Philippines President to Resign

M A N I L A, Philippines, Jan. 20, 2001 -- Philippines President Joseph Estrada left the Malacanang Palace today after a tense, five-day stand off with a united opposition. Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in as the new president.

Estrada, along with his wife and children, exited through a side gate leading to a river, and boarded the presidential barge. They headed for the Estrada residence in a suburb outside of Manilla.

Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in as the new president following aSupreme Court ruling declaring the post vacant.

A Teary Farewell

While Estrada was departing, the Presidential guard was there, and for some of Estrada's staff, the farewell was swift, yet sentimental. The president was also seen as a little teary-eyed himself.

"It is for this reason that I now leave Malacanang Palace,the seat of the presidency of this country, for the sake ofpeace and in order to begin the healing process of our nation,"Estrada said in a statement.

The one-page statement titled "Statement from PresidentJoseph Ejercito Estrada" said that he had "strong and seriousdoubts" about the legality and constitutionality of Arroyo'sproclamation as president along with many other legal minds.

"I do not wish to be a factor that will prevent therestoration of unity and order in our civil society," he said.

"I leave the palace of our people with gratitude for theopportunities given to me for service to our people. I will notshirk from any future challenges that may come ahead in thesame service of our country. I call on all my supporters andfollowers to join me in the promotion of constructive nationalspirit of reconciliation and solidarity."

Earlier, a presidential spokesman said Estrada was having dinner with hisfamily inside the palace when the personnel carriers full ofpresidential guards moved in and parked in front of the building. Aguard outside said they were there to help protect Estrada. Thevehicles mysteriously left minutes after they arrived.

Scandal, Demonstrations and Fears

Estrada's time in office had been tainted by a corruption scandal and an unprecedented impeachment trial. More than a month ago, the president was impeached on charges of graft and corruption. But the predominately pro-Estrada tribunal that presided over the impeachment trial which triggered public outrage, and people calling for his resignation.

Since then, thousands of demonstrators have been calling forEstrada's resignation. On Friday, Estrada suffered a series ofdefections from the military and his Cabinet, then urged Congressto call a snap election to replace him. Estrada said he would notrun in the election.

Macapagal-Arroyo, who is in line tosucceed Estrada, rejected the proposal for snap elections andinsisted she would run the country now that Estrada's politicalcareer has been ruined by a scandal centering on money, mistressesand mansions.

"The president has not only lost moral authority to govern, butnow has no government," Arroyo said in a statement. Arroyoreferred to herself in the statement as the "newcommander-in-chief."

The Return of People Power

Refusing a total surrender after seeing his backing by keyallies crumble, Estrada had remained unwilling to hand power to Macapagal-Arroyo, the daughter of a former president. She has led an oppositioncampaign joined by hundreds of thousands of ordinary Filipinos andallies from big business and communist groups.

Estrada, a former film star who goes by the nickname "Erap,"remains popular among millions of poor people whose cause hechampioned.

Speaking on national television for the second time in a chaoticday of political drama, Estrada had said he wanted a presidentialelection to occur in May, when Filipinos also will fill half of theSenate seats and all of the House of Representatives. It was notclear if this would be possible under the Philippine constitution,experts said, because the president and vice president had notquit.

"Since I still have the support of a significant segment of ourpeople, I don't think that the present polarization can be healedby a new leader who will take over without an electoral mandatefrom our people," Estrada had said.

Arroyo wasn't buying it, andEstrada's partial concession didn't satisfy the crowds demanding hisimmediate resignation.

Wildly chanting anti-Estrada demonstrators, who had hanged thepresident in effigy and conducted a mock trial that found himguilty, were jubilant as they declared victory in the streets ofManila.

Eroding Power Base

"There will be peaceful change," said fish vendor JaimeVillegas, who turned out after being angered by perceptions thatEstrada was attempting to cover up a fortune that prosecutors sayhe hid from the people.

The end became inevitable forEstrada earlier in the afternoon.

Military chief Gen. Angelo Reyes abandoned the president's campand appeared before some 250,000 anti-Estrada demonstratorscrowding a monument to the 1986 revolt that ousted the latedictator Ferdinand Marcos. Reyes said Estrada and his family shouldbe allowed to "exit with dignity."

"Let us not be vindictive," Reyes said.

Other leaders seeking Estrada's ouster have called for reconciliationin the impoverished Southeast Asian island nation that has enduredpolitical turmoil since a provincial governor went public inOctober alleging the president had taken millions in gamblingkickbacks and money from tobacco taxes.

"It's over," Education Secretary Andrew Gonzales had said as heannounced his own resignation. "The continuation of the Estradapresidency is no longer viable."

Even the president's top ally in the Senate, Francisco Tatad,stepped in at one point to say it was time for his friend to "dothe honorable thing" and end a "crisis of epic proportions." A Storied Background

The daughter of a former Filipino president, and a friend of former Georgetown University classmate President Bill Clinton, Macapagal-Arroyo has a storied political background.

Considered by many to be a brilliant economist, Macapagal-Arroyo began her career in government as the Trade Undersecretary. In 1992, she ran for Senator and garnered a huge following.

In 1998, she ran for president, but at the last minute ran for vice president instead when she realized she could not defeat the popular Estrada.

ABCNEWS' Vivian Zalvidea in Manila, and The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.