People Power II

October 2000. Governor Luis "Chavit" Singson, once a good friend of Philippine president Joseph Estrada came out and accused the president of taking more than 200 million pesos in payoffs for jueteng, an illegal numbers game. Chavit called Estrada "the lord of all gambling lords." Apparently Chavit, whose job as money collector for big illegal gambling operations was given to another Estrada crony, came out in the open after an encounter with policemen who attempted to murder him.

After Singson's revelations, street protests erupted all over the Philippines, demanding for Estrada's resignation. Cardinal Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, the most powerful religious figure in this predominantly Catholic nation, echoed the public's call for his resignation. The Cardinal declared that Estrada had "lost the moral authority to govern" the Filipino people. Estrada refused to resign. The vice-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who belonged to a different political party, quit her cabinet position as Social Welfare secretary.

November, 2000. Meanwhile in Congress, the lower house of the Philippine legislative body patterned after the American system, filed an impeachment motion. While there were enough signatures on the articles of impeachment to impeach the president, stiff resistance was expected from the pro-Estrada congressmen, who controlled the majority of the House.

However, The Speaker of the House, Manny Villar tricked the pro-Estrada congressmen. At the start of the session, he launched into a lengthy and boring prayer. Once he was sure that no one was listening to him anymore, he began to speed-read the articles of impeachment. Before anyone could object, the deed was done: the President was impeached. He would be tried in the Senate.

December, 2000. The impeachment trial had begun. It turned out to be a national drama more popular than any Mexican telenovela, so the TV networks began providing live coverage of the impeachment trial. Every day, from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm, the nation was in virtuall standstill, as people became glued to their TV or radio, tuning in to the unfolding story of how the president screwed the nation.

The prosecution panel, with their thick provincial accents, were a source of comedy in the proceedings. Once, a prosecutor gravely intoned: "Your honor, may I present the first female wetness." Nevertheless, the prosecutors were building a convincing case.

Witness after witness painted a sordid picture of a president who had accepted bribes almost from the beginning of his term. A president who had placed millions and millions of ill-gotten pesos under an assumed name.

January, 2001. While it was evident that Estrada had amassed large amounts of ill-gotten wealth, people were worried that the president would be acquitted anyway, because there were enough Senators who were sympathetic to the president.

The fears were proved true when on January 16, the senators voted 11-10 not to open sealed bank documents that the prosecution claimed was key evidence against Estrada. Aquilino Pimentel quit his post as Senate president in disgust. The prosecution, saying that the vote was a "virtual acquital", resigned.

Two hours after, 5,000 people gathered around EDSA, the site of the first people power revolution, in an "indignation protest". Cardinal Sin, in a reprise of his role in the first people power revolution, called on the people to grather at EDSA, and to stay there until the president was deposed.

Estrada's supporters sneered at the people gathering at EDSA. "Let them build houses there," said one. "The crowd will not last five days," said another. Still, the influx of people at EDSA were increasing. By January 19, there were more than a million people at EDSA. That same evening, the majority of Estrada's cabinet quit. The police and the military withdrew their support for Estrada, saying the they now recognized the vice president as the "constitutional successor."

Jan 20, 2001. The Supreme Court declares the presidency vacant, and swears in Arroyo as the 14th president of the Philippines. A defeated Estrada leaves the Malacanang, the presidential palace in a barge, waving a tearful goodbye to the remnants of his supporters. People partied in the streets until the wee hours of the morning.