i failed coz they won the election.

      • koolkid_inthehouse

        You’re a gullible dumb donkey.
        long ago Filipinos are more honest, well inform and have brain.
        Today Filipinos are dumb donkeys and they’re a majority.

    • Noel

      Oh yea, are Americans and other nationalities not dumb monkeys for they too have their own corruption?

      • koolkid_inthehouse

        not as huge as this country’s corruption. Enormous amount and almost all of CONGRESS AND SENATE members. That’s only on Napoles scam. Deodorize King Lapid has a different scam. Others are switching funds.

        Tell me if in USA they have these kind of scams? If they do, they will resign or get the time.

      • Noel

        Corruption is corruption regardless of the amount of money involved. If you’re a Yank and in the US, you must know that there are also huge corruption over there.

      • koolkid_inthehouse

        those involved in corruption either resign or have served time regardless of amount. Chicago governor was convicted and jailed. Anybody from this country with similar crime and convicted and serve time?

        Tell me which huge corruption are you talking about in the news there compared to corruption here that’s on the news in the Philippines?

        Give an example of corruption reported on the US media where it was not immediately dealt with and resulted with no conviction?

      • Noel

        The corruption in US in dollars while pesos in the Phil. Yes, I partly agree that justice is served in the US no matter what your status is. But what about the Mafia that has been in existence for decades? The big time gambling at Las Vegas? The amount of dollars the Jews pour in during election to their chosen candidates?

      • koolkid_inthehouse

        read my reply above

      • koolkid_inthehouse

        Noel, the dumb donkey.
        Mafia’s are on the run. Even on the very founding soil, Mafia are being chase. Trade unions in the US replaced Mafia gangs. Drugs gangs is on the risein the US.
        Dumb donkey, gambling in Vegas is legal but in all states. You’re ignorant of the fact. You can donate to the candidates campaign within legal limits. You donate more than the legal limit and your candidate will be disqualified.

  • opinyonlangpo

    Thats a nice article. However, if one looks at the voting pattern of the people it is obvious that they vote personalities without regards to what these candidates can do for their country. The people deserves what they voted for and there is no drastic change for that in the foreseeable future. Regrettably, it is inherent with the Filipino culture.

  • sanjuan683

    heheheheheh Pilipino ka ba o American sixtizen. Mukhang nakita kita sa California na nagreklamo at nilagay mo sa newspapers ang reklamo. Iniisip ko american citizen ka. Puede ba yun American citizen mag-ko-comment dito sa PDI sa mga nangyayari ito sa Pinas. Nagtatanong lang pakisagot lang babalik na kasi ako sa California pero hindi pa ako US sixtizen kasi ayoko pa.

    • Noel

      Dual citizen daw siya…American citizen and senior citizen.

  • Noel

    When would Rodis write a column entitled “GMA’s Corruption Remembered” ?

  • Garo Ungaro

    Only in our rotten society a convicted plunderer elected to be mayor of Manila. The rotten system/The very people itself has to be blamed…a cycle of vicious reality in our rotten environment…

    • Noel

      Are you saying that a convicted criminal cannot rejoin the society? That’s the problem with stereotyping. It’s this mentality why most criminals who already served their sentences and are free cannot work and be accepted by the community. The truth is, how many more plunderers are out there? Erap’s plunder case has become peanut compared to the current Napoles scam. Yet, those politicians involved not only were elected many times but are now actively serving as lawmakers.

      • Garo Ungaro

        Under the law a convicted plunderer can return to the society as a private citizen…but as convicted felon they are not allowed/supposed to run/hold any public offices again by law…Thats why he has a pending case regarding this very issue subject to SC interpretation of the law regarding convicted felons running or holding public office…

      • AguinaldoIsNotAHero

        Well said.

      • Noel

        That remains to be debatable. Erap has restored his civil liberty. He was able to vote. If one is able to vote, why can he not run for public office. Take note that he ran for President in 2010 and placed second to Pnoy. Pnoy was just too strong because of his parents’ popularity and his mom Cory just passed away so people still had the public sympathy. Also, INC supported Pnoy instead of Erap which they have always supported in the past. INC votes were insignificant but it helped.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks




latest videos