Joseph Ejercito EstradaJose Marcelo Ejercito (born April 19, 1937), better known as Joseph Ejercito Estrada, served as the 13th President of the Philippines from 1998 until his ouster in the 2001 EDSA Revolution.
Estrada gained popularity as a film actor, playing the lead role in over 100 films in an acting career spanning 33 years. He leveraged his popularity as an actor to make gains in politics, serving as mayor of San Juan for seventeen years, as Senator for one term, then as as Vice President of the Philippines under the administration of President Fidel Ramos.
Estrada was elected President in 1998 with a wide margin of votes separating him from the other challengers, and was sworn into the presidency on June 30, 1998. However, allegations of corruption spawned an impeachment trial in the Senate, and in 2001 Estrada was ousted from power after the trial was aborted. In 2007, he was found guilty of plunder and sentenced to reclusion perpetua, but was later granted a pardon by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Early life and career
Joseph Marcelo Ejercito, popularly known as Erap, was born on April 19, 1937 in Tondo, the poorest district of Manila. He belonged to an upper middle class family, and was the eighth of ten children of Emilio Ejercito, a government engineer, and his wife Maria Marcelo. He studied at the Ateneo de Manila University, but was expelled in his sophomore year of high school for unruly behavior. He went to Mapúa Institute of Technology to continue schooling with an engineering course, but dropped out from studies altogether two years later.
In his twenties, he began his a career as a film actor. He adopted the screen name "Joseph Estrada", as his father objected to his chosen career and his decision to quit schooling. He also acquired the nickname "Erap" (a play on the Tagalog word "pare", meaning buddy) from his good friend Fernando Poe, Jr..
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 award-winner 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.
In 1974 he founded the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation (Mowelfund) which helps movie makers through medical reimbursements, hospitalization, surgery and death benefits, livelihood, and alternative income opportunities and housing. Its educational arm, the Mowelfund Film Institute, has produced some of the most skilled and respected producers, filmmakers, writers and performers in both the independent and mainstream sectors of the industry since its inception in 1979.. He also founded, together with Dr. Guillermo De Vega, the first Metro Manila Film Festival in 1975.
Early political career
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. As mayor of San Juan he turned it to one of Metro Manila's outstanding municipality, then a municipality. He built public schools both for elementary and high school and having children go to school for free. He also built parks, playgrounds, modern police stations and ensuring peace and order. 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). As senator he became chairman of of the senate committee on cultural minorities and passed a bill on commission on ancestral domain. He also sponsored bills that were signed into law, namely, the preservation of carabao (republic act. 7307) and the construction of irrigation projects (republic act. 6978).
He served as Vice President of the Philippines under Fidel V. Ramos from 1992–1998. President Ramos appointed him as the chairman of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC). Estrada arrested criminal warlords and kidnapping syndicates. He resigned as chairman of the PACC on 1997. In 1997 Vice-President Estrada, together with former President Corazon Aquino, Jaime Cardinal Sin, Senator Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other political leaders, led an anti-charter change rally brought in an estimated half a million people to Rizal Park against the charter change moves by supporters of President Fidel Ramos.
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 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 in paying tribute to the cradle of the first Philippine Republic. That afternoon the new president delivered his inaugural address at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta.
Early into his presidency President Estrada removed all sovereign guarantees which would require the sovereign Filipino people to assume the financial losses of private companies doing business with the government. His programs as president was under the name "Angat-Pinoy 2004". On the day he took office, a new agency in government called the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), which institutionalizes the processes of the Social Reform Agenda (SRA) in order to sustain its gains, Joseph Estrada became it's first chairman. The law also mandates the NAPC to enhance the programs, approaches and strategies to strengthen the partnership between government and the basic sectors. President Estrada also had a housing program around the country(which provided 190,000 households with housing units), construction and improvement of roads and bridges, construction of classrooms, proposed improvements to the curricula to meet both global standards and local needs, and controlled the hiking prices of transportation fair, food and medicine. In terms of peace and order, President Estrada created the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) with the objective of minimizing, if not totally eradicating, car theft and kidnapping in Metro Manila. With the help of this task force, the Philippine National Police for the first time in history achieved a record-high trust rating of +53 percent.. Panfilo Lacson was it's first head. In 1999, President Estrada signed into law and implemented Republic Act no. 8749, better known as Clean Air Act, which "The State shall promote and protect the global environment to attain sustainable development while recognizing the primary responsibility of local government units to deal with environmental problems". On May 1999, President Estrada issued Executive Order(EO) 102 which streamlines the organization and functions of the country's public health care system. Also on September the same year, he issued Executive Order(EO) 151, also known as Farmer’s Trust Fund, which allows the voluntary consolidation of small farm operation into medium and large scale integrated enterprise that can access long-term capital. President Estrada launched the Magkabalikat Para sa Kaunlarang Agraryo or MAGKASAKA. The DAR forged into joint ventures with private investors into agrarian sector to make FBs competitive].
