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Joseph Estrada, original name Joseph Marcelo Ejercito, and widely known as Erap (born April 19, 1937) is a popular film actor in the Philippines and was the 13th President of the Republic of the Philippines from June 30, 1998 to January 20, 2001.
Early life and career
Joseph Marcelo Ejercito was born in Tondo, an affluent area before now a ghetto area of Manila notorious for being a poor and underdeveloped district. He was the son of Emilio Ejercito, a government contractor, and Maria Marcelo, a simple housewife.
Contrary to the popular notion that he grew up in life of poverty, he lived relatively well-off. After being expelled from Ateneo de Manila University, he enrolled in an engineering course at Mapua Institute of Technology, eventually dropping out to pursue acting.
Dropping out of college so displeased his family that they forbade him from using his family name. He was forced to adopt the surname "Estrada" (Spanish for 'street') as a screen name. As an actor he acquired the nickname Erap (from the reversed spelling of pare, Filipino slang for 'pal'). He played the lead role in more than 100 movies, and was producer of over 70 films. He was the first FAMAS Hall of Fame awardee for Best Actor (1981) and also became a Hall of Fame awardee as a Producer (1983). He often played heroes of the downtrodden classes, which gained him the admiration of a lot of the nation's many impoverished citizens. This later proved advantageous to his political career.
As an actor with no prior political experience, Estrada ran for mayor of San Juan, a municipality of Metro Manila, in 1968. He was only proclaimed mayor in 1969, after winning an electoral protest against Dr. Braulio Sto. Domingo.
When Corazon Aquino assumed the presidency in 1986, all officials of the local government were removed and replaced by appointed officers-in-charge. Estrada was then removed from his position as mayor. The following year, he ran and won a seat in the Senate under his own party, Partido ng Masang Pilipino.
In the 1992 presidential election Estrada initially intended to run for President but later decided to be the running mate of Eduardo Cojuangco of the Nationalist People's Coalition. Estrada won the vice-presidency although Cojuangco was defeated by Fidel Ramos of the LAKAS party. Shortly after the inauguration of Ramos, he appointed Estrada to head the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC) even though Estrada was from the political opposition.
In the 1998 presidential election, Estrada ran and soundly won as President over his closest rival, Jose De Venecia. Estrada's running mate, Edgardo Angara , was defeated by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. During the campaign, Estrada's political rivals tried but failed to discredit him while publicizing his womanizing, drinking and gambling. Estrada was inaugurated on June 30, 1998.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Estrada criticized The Philippine Daily Inquirer, the nation's most popular broadsheet newspaper, for "bias, malice and fabrication" against him — a charge The Inquirer denied. In 1999, several government organizations, pro-Estrada businesses, and movie producers simultaneously pulled their advertisements in the Inquirer. The presidential palace was widely implicated in the advertising boycott, prompting sharp criticism from international press freedom watchdogs.
Corruption charges and impeachment
The Estrada presidency was soon dogged by charges of plunder and corruption, and he was reported by his adviser Edilberto Lacquian to spend long hours drinking with shady characters. In October 2000, an acknowledged gambling racketeer, Luis Singson, governor of the province of Ilocos Sur, alleged that he had personally given Estrada the sum of 400 million pesos as payoff from illegal gambling profits. Singson's allegation caused an uproar across the nation, which culminated in Estrada's impeachment by the House of Representatives in November of 2000. He was the first Philippine President be impeached. The articles of impeachment were then transmitted to the Senate and an impeachment court was formed, with the Chief Justice, Hilario Davide, Jr., as presiding officer.
During the trial, the prosecution (composed of congressmen and private prosecutors) presented witnesses and evidence to the impeachment court regarding Estrada's involvement in illegal gambling, also known as jueteng, and his maintenance of secret bank accounts. However, the president's brilliant legal team (composed of a former chief justice, former congressman, former solicitor-general and other lawyers) was quick to deny these allegations and did its best to destroy the claims of the witnesses during cross-examination.
EDSA II Revolution
Main article: EDSA II
On January 16, 2001, the impeachment court, whose majority were political allies of Estrada, voted not to open an envelope that was said to contain incriminating evidence against the president. The prosecution panel walked out of the impeachment court in protest of this vote. That night, anti-Estrada protesters gathered on the historical EDSA highway. A political turmoil ensued and the clamor for Estrada's resignation became stronger than ever.
On January 19, 2001, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, seeing the political upheaval throughout the country, decided to withdraw its support from the president and transfer its allegiance to the vice-president. Without military support, and with mass resignations from his cabinet, Estrada's government quickly fell.
On January 20, 2001, the Supreme Court declared the presidency vacant and the Chief Justice swore in the constitutional successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as the 14th President of the Republic. Estrada and his family were quickly evacuated from the presidential palace. The overthrow of Estrada has been popularly known as EDSA II.
Estrada returned to his old home in San Juan. He maintained that he never resigned, implying that Arroyo's government was illegitimate, despite the international community's recognition of Arroyo's succession and that all government offices, the military and the national police acknowledged Arroyo as the new president.
The new government charged him with plunder and had him arrested in April. Estrada's supporters among the poor marched straight to the presidential palace and demanded Estrada's release and reinstatement as president. Violence erupted and the government declared a state of rebellion. Many of Estrada's supporters, even the politicians who were accused of provoking the anti-government protests, were arrested. The government called out the military and was able to quell the rebellion.
Estrada was initially detained in Veteran's Memorial Medical Center in Manila and then transferred to a military facility in Tanay, Rizal, but he was later transferred to a nearby vacation home, which virtually considered as house arrest. He is still facing the charges of plunder and corruption. Under Filipino law, plunder has a maximum penalty of death or life imprisonment so Estrada is fighting hard to be acquitted of those charges. He supported his best friend, fellow actor Fernando Poe, Jr., in the presidential election of 2004 against incumbent Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in which Poe lost.
Estrada's trial is far from over as numerous witnesses and evidence have been presented by the prosecution and a fierce repudiation is expected from Estrada's lawyers. The verdict may not come out for many years.
On April 2, 2005, the political organization UNO (United Opposition) movement named former-President and former PMP (Partido ng Masang Pilipino) Chairman, Joseph Estrada, "Chairman Emeritus." Mayor Joseph Victor Ejercito of San Juan, Metro Manila and scion of the deposed former-President also claimed Estrada as the UNO leader soon after the announcement was made. The unexpected death of the late presidential-candidate Fernando Poe, Jr., after the election, brought with it uncertainty as to the opposition's direction and leadership, yet with Estrada still facing charges and trial have left some to speculate how much of an influence or support this declaration will create in the formation of an opposition front to the current Presidency, and her Lakas-CMD party.
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