Estrada, ex-President of Philippines, gets 40-year jail for plunder

14 September, 2007

Joseph Estrada, former president of the Philippines, has been convicted a of illegally acquiring wealth while in office and sentenced to a maximum of 40 years in prison, six years after he was ousted amid mass protests and military defections.

An anti-corruption court in Manila found on September 12, 2007, that Estrada, 70, was guilty of plunder, but acquitted him on a perjury charge.

The court also ordered Estrada to hand over $15.6 million and a mansion he built for a mistress.

The plunder case stemmed from accusations that he received over $85 million in kickbacks from tobacco taxes, commissions from the purchase of
shares by a government insurance fund and payoffs from illegal gambling operators, and that he used a fictitious name in a bank account. The perjury case arose from charges that he misstated his income.

Joseph Estrada has been in detention for over six years now. He was ousted in an uprising prompted by the charges, as well as accusations of womanizing and heavy drinking in the presidential palace. Those allegations deeply offended the Catholic Church, which led, along with the so-called civil society groups and leftist organizations, huge demonstrations against him.

According to media reports, Estrada, a notorious playboy, lived the high life during the trial, holding parties at his ‘rest house,’ a luxurious vacation home two hours from Manila and equipped with a theatre, a gymnasium, and library.

The court said Estrada could continue to live in his vacation home “until further notice” and requested that he agree “voluntarily in writing to abide by the
same disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted prisoners.”

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, current President of the Philippines, who was Estrada’s vice-president, took over the presidency after his ouster in 2001. Estrada is a former movie star and is hugely popular among the country’s poor.

Estrada has repeatedly denied the accusations, saying that they were politically motivated. He accused the business elite, the Catholic Church, and the
civil society groups for conspiring against him.

The government had deployed 6,000 policemen around the court, and put the military on alert in case of unrest. But, Estrada’s supporters who gathered at a church said they would remain peaceful.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has the powers to pardon Estrada, but Estrada insists that he will not accept amnesty because he is innocent. He
believes that Arroyo was part of a conspiracy to overthrow him.

Members of Estrada’s family, including his wife and daughter, wept as the verdict was read, but the deposed President sat grim-faced.

Estrada’s lawyer said he would appeal against the verdict.




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