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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 14:13 GMT
Estrada dismisses his legal team
Philippines President Joseph Estrada
The case continues despite the unprecedented move
Ousted Philippines President Joseph Estrada has sent his legal team home to protest at what he believes is a prejudiced court.


I can already see... that I will not get justice here

Joseph Estrada

Mr Estrada claimed a newly-formed special court hearing his case is bent on convicting him for corruption, including economic plunder, which carries a possible death sentence.

Mr Estrada took the unprecedented decision to ask all his 10 lawyers to resign after the court rejected several requests he made on Wednesday.

The government has said it will appoint new lawyers to represent the former president.

'No justice here'

"I have instructed my lawyers to withdraw from all the cases against me," Mr Estrada said.

"I tried my best to follow the court's orders, but I can already see this early that I will not get justice here."

One of Mr Estrada's lawyer, Rene Saguisag, said his client decided it was impossible to get a fair trial.

"At the instruction of the president a few minutes ago, every single one of us has withdrawn our appearances," he said.

Protesters demonstrate against President Joseph Estrada
Mr Estrada was forced from office amid mass protests in Manila

"At this moment, there is no-one on record representing him in court."

Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, the chief prosecutor, questioned Mr Estrada's move.

"It is a possible delaying tactic. Everything is a possibility," he said.

A court spokesman, Renato Bocar, said there would be no disruptions and the trial would proceed once the the judges had appointed government lawyers for the former president.

Mr Estrada has protested to the Supreme Court about the creation of the special Sandiganbayan court, which will only handle his cases.

Kickbacks

Prosecutors allege Mr Estrada violated banking laws by using a false name, Jose Velarde, to maintain a secret bank account.

They say he plundered the country's coffers, stashing away millions of dollars in payoffs from gambling operators and kickbacks from government financial transactions.

Mr Estrada, the former movie star who lost power 13 months ago, has denied any wrongdoing.

He admitted on Tuesday he signed Velarde on bank records but claimed bank officials prodded him to do so.

See also:

26 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada admits using fake name
09 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada guards removed
11 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada judge 'dismissed'
28 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines corruption judge suspended
19 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada suffers trial setback
10 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada: Movie hero or villain?
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