The Estrada administration upheld the foreign policy thrusts of the Ramos administration, focusing on national security, economic diplomacy, assistance to nationals, and image-building. The Philippines continued to be at the forefront of the regional and multilateral arena. It successfully hosted the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 1998 and undertook confidence-building measures with China over South China Sea issue through a meeting in March 1999. President Estrada strengthened bilateral ties with neighboring countries with visits to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea.
On 1999 a Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, which was ratified in the Senate. The country also sent a delegation of 108 observers to the Indonesian parliamentary elections, and engaged in cooperative activities in the areas of security, defense, combating transnational crimes, economy, culture, and the protection of OFWs and Filipinos abroad.
In 1998, the Philippine economy deteriorated again as a result of spill over from the Asian financial crisis, although not as much as other Asian nations, and a wave of natural disasters also dragged the economy down. Growth fell to about -0.6% in 1998 from 5.2% in 1997, but recovered to 3.4% by 1999. The inflation rate came down from 11 percent in January 1999 to just a little over 3 percent by November of the same year. This was in part due to the successful agricultural program Agrikulturang Maka Masa, through which it achieved an output growth of 6 percent, a record high at the time. The peso was 44 to the dollar in 1998 and recovered by 38 to a dollar the following year. The interest rates were 28% in 1998 and came down to 14% by 1999. President Joseph Estrada attempted to resist protectionist measures, and efforts to continue the reforms begun by the Ramos administration made significant progress. He also established a socio-economic program called "Angat-Pinoy 2004" pointed out five things for the economy:
• The Gross National Product GNP to grow from 0.1 per cent in 1998 to 6-7 per cent in 2004.
• Unemployment to decline from 10.1 per cent in 1998 to 6.7-8 per cent.
• Inflation to slow down from 9.8 per cent in 1998 to 4-5 per cent.
• The national government’s fiscal balance to improve from a deficit of 1.8 per cent of GNP in 1998 to a surplus of 0.7 per cent of GNP.
• Finally, export growth to remain strong at 14.5-15.1 per cent.
Alongside these objectives, the plan calls for nurturing a "responsive citizenry" and creating an environment conducive to a better life for all.
However, a major bank failure in April 2000 and the impeachment and subsequent departure of President Estrada in the beginning of 2001 led to another slower growth.
President Estrada appointed Hilario G. Davide Jr., then Associate Justice, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on November 30, 1998. He also appointed to the post of Associate Justice of the Philippines, Bernardo P. Pardo (1998), Arturo B. Buena (1999), Minerva P. Gonzaga-Reyes (1999) and Sabino R. De Leon, Jr. (1999).
During the Ramos administration a cessation of hostilities agreement was signed between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in July 1997. This was continued by a series of peace talks and negotiations in Estrada administration. However the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Islamic group formed in 1977, seeks to be an independent Islamic State from the Philippines, despite the agreements, a sequence of terrorist attacks with the Philippine military and the civilians still continued. Such of those attack are 277 violations committed, kidnapping a foreign priest, namely Father Luciano Benedetti, the occupying and setting on fire of the municipal hall of Talayan, Maguindanao; the takeover of the Kauswagan Municipal Hall; the bombing of the Lady of Mediatrix boat at Ozamiz City; and the takeover of the Narciso Ramos Highway. By doing so, they inflicted severe damage on the country's image abroad, and scared much-needed investments away. In addition to this, the Philippine government learned that the MILF has links with Al-Qaeda. Because of this, on March 21, 2000, President Joseph Estrada declared an "all-out-war" against the MILF. During the war the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines(CBCP) asked Estrada to have a cease-fire with MILF, but Estrada opposed the idea arguing that a cease-fire would cause more terrorist attacks. For the next three months of the war, Camp Abubakar, headquarters of the MILF, fell along with other 13 major camps and 43 minor camps, and then all of which became under controlled by the government. The MILF leader Hashim Salamat fled the country and went to Malaysia. The MILF later declared a Jihad on the government. On July 10 of the same year, the President went to Minadanao and raised the Philippine flag symbolizing victory. After the war the President said, "... will speed up government efforts to bring genuine and lasting peace and development in Mindanao". In the middle of July the president ordered the military to arrest top MILF leaders.
In his state of the nation address, popularly called "SONA", the president highlighted his vision for Mindanao:
• The first is to restore and maintain peace in Mindanao--because without peace, there can be no development.
• The second is to develop Mindanao--because without development, there can be no peace.
• The third is to continue seeking peace talks with the MILF within the framework of the Constitution--because a peace agreed upon in good faith is preferable to a peace enforced by force of arms.
• And the fourth is to continue with the implementation of the peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front, or MNLF--because that is our commitment to our countrymen and to the international community.
In addition to this the president said his administration can move with more speed in transforming Mindanao into a progressive economic center.]High on the list of priorities was the plight of MILF guerrillas who were tired of fighting and had no camps left to report to. On October 5, 2000 the first massive surrender of 669 MILF mujahideen led by the renegade vice mayor of Marugong, Lanao del Sur Malupandi Cosandi Sarip and seven other battalion commanders, surrendered to President Joseph Estrada at the 4th ID headquarters in Camp Edilberto Evangelista, Bgy. Patag, Cagayan de Oro city. They were followed shortly by a second batch of 855 surrenderees led by MILF Commander Sayben Ampaso on Dec. 29, 2000.
