Tuesday, January 23, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Philippines' Estrada lays basis for court challenge

By Francisco Alcuaz Jr.
Bloomberg News

MANILA — Joseph Estrada wrote in a letter to the Philippine Senate that he’s temporarily unable to carry out the duties of president, suggesting he may try to reclaim the office from which he was ousted on Saturday, said Senate President Aquilino Pimentel.

Estrada, who lost power after most of his cabinet and the military and police withdrew their support in the midst of a four- day popular revolt, cited a constitutional provision that would allow him to resume the presidency when he deems his incapacity at an end.

"It looks like a basis for constitutional challenge is being laid down by this letter," Pimentel said.

Former Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was sworn in as president by the chief justice of the Supreme Court on Saturday, with the support of the court’s other members.

Senator Miriam Santiago said Estrada’s letter means Arroyo was only acting president and not empowered to form her own government. Arroyo has begun to make key appointments.

"It opens the door to President Estrada reassuming office at some later time if, let us say, he is able to persuade the military to back him once more," she said.

Still, other congressional allies of Estrada seemed prepared to give up the fight.

House Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella signed a statement declaring "support and recognition to the constitutional successor to the presidency," referring to Arroyo.

Senator John Osmena, who grilled prosecution lawyers and witnesses during Estrada’s corruption trial, said he was "duty bound to discharge his responsibilities as members of the Senate" when asked if he would recognize the Arroyo government.

Prosecutors said today that they’re investigating Estrada on suspicion of economic plunder while in office, the British Broadcasting Corp. and Cable News Network reported.

He’s also under investigation for misuse of funds, violation of the anti-graft law, perjury, bribery and possession of unexplained wealth. He has ten days in which to respond by affidavit, the reports said.

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