MANILA — An aide to the governor whose allegations led to President Joseph Estrada’s impeachment trial testified yesterday that she delivered $100,000 in illegal gambling proceeds to Estrada’s personal secretary.
The testimony from Emma Lim was the first to suggest a direct link between payoffs from a nationwide numbers game called jueteng and the president, who is on trial on corruption charges.
Lim testified that she took the cash to the presidential palace in March 1999 at the request of Luis Singson, a provincial governor.
“The money was in a black bag that was like an attaché case,” Lim said. “I said I was going to see Malou, the secretary of the president. I was let in. They were not strict. … I left the bag with Malou.”
Estrada and the nation were thrown into crisis in October when Singson, a reputed gambling lord, claimed he gave Estrada more than $8 million from jueteng – played by many poor Filipinos – and $2.6 million from tobacco taxes.
Estrada, who has been president for two years, is being tried for bribery, graft, betrayal of public trust and violation of the constitution. He says he is innocent.
A former national police chief, Roberto Lastimoso, repeated under cross-examination yesterday that he believed Estrada instructed him to go easy on the numbers game and “coordinate” jueteng issues with Singson.
Outside the Senate building, where the country’s first impeachment trial is unfolding, about 100 activists held a mock trial of the president in a “people’s court.”
Also yesterday, a group of currency traders joined the call from the business community for Estrada to resign. Estrada should step down to “save our nation from the dire consequences of a prolonged crisis,” the Foreign Exchange Association of the Philippines said in a full-page advertisement. “We dread the thought of a full-blown recession.”
The congressmen acting as prosecutors opened the impeachment trial by spinning a tale of money, mansions and mistresses, contending that Estrada is unfit to govern.
But Senate President Aquilino Pimentel criticized the prosecutors, saying they “need to improve on their performance and should prepare for the trial on casino en ligne. They are not prepared in terms of their documentation.”
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the country’s largest lawyers group, offered its help and suggested bringing in practicing criminal lawyers to try the case instead of the congressmen.
Congressman Sergio Apostol said the prosecutors were open to suggestions but that they already have help from private lawyers, with an average of 25 lawyers handling each charge in the impeachment case.