Tale of Two Joses: Velarde and Pidal
Wednesday, 10 01, 2003
In November 2000, as the impeachment of then President Joseph Estrada went to trial, the House of Representatives prosecutors, in their opening remarks, presented in a power point display, side by side with a P500 bill which carried the signature of Estrada, was a photocopy of a check whose signature, the House prosecutor suggested, was similar to the signature appearing on the P500 bill. The prosecutor later identified the check's signatory as one Jose Velarde then insisted that Velarde and Estrada were one and the same person.
Even as the prosecution threatened to bring in a British handwriting expert, it never did so, perhaps because it already knew that the findings would show that the signatory in that Jose Velarde check would not jibe with the President's signature as Jose Velarde.
In August 2003, an opposition legislator, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in a privilege speech also backed up by a power point presentation, presented a check issued by a Jose Pidal, complete with bank account information, the balance as of a certain date, and showed too, that a P5-million check meant for a foundation identified with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was deposited in the account of Jose Pidal.
The senator also produced a document showing that the First Gentleman, Jose Miguel Arroyo, had invested in Morgan Stanley, with a Triple A account, which another senator pointed out meant an investment that was nothing below $5 million. There was also, in the same Morgan Stanley document, a Jose Pidal account, bearing the same address as that of Mr. Arroyo: 8th Floor, LTA Building, Perea St. in Makati City.
Lacson, like the prosecutor during the impeachment trial also displayed the signature of the First Gentleman, which, through the power point presentation, tended to show that the signatory of the Pidal check was Mr. Arroyo, as his signature in a Kaibigan ni Gloria Arroyo foundation card was compared to the Pidal signature.
In the impeachment trial, Jaime Dichaves, a businessman who was closely identified with Mr. Estrada, through his lawyer, sent a formal letter to the presiding justice in the impeachment court, Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., after the Equitable PCI Bank, without even being asked, and despite the existence of the bank secrecy law, on its own, voluntarily submitted to the impeachment court an envelope said to contain the bank documents pertaining to the Jose Velarde account.
Dichaves in his letter to Davide made clear his opposition to the opening of the EPCIB envelope, stressing that he owns the Jose Velarde account and as such is owned by a private citizen who was not even the subject of an impeachment complaint, making public the contents of the EPCIB envelope would be a violation of his privacy and the bank secrecy law.
This Dichaves plea was ignored by both Davide and the then opposition senator-judges and as the trial progressed, the envelope was opened, disclosing nothing but bank documents and letters that showed Dichaves to be the owner of the Jose Velarde account.
In the Senate hearing that had the First Gentleman replying to questions from three Senate panels probing the allegations leveled against him by Lacson, Mr. Arroyo denied he was Jose Pidal and that he knew nothing about the accounts mentioned by Lacson. All other questions related to the Jose Pidal-Jose Miguel Arroyo accounts at Morgan Stanley, which shared the same financial counselor, Robert Gin, remained unanswered, with Mr. Arroyo invoking what could be termed as the Fifth Amendment which relates to the refusal of an accused to reply to questions whose answers would incriminate him.
In the second Senate hearing, Mr. Arroyo's brother, Ignacio, who had given a television network an interview arranged by Malacanang, which had him claiming to be Jose Pidal and where he signed as Jose Pidal, giving the network at least six specimen signatures which were clearly different from the Jose Pidal signature shown on the Lacson power point presentation, appeared before the Senate and claimed ownership of the Jose Pidal account. After which, he refused to answer any and all questions while invoking his right to privacy.
In the impeachment trial, the court presided by Davide, accepted as evidence, photocopies of documents which were moreover not even certified true copies, some of which were even illegally obtained, such as the Jose Velarde check, and accepted also, as evidence, newsclippings from newspapers and magazines to make an impeachment case against the sitting President.
Today, in a Senate hearing setting, the chairman of the lead panel, the blue ribbon committee, Sen. Joker Arroyo, who was the same House prosecutor who first displayed the Jose Velarde check during the impeachment trial, attempted to stop the probe, claiming that Lacson must prove his allegations against the First Gentleman, and through original documents.
All sorts of opposition to a Senate inquiry, such as a stop to the probe of the Lacson allegations, a stop to his presentation of more evidence, to a stop in privilege speeches, to the Malacanang-sponsored abduction of a Lacson witness, Eugenio Mahusay Jr., to the filing of libel suits against the senator from utterances arising from his privilege speeches, which are not liable under libel laws, have come from the camp of the First Gentleman.
Ironically, the same personalities in the Senate who, in 2000 during the impeachment trial of Mr. Estrada, insisted on opening the envelope which they claimed contained the "truth" of Jose Velarde being Joseph Estrada, and relying only on unauthenticated documents and newsclippings as well as hearsay testimony, are today's personalities in the Senate who call for a stop to the panel investigation of the First Gentleman and even his wife, the President, on charges of corruption, with them saying the economy is hurting as a result of these allegations.
In 2000, these political personalities even walked out of the impeachment trial, causing its collapse. Even with no hard evidence presented before the court to convict the sitting President on charges of graft and corruption, bribery and betrayal of public trust, among other charges, which they kept on adding as the trial progressed, they disregarded the constitutional process and brought their fight to the streets and at the Edsa Shrine, calling for the ouster of Mr. Estrada, on charges that he had suppressed the truth, as there was a vote from the majority of the senator-judges not to open the second EPCIB envelope, which they said contained the truth, which contents, they claimed, proved that Joseph Estrada was the Jose Velarde who held at least P3 billion in the Jose Velarde account.
(Tommorow: The Truth, from the Jose Velarde contents of the EPCIB's second envelope)