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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 09:49 GMT
State lawyers to act for Estrada
Estrada's defence lawyers Rene Saguisag (R) and Raymond Fortun (L)
Estrada's defence lawyers were dismissed on Wednesday
A Philippine court has appointed government lawyers to act for ousted Philippines President Joseph Estrada after he dismissed his own legal team earlier this week.

Mr Estrada faces charges of corruption and economic plunder, which carries a possible death sentence, but he says judges have already made up their mind to convict him.

The Sandiganbayan anti-corruption court ruled on Friday that the former president must attend all court hearings from now on.

But local media quoted leading Estrada lawyer Raymund Fortun as saying the defence team would not hand over evidence to government lawyers.

Protesters demonstrate against President Joseph Estrada
Mr Estrada was forced from office amid mass protests in Manila in January 2001
Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, the chief prosecutor, said: "Even if he (Estrada) rejects them, they will still sit there to protect his rights as an accused unless he appoints others."

Hearings are due to restart on 15 March when the court will hear a petition filed by Mr Estrada to be allowed to travel to the United States for knee surgery.

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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