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Byline: Volt Contreras
OUSTED President Joseph Estrada refused to enter a plea on his arraignment yesterday for illegally using an alias on bank records although he admitted on television two days before that he had signed bank documents as Jose Velarde.
Prosecutors said Estrada signed as Jose Velarde to disguise an account with Equitable PCI Bank, which at one point contained P3.2 billion when Estrada's declared net worth was only P35 million.
Entering the court with a limp, Estrada said he did not enter a plea because of his lawyers' pending petition with the Supreme Court questioning the creation on Jan. 21 of a special Sandiganbayan panel for his criminal cases.
This prompted the anti-graft court to automatically enter a "not guilty" plea for the accused.
Estrada admitted in interviews on Monday and Tuesday that he signed the name Jose Velarde as a form of "guarantee" to convince the man he described as the real owner of the bank account, Jaime Dichaves, to lend money to businessman William Gatchalian.
The bank documents are also among the evidence in the more …