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|Thursday, December 07, 2000, updated at 14:29(GMT+8)|
Philippine Senate Opens Estrada Impeachment TrialThe Philippine Senate opened the impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada on Thursday on corruption and bribery charges which could lead to his removal from office.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide slammed the gavel on a wooden table in the packed Senate session hall to start the trial, as 15,000 protesters demanding Estrada"s resignation massed outside the heavily guarded, seaside venue. "The impeachment of his excellency, the president of the Philippines, is now called to order," Davide said.
Estrada is charged with bribery, corruption, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution. Conviction on any one count would lead to his immediate ouster. Estrada has denied the charges and said he was confident his name would be cleared.
The first trial of an Asian head of state was sparked by allegations that Estrada had received bribes from illegal gambling syndicates. Fifteen votes or two-thirds of the 22-member Senate, which has converted itself into an impeachment court, are needed to convict Estrada. He needs eight to beat the charges.
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