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. 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 (Then, it was PTV, or the People's Television Network. (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 an illegal numbers game, 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 such allegations including his signing as Jose Velarde (which looked exactly like his signature as Joseph Estrada) duly witnessed by bank teller Marissa Ocampo. However in February 2001, at the initiative of Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., the second envelope was opened before the local and foreign media and it contained the document that stated that Jaime Dichavez and not Estrada owned the "Jose Velarde Account"
Ilocos Sur Governor Luis "Chavit" Singson was one of the witnesses who testified against President Estrada. The President and the governor of Ilocos Sur 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.
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 a contempt of court 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 in front of the EDSA Shrine at Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, not too far away from the site of the 1986 People Power 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 that the seat of presidency was 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.
On January 18, 2008, Joseph Estrada's Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) caused full-page advertisement in Metro Manila newspapers, blaming EDSA 2 of having "inflicted a dent on Philippine democracy". Its featured clippings questioned the constitutionality of the revolution. The published featured clippings were taken from Time, New York Times, Straits Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Asia Times Online, The Economist, and International Herald Tribune. Supreme Court justice Cecilia Muñoz Palma opined that EDSA 2 violated the 1987 Constitution.
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 was still facing the charges of plunder and corruption. Under Philippine law, plunder has a maximum penalty of death, though it was unlikely that Estrada would be given that sentence.
On April 2, 2005, the United Opposition movement named Estrada "Chairman Emeritus".
On September 12, 2007, the Sandiganbayan finally gave its decision, finding Estrada not guilty on his perjury case but guilty of plunder "beyond reasonable doubt." He was sentenced to Reclusión perpetua.
On September 26, 2007, Joseph Estrada appealed by filing a 63-page motion for reconsideration of the Sandiganbayan judgment penned by Teresita de Castro (submitting 5 legal grounds). Estrada alleged that the court erred "when it convicted him by acquitting his alleged co-conspirators."
On October 5, 2007, the Sandiganbayan's Special Division ruled to have set for October 19, oral argument (instead of a defense reply) on Joseph Estrada’s motion for reconsideration. Estrada asked for court permission to attend the hearing, since it ordered the prosecution to file comment before October 11.
The Sandiganbayan's special division, on June 27, 2008, ordered Estrada to file comment within 10 days, on the motion of the Ombudsman's Special Prosecutor to re-open the trial of his perjury case regarding 1999 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN). The court will also resolve Banco de Oro's (formerly Equitable PCI Bank), plea that it cannot determine "without hazard to itself" who to turn over to the P1.1 billion Jose Velarde assets due to claims by Wellex Group / William Gatchalian and a Bureau of Internal Revenue stay order.
Pardon and release from detention
On October 22, 2007, Acting Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera stated that Joseph Estrada is seeking a “full, free, and unconditional pardon” from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Estrada's lawyer Jose Flaminiano wrote Arroyo: "The time has come to end President Estrada's fight for justice and vindication before the courts. Today [Monday], we filed a withdrawal of his Motion for Reconsideration." Estrada, 70, stressed the "delicate condition" of his mother in asking for pardon.
On October 25, 2007, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo granted executive clemency to Joseph Estrada based on the recommendation by the Department of Justice (DoJ). Acting Executive Secretary and Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye quoted the signed Order: "In view hereof in pursuant of the authority conferred upon me by the Constitution, I hereby grant Executive clemency to Joseph Ejercito Estrada, convicted by the Sandiganbayan of plunder and imposed a penalty of reclusion perpetua. He is hereby restored to his civil and political rights." Bunye noted that Estrada committed in his application not to seek public office, and he would be free from his Tanay resthouse on October 26, noon. On October 26, 2007, after almost 7 years of detention, Joseph Estrada was finally released after the Sandiganbayan promulgated the historical Resolution.
When he was released he gave a message to the Filipino people that he can once again help the lives of the people especially the poor. He also stated that he made mistakes as a public servant but he assured them that corruption was not one of them, despite being convicted for the said crime. After the release he had a series nationwide tour called "Lakbay Pasasalamat" (Thank you tour) and during those trips he thanked the people for their support and gave them relief goods such as food, medicines and clothing. In politics, he is convincing leaders of the opposition to have unity in the party or, he said, he will run.
Estrada is married to (the former Doctor and first lady-turned-senator) Luisa Pimentel and had three children by her: Jose Ejercito, Jr. (better known as "Jinggoy Estrada"; former Mayor of San Juan turned Senator/married to Precy Vitug), Jackie Ejercito (married to Beaver Lopez), and Jude Ejercito (married to Weng Ocampo). Joseph Estrada met his wife Loi while working as an orderly at the National Center for Mental Health (NMCH) in Mandaluyong City.
He also has children from four out-of-wedlock relationships, including 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 San Juan City. Pagsanjan, Laguna Mayor Emilio Ramon P. 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 offspring surfaced in the press.