Press Release
February 20, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said Malacañang s offer to help former President Joseph Estrada get out of detention on a temporary basis was intended to dissuade him from supporting various groups that have consolidated their forces to press for the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Pimentel said Estrada was right in turning down the offer, made through Presidential Chief-of-Staff Michael Defensor, believing it was a trap and another political gimmick of the administration.

Why are they now telling Mr. Estrada that they can do something to secure his temporary liberty? Werent they always saying before that it was the policy of Malacañang not to interfere in the court case against the former president because they respect the independence of the judiciary? the minority leader said.

Pimentel suspected that Malacañang is merely floating a trial balloon by having Secretary Defensor publicly announce the proposal for Estradas temporary liberty even before it could be presented to the deposed president.

Why is Secretary Defensor, whose credibility is doubtful, the one saying so many things about the offer? If this is the idea of President Arroyo, why has she not said anything in favor of the proposal? Is it because this offer nothing but a bait for Erap which they can instantly withdraw once they have already gotten what they wanted? he said.

Pimentel said that if the proposed temporary liberty for Estrada does not come directly from the President, it should not be taken seriously, saying the Palace is apparently only testing the waters.

The lone senator from Mindanao said the Palaces attempt to meddle in the plunder case has only put Mr. Estrada in a difficult situation because he has a pending motion with the Sandiganbayan to be granted temporary liberty or be put under house arrest to prepare himself for his testimony before the anti-graft court.

Pimentel said that even if Estradas motion is meritorious, the justices of the Sandiganbayan special division will be hard put making a favorable ruling because they are wary of the impression that they are under the influence of Malacañang .

Given this situation, he said it would be advisable for Malacañang and Secretary Defensor to stop interfering in the case.

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