update January 27, 2001
Joseph Estrada was deposed on January 20, 2001, by an outraged Filipino people. See my writeup on People Power for a chronology of events.

Joseph Estrada a.k.a. "Erap", as of October 13, 2000 is the President of the Philippines. Although soon, he may no longer be.

Erap is the 13th president of the republic, and boy, is the Philippines unlucky to have him as president. Estrada began his career in the 60's as an actor. Then a handsome young man, he played mostly robin hood characters, a bandit fighting for the downtrodden.

Based on his popularity as an actor, he became mayor of San Juan, a small municipality in Metro Manila. He did a passable job as a mayor. In 1989, he ran forSenate and won. In his six years in the Senate (a senator's term lasts 6 years in the Philippines), Estrada had written only one bill. In 1992, he ran for Vice President, and won. Because he was from a different political party than Fidel Ramos, the president at that time, he was marginalized, and was not given anything to do for six years.

In 1998, Estrada ran for president. He was obviously unqualified for the position. He was a college dropout, got kicked out of the prestigious Ateneo High School, and was easily confounded by national issues. Further, he was known to be friends with a lot of shady characters, including the family of former strongman Ferdinand Marcos

Yet legions upon legions of people voted for him. People who in their youth watched his movies, and saw him not as the old fat man that he became, but as the dashing young actor that he was. Not as the inept politician that he was, but as the champion of the masses that he pretended to be.

The poor, the unwashed pinned their hopes on him. He would be their saviour, they said. The other presidents, they did not listen to us, but this Joseph Estrada, he understands us.

Not surprisingly, Estrada won the election in a 7 way race. Although I did not vote for him, when he won I had hoped that with his charisma, he would inspire the Filipino nation to greatness. With his popularity, he would unite the country and move it towards progress. I should have known that was just wishful thinking

One of the first things he did after becoming president was to allow Marcos to be buried in the Libingan ng mga bayani (National Heroes' Cemetery). Imagine that? He thought Marcos was a hero! Scandal upon scandal hit the Erap presidency. He was accused of enriching his friends: manipulating the stock market so that his friends made millions, while many lost their shirts. Allowing the multi-billion peso tax case against his friend fail; awarding government contracts to his drinking buddies.

A few days ago, Chavit Singson, a former close friend of Estrada and self confessed gambling lord accused Erap of accepting money from illegal gambling operations. Chavit says that he personally delivered 400 million pesos to Erap.

This has set forth a flurry of motion that will hopefully end in the ouster of this villain from the presidency. The oppositionists have begun impeachment proceedings against the president. The Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Sin, in union with all the priests and nuns of Manila, has called for his resignation. Former president Fidel Ramos supports the archbishop. The vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has resigned from her cabinet position. The peso hit an all time low against the dollar, the stock market has collapsed.

Will Erap be impeached? Will he resign? Time will tell. But the question is, why have we, as Filipinos, allowed this to happen? Why did we vote him to the presidency? Why had it taken us this long to realize that he is a goon, and is no good for our nation? Perhaps it is true that we get the government that we deserve.

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