MANILA, Philippines - Former President Joseph Estrada admitted that his chief legal counsel was partly responsible for his 2001 ouster for being too “legalistic” during the impeachment trial.
Estelito Mendoza, who served as Estrada’s chief legal counsel during the impeachment trial, fought against the opening of the second envelope because it was not included in the charges against the former president.
“I wanted the second envelope opened because I didn’t want the people to think that we were covering up something. But Mendoza, who is very legalistic, said that it was against the rule of law. Being the chief legal counsel, he prevailed,” Estrada said during an interview with Cheche Lazaro on ABS-CBN last Sunday.
Former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who was also interviewed by Lazaro, said he was able to talk to Estrada two weeks after the walkout of prosecutors and the Senate decided to open the second envelope.
“I spoke to Erap (Estrada) and he asked me what is the content of the second envelope. I told him there was nothing there and he asked me, you mean I lost the presidency because of that and I said yes,” Pimentel said.
Estrada also criticized then Chief Justice Hilario Davide for not sanctioning the private prosecutors who walked out of the impeachment trial.
“It is very elementary that when the prosecutors walked out, being the presiding Judge, he (Davide) could ask them to come back or dismiss the case outright,” Estrada said.
Estrada further questioned the Supreme Court ruling on his alleged “constructive resignation,” citing that even pre-law students could attest that the term cannot be found in the Constitution.
“There was no basis to remove me because I was not convicted, I’m not sick, I’m very much alive and I have not resigned,” Estrada said.
Estrada believed that the Arroyo government created the special court and hand-picked the justices that tried his case to convict him.
“The special court was designed to convict me. Two months after my conviction, two justices who had handled my case were appointed to the Supreme Court. They convicted me for jueteng money. The money was intact,” Estrada said.