Philippine President Accused of Corruption

For 20 years, he was a movie star, a matinee idol always cast as the tough-fisted hero, fighting for the poor.

Now, after only two years as president, Joseph Estrada has been cast as the villain in what sounds more like a B-movie plot.

Many say, in real life, he’s a crook.

Luis Singson, a governor gambling kingpin, and one-time ally of the president says he personally gave Estrada more than $10 million in kickbacks from an illegal gambling racket.

He says Estrada then ordered him killed, to shut him up.

Estrada’s not just a greedy person, Singson says.

It’s just like the mafia, he says. “He’s a gangster.”

Money Issues

Estrada denied the charges. “I did not accept a single cent,” he says.

But his B-movie plot has since become stranger. Others close to the president have revealed what Estrada was up to when he should have been governing — all night parties at the presidential palace, with drinking binges and heavy gambling.

They also said he signed decrees to help his business cronies, and spent millions of dollars on mansions for his three mistresses.

Meanwhile, the country’s economy was crumbling from mismanagement.

A Theatric Challenge

Estrada could be acquitted in his impeachment, but many in the Philippines are betting he will not survive the public uproar over his alleged crimes and misdeeds.

In scenes reminiscent of the people power revolution that overthrew the Marcos dictatorship almost 15 years ago, Filipinos have taken to the streets to demand that Estrada resign.

“I will never resign!” he said in a televised broadcast.