CAGAYAN de Oro Journal (Transcribed by Maricel Casiño / Sept. 13)
PIA HONTIVEROS : Governor, tell us what you thought when you first heard the verdict?
GOV. MORENO: Well, actually Pia, before this verdict, what really was bothering me was - this is a no win situation for this government , for this administration. Either way, there would be political statements that would tend to polarize our people. So to me, it didn’t matter whether he would be acquitted or convicted. What should still be important is our people, our country would be able to survive this politically motivated crisis and move on. Now there are many principles here that the decision, one way or the other, I had hope would strengthen:
Independence of the Judiciary - judiciary must be respected and preserved, protected as an independent branch.
Rule of Law – no one is above the law, and we are a government of laws and not of men.
Principle of accountability of public officials- public office is a public trust and all government officials must at all times be accountable.
Equal protection and the law is obliged equally to all.
I have observed the comments earlier of the defense lawyers and I appreciate the comment of Atty. Mendoza, the comment was focused on the legal side but other comments were focused on the political side.
PIA : Your referring to comments made by Atty. Rene Saguisag?
MORENO: He was my professor Pia, in San Beda.
PIA: So you thought that Atty. Mendoza made his case well?
MORENO: I think he had explained quite well what he perceives as the defects of the decision and let it be. Let them raise those defects and let the Sandiganbayan take another look at that and assess whether they have made a good decision or not. Now the problem that we now face is that there will be certainly attempts to destabilize or weaken… and of course, that problem is exacerbated with complaints of corruption in government and so you have the moral ascendancy issue. But I would like to look at that as separate from what we are going through now. And what is important is we are able to survive this crisis and emerge stronger and respecting the independence of the judiciary and adhering to the principles that I have mentioned.
PIA: Governor, I cant help but think that or ask you how different things would have been had the impeachment trial not been aborted because you were halfway through - presentations of prosecution’s evidence and there was no time for Mr. Estrada to present his case in his defense, how would things have been so different, or how would things have been different, had there been a completed impeachment trial?
MORENO: I agree with you totally Pia that very unfortunate that the impeachment did not end up on its natural conclusion. Now for instance, on the Jose Velarde account which I have focused in the impeachment trial, the opening of the second envelope could have led us to the transaction documents that would have proven the 3.2 billion-peso deposits over as a span of 7 to 8 months and they’re withdrawn. Full withdrawal that ended sometime in November 2000. We would have had the chance to prove were the money came from and where the money went. But the second envelop did not show up because the second envelop contained only the ledger of the account- just the debit, credit but the transaction number in the second envelop could have brought as to the transaction document. The beauty in banking is that transactions are documented and bank documents do not lie.
On the “jueting” money, we have demonstrated that a total of 200 billion was placed in an account. Now the defense have asserted, although they had not presented their case yet but in the press statement, they had asserted that the 200 billion went to the Erap Muslim Youth Foundation. Ostensibly, the money did not belong to the former president because it belong to the foundation which is a separate entity. But had the impeachment went on, we would have had the chance to look deeper into that. And I had theorized then that the Erap Muslim Youth Foundation was just an after thought. Anyway that’s now a thing of the past. Now on the excise tax, the money was in fact released and eventually withdrawn from a private bank, by the way, let me add, I would like to congratulate that Landbank, a government bank because they did not cooperate with what the plan was, in relation to the release of the funds. But the money was released.
PIA: Governor, will there be closure now that there is the decision on the plunder and perjury charges that former president Estrada had faced?
MORENO: I hope so Pia, but I’m afraid not especially since the presidential election of 2010 is not far away anymore.
As to the closure, I said I hope that the decision when it becomes final, they go all the way to the Supreme Court will put a closure to this sad episode. Unfortunately, the reality is that, people are now looking at 2010, the presidential elections.
PIA: Governor Moreno, a final word from you sir.
MORENO:I know that its very difficult for this government. It’s a pity because things are looking good, looking bright especially for Mindanao and I just hope that we will now be able to move on as nation and survive this sad episode like I said. One way of looking at it is - had the former president not been prosecuted, the consequences would have been much greater for our country to carry, not only for this generation but for many other generations in the future that would have meant that we have a different application of our justice system. One is for the poor, the under privileged and another for the powerful and the rich. This is a very painful exercise or episode but I hope it we will emerge stronger than we had been in the past.
PIA: And I suppose Governor, that this is some sort of message to all former, incumbent and future officials.
GOV. MORENO : Yes Pia, certainly.