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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Joseph Ejercito Estrada (Erap)

Joseph Ejercito Estrada, more popularly known as Erap (born Jose Marcelo Ejercito on April 19, 1937), is a popular former film actor in the Philippines and was the 13th President of the Philippines from June 30, 1998 to January 20, 2001.

Early Life and Career:

José Marcelo Ejército was born in Tondo, one of the poorest parts of Manila. He was the son of Emilio Ejército, Sr. (1898-1977), a small-scale government contractor, and the former María Marcelo (1905-present), a housewife. He is the brother of Antonio Ejercito (1932-2005) and Emilio Ejercito, Jr. (1928-1999)

Contrary to the popular notion that he grew up in life of poverty, he lived a relatively lower middle class life. After being expelled from Ateneo de Manila University for repugnant conduct, he enrolled in an engineering course at Mapua Institute of Technology, eventually dropping out to pursue acting.

Dropping out of college and involvement in a street gang so displeased his family that they forbade him from using his family name. He adopted the surname "Estrada" (Spanish for 'road') as a last name. As an actor he acquired the nickname "Erap" (from the reversed spelling of pare, Filipino slang for 'pal' or 'buddy'). 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 unschooled and impoverished citizens. This later proved advantageous to his political career.

Joseph Estrada married Luisa Pimentel (former Doctor and first lady turned senator) and had three children with her: Jinggoy Estrada (former Mayor of San Juan turned Senator/married to Precy Vitug), Jackie Estrada (married to Beaver Lopez), and Jude Estrada. Joseph Estrada met his wife Loi while working as an orderly at the National Center for Mental Health (NMCH) in Mandaluyong City.

He also had a child from an out-of-wedlock relationship, Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito (from socialite Guia Gómez), who also made a name for himself in Philippine politics by following his father's footsteps as the current mayor of the town of San Juan, Metro Manila. Pagsanjan, Laguna Mayor Emilio Ramon Ejercito III, known in Philippine showbiz as George Estregan Jr. or E.R. Ejercito, is his nephew.

During the 2000 impeachment proceedings, reports of Estrada's numerous out-of-marriage relationships and offsprings surfaced in the press.

As an actor with no prior political experience, Estrada ran for mayor of San Juan, a municipality of Metro Manila, in 1968 and ended up losing his bid for mayor. 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 suspected of malfeasance and anomalies 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 the Grand Alliance for Democracy (GAD). He placed 16th place in the said elections (out of 24 winners).


In the 1992 presidential election Estrada initially intended to run for president but later decided to be the running mate of Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. of the Nationalist People's Coalition. Estrada won the vice-presidency, though Cojuangco was defeated by Fidel V. Ramos of the LAKAS party. Shortly after the inauguration of Ramos, Estrada was appointed to head the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC) even though Estrada was from the political opposition.


* Election:

The 1998 presidential election campaign, like most presidential election campaigns in the Philippines, had hardly anything to do with a contest between political platforms and programs. Estrada’s campaign in particular was focused on wooing the masses. Estrada’s political strategists and financial backers were aware that a large share of the Philippine electorate, the "masa" (the poor and undereducated masses), were looking for a leadership they could relate to. Estrada’s financial backers designed a campaign strategy that reflected Estrada’s pro-poor image that he had built up throughout his movie career. Central in the campaign was Estrada’s campaign slogan "Erap para sa Mahirap" (Erap for the poor) that succeeded in inspiring the masses with the hope that Estrada would be the president of and for the masses. 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 in the historical town of Malolos in Bulacan province. Like all presidential election campaigns in the Philippines, billions of Pesos (hundreds of millions of US Dollars) were spent by most of the financial backers of the candidates.

* Philippine Daily Inquirer:

Erap 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 watchdog.

Corruption Charges and Impeachment:

The Estrada presidency was soon dogged by charges of plunder and corruption. He was reported by his Chief of Staff Aprodicio Laquian to have allegedly spent long hours drinking with shady characters as well as "midnight drinking sessions" with some of his cabinet members during meetings. In October 2000, an acknowledged gambling racketeer, Luis "Chavit" Singson, governor of the province of Ilocos Sur, alleged that he had personally given Estrada the sum of 400 million pesos ($8,255,933) as payoff from illegal gambling profits, as well as 180 million pesos ($3,715,170) from the government price subsidy for the tobacco farmers' marketing cooperative. Singson's allegation caused an uproar across the nation, which culminated in Estrada's impeachment by the House of Representatives in November 13, 2000. He was the first Philippine President to be impeached. The articles of impeachment were then transmitted to the Senate and an impeachment court was formed, with Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. as presiding officer.

Major television networks pre-empted their afternoon schedules to bring full coverage of the Impeachment Trial. There were three sets of cameras in the Impeachment Court (normally the Senate Chamber): one from ABS-CBN, one from the GMA Network, and one from NBN (used as a pool camera).

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 legal team (composed of a former chief justice, former congressman, former solicitor-general and other lawyers) denied these allegations.

Ilocos Governor Chavit Singson was one of the witnesses who testified against President Estrada. The President and the governor of Ilocos were said to be "partners" in-charge of the operations of illegal gambling in the country. Governor Singson feared that he would be charged and stripped of power (there have been talks about the governor making a deal with the opposition... he was to help incriminate Estrada and he would be compensated for his service), but he was offered immunity by anti-Estrada lawmakers. He was then asked to accuse the President of having committed several illegal acts. He gave personal accounts that may or may not have been biased. Singson's credibility has been questioned several times in the past, and he has been involved in various scandals that have not been resolved up to this day.

EDSA II Revolution:

On the evening of 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 final vote was 11-10, in favor of keeping the envelope closed. The prosecution panel (of congressmen and lawyers) walked out of the Impeachment Court in protest of this vote. Others noted that the walkout merited court contempt which Davide, intentionally or unintentionally, did not enforce.

The afternoon schedule of television networks covering the Impeachment were pre-empted by the prolongation of the day's court session due to the issue of this envelope. The evening telenovelas of networks were pushed back for up to two hours.

That night, anti-Estrada protesters gathered on the historical EDSA highway at EDSA Shrine, not too far away from the site of the 1986 EDSA Revolution that overthrew Ferdinand Marcos. A political turmoil ensued and the clamor for Estrada's resignation became stronger than ever. In the following days, the number of protesters grew to the hundreds of thousands.

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, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

On January 20, 2001, the Supreme Court declared the seat of presidency vacant. At noon, the Chief Justice swore in the constitutional successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as President of the Philippines. Estrada and his family were quickly evacuated from the presidential palace.


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 the acknowledgment of Arroyo as the new president by all government offices, the military, and the national police.

The new government charged him with plunder and had him arrested in April. Estrada's supporters, particularly those among the poor, marched to the EDSA Shrine demanding Estrada's release and his reinstatement as president, attempting to replicate the success of the previous revolution. On the morning of May 1, the protesters marched straight to the presidential palace. Violence erupted and the government declared a State of Rebellion. Many of Estrada's supporters were arrested, including politicians accused of provoking the violence. The government called out the military and was able to quell the rebellion. The rebellion came to be known as EDSA III.

Estrada was initially detained at the 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, virtually in house arrest. He is still facing the charges of plunder and corruption. Under Filipino law, plunder has a maximum penalty of death, though it is unlikely that Estrada will be given that sentence.

On April 2, 2005, the United Opposition movement named Estrada "Chairman Emeritus". The unexpected death of 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 some have been left 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.