Estrada, Joseph (Philippines)

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Joseph (‘Erap’ or ‘Buddy’) Estrada, a former film star, was the 13th president of the Philippines between 1998 and 2001. He was forced from power amid popular discontent, having been accused of corruption.

Early Life

Joseph Estrada was born Joseph Ejercito in Tondo, a ghetto area of Manila, on 19 April 1937. Estrada was educated at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University and the Mapua Institute of Technology. In the third year at Mapua Institute he decided on a career in the movies. Unhappy with his decision his parents forbade him to use the family name and forced him to adopt ‘Estrada’ (Spanish for ‘street’).

During his movie career Estrada played the lead role in over 100 films and had success as the producer of 70 more. Estrada’s stock character was a Robin Hood-style champion of the poor, a role that was to add poignancy to his later career. In 1981 Estrada was elected to the Filipino Academy for Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) hall of fame.

Career Peak

In 1968, buoyed by his popularity as a movie star, Estrada ran for the mayoralty of San Juan, winning by a narrow margin. In 1987 he was elected to the Philippine senate where he was a leading opponent of US military bases in the Philippines. In 1992 he ran for vice-president and won by a landslide. In this role he headed the newly created presidential anti-crime commission.

Estrada won the 1998 presidential elections convincingly, on a populist platform without the backing of President Fidel Ramos. He was the first president of the Philippines to be elected without endorsement from the USA. Excluded from Manila’s political elite he was seen as a champion of the poor.

Estrada resigned in Jan. 2001 after members of his cabinet and military officials withdrew support. This was after an impeachment trial had collapsed and thousands of citizens had taken to the streets to protest. Estrada was accused of receiving US$8.9 m. in a gambling pay-off scheme and over US$2.8 m. from tobacco tax kickbacks. Accused of ‘economic plunder’. a crime that commands the death penalty and allows no bail, Estrada was succeeded by his vice-president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Later Life

In Sept. 2007 Estrada was found guilty of plunder and given a life sentence although he was freed after he received a presidential pardon. He ran for president again in 2010 but came second behind Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III. Then in May 2013 he was elected mayor of Manila, taking office the following month.

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