(Reuters) - Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo pardoned Joseph Estrada on Thursday, overturning a conviction by an anti-graft court that found the former movie star president guilty of plunder and jailed him for life.
Here are key facts about Estrada, renowned for his “midnight cabinet” of drinking and gambling buddies during his 31 months in office before he was forced to step down in January 2001.
- Born on April 19, 1937 as Joseph Ejercito, he was a school dropout who picked the name Estrada from a phonebook after leaving his home in a huff. He won fame as a star of B movies, playing the role of hero of the downtrodden, that translated into mass support in his political career.
- In a movie career that spanned nearly 40 years, Estrada played the lead in more than 100 films. He is best remembered for his last movie, made in 1989 when he was already a senator, in which he played the role of an activist opposed to U.S. military bases in the Philippines.
- Estrada was mayor of San Juan, a small town in the Manila region, for nearly 20 years before winning his Senate seat in 1988. He was elected state vice president in 1992.
- In the 1998 presidential election, Estrada won a landslide, riding on the slogan “Erap para sa mahirap” (Erap for the poor). Estrada was popularly known as “Erap”, the reversed spelling of “pare”, Filipino slang for friend or buddy.
- Two years into office, Estrada was impeached for amassing around $85 million, stealing from state coffers and taking bribes from illegal gambling operators.
- Estrada’s impeachment trial in the Senate was cut short when a group of opposition lawmakers walked out, protesting against a vote by senators sitting as judges. It fuelled a three-day street protest that forced him to step down on January 20, 2001.
- He was put on trial in the anti-corruption court, remaining under house arrest at his villa about 50 km (30 miles) east of the capital.
- The court found Estrada guilty of plunder on September 12 this year. He was sentenced him to life in jail, but allowed to return to house arrest pending an appeal.