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Wednesday, January 17, 2001, updated at 15:25(GMT+8)
World  

Philippine Prosecutors Resign After Leader Wins Key Ruling

The impeachment trial of the Philippine president, Joseph Estrada, was thrown into disarray on Tuesday when the Senate voted against allowing crucial evidence and the prosecutors resigned.

"This is a shameless vote of acquittal," said Joker Arroyo, one of the prosecutors, after the senators refused to unseal bank records he said would provide damning evidence of Mr. Estrada's corruption.

The senators, who are sitting as judges in the trial, voted 11 to 10 against opening the records a margin Mr. Arroyo said indicated that "there are 11 senators there who are in the pocket of the president."

The entire prosecution team said it would resign in protest, as did two Senate officials, including the president, Aquilino Pimentel. The Philippine House said it might appoint new prosecutors to carry on the trial. But the ruling left the case against Mr. Estrada in tatters.

It also ignited angry demonstrations in Manila and other major cities. Protesters took to the streets of the capital until well into this morning, honking car horns and shooting off fireworks. Thousands of people massed for an after-midnight candlelight vigil at a shrine dedicated to the 1986 "People Power" uprising that toppled Ferdinand E. Marcos, the late dictator.

"We know in our hearts that the president is guilty," said the archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, who has called on Mr. Estrada to resign, just as he called on Mr. Marcos to do so in the 1980's. "I am so afraid that because of this immorality we might not be able to stop bloodshed."

A former president of the Philippines, Fidel Ramos, said Tuesday that if Mr. Estrada were acquitted, he would face a replay of the People Power revolt. Mr. Ramos, who was speaking in Hong Kong, said he believed a coup was less likely. The military said it was not on heightened alert.







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The impeachment trial of the Philippine president, Joseph Estrada, was thrown into disarray on Tuesday when the Senate voted against allowing crucial evidence and the prosecutors resigned.

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