Presidency of Joseph Estrada
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|June 30, 1998 – January 20, 2001|
The Presidency of Joseph Estrada, also known as the Estrada Administration in the Philippines spanned for 31 months from June 30, 1998 to January 20, 2001. Estrada reached the pinnacle of his political career when he was elected President of the Republic in the May 11, 1998 national elections. With almost 11-million Filipinos writing his name on the ballot, his margin of victory was the biggest ever registered in Philippine electoral history.
Speaking before millions gathered at his inaugural address in Manila, the newly elected chief executive said his presidency would serve the Filipino masses whose welfare had long been neglected. A line from his speech, "Walang kaibigan, walang kumpare, walang kamag-anak", was a stern warning against anyone who would attempt to undermine his administration with influence-peddling. Determined to bring his pro-poor platform to every facet of the government's operations, he immediately ordered the removal of all sovereign guarantees on contracts for public projects which would require the sovereign Filipino people to assume the financial losses of private companies doing business with the government. Records will show that until January 20, 2001, he did not sign a single government contract with a sovereign guarantee. Committed to cleaning the bureaucracy of undesirable elements, he ordered the immediate relief of corrupt officials in the military and police hierarchy. He ordered a wide-ranging investigation of all government contracts entered into by the previous administration to ensure these were above-board and directly advantageous to the citizenry. He ordered the investigation of suspected big-time tax evaders even if some of these individuals had contributed to his presidential campaign. His pro-poor program of government bore fruit in less than two years, with a significant improvement in the country's peace and order situation. This likewise elicited a proportionate rise in the approval rating of the Philippine National Police. The Estrada administration undertook an aggressive housing program on a national basis, targeting low-cost Sapnu puas turn upside down greater priority, while the national government likewise took steps to bring down the cost of medicine. Foreign investments grew exponentially, benefiting greatly from the unsullied and esteemed reputation of the best and the brightest chosen to be part of his Cabinet, and even more from his reputation as a strongly nationalistic yet progressive president.
The Senate impeachment trial, a constitutional process initiated to determine the truth behind the allegations of corruption hurled by the false witness, ended abruptly in mid-January 2001 when prosecutors staged a walk-out after senators voted against the opening of a document which had no bearing whatsoever on the cases filed before the tribunal. With the second highest official of the land and her husband working secretly with this group and courting the military sector's support, things came to a head on 20 January 2001 with the leave of absence filed by Joseph Estrada and his temporary departure from Malacañang. Following the Supreme Court's decision upholding the legality of the Macapagal-Arroyo presidency, he was arrested at his San Juan home in the afternoon of April 25, 2001 on the strength of a warrant of arrest issued by the Sandiganbayan for the crime of plunder filed by his political enemies.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Major issues of presidency
- 3 Administration and cabinet
- 4 Supreme Court appointments
- 5 Pardons
- 6 Domestic policies
- 7 Foreign policies
- 8 Controversies
- 8.1 1998
- 8.2 1999
- 8.3 2000
- 8.4 2001
- 9 Impeachment trial
- 10 EDSA II
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Estrada was inaugurated on June 30, 1998 in the historical town of Malolos in Bulacan province in paying tribute to the cradle of the First Philippine Republic. That afternoon the new president delivered his inaugural address at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta. He assumed office amid the Asian Financial Crisis and with agricultural problems due to poor weather conditions, thereby slowing the economic growth to -0.6% in 1998 from a 5.2% in 1997. The economy recovered by 3.4% in 1999 and 4% in 2000. In 2000 he declared an "all-out-war" against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and captured its headquarters and other camps. However, allegations of corruption spawned an impeachment trial in the Senate, and in 2001 Estrada was ousted from power after the trial was aborted. The unmitigated corruption during his administration would cause him to be charged and convicted for plunder.
In his Inaugural Address, Estrada said:
|“||One hundred years after Kawit, fifty years after independence, twelve years after EDSA, and seven years after the rejection of foreign bases, it is now the turn of the masses to experience liberation. We stand in the shadow of those who fought to make us free- free from foreign domination, free from domestic tyranny, free from superpower dictation, free from economic backwardness.||”|
Major issues of presidency
- Inaugural Address, (30 June 1998)
- First State of the Nation Address, (27 July 1998)
- Second State of the Nation Address, (26 July 1999)
- Third State of the Nation Address, (24 July 2000)
Major acts as President
- Second RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement
Major legislation signed
- Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 (Republic Act No. 8749) – designed to protect and preserve the environment and ensure the sustainable development of its natural resources.
- Incentives for Regional Headquarters of Foreign Multinationals (Republic Act No. 8756) – The measure grants a host of incentives to multinational firms establishing their regional hubs in the country. It also provides a tax- and duty-free operating environment for them, and multiple entry visas to expatriates and their families, as well as a flat income tax rate of 15%.
- Retail Trade Liberalization Act (Republic Act No. 8762) – The bill dismantles 40 years of state protectionism over the country's retail trade industry and opens the sector to big foreign players. With the retail trade liberalization, well-known foreign players like France's Carrefour and Casino Group as well as the U.S.' Wal-Mart and JC Penney are already in the process of negotiating with local partners.
- New General Banking Act (Republic Act No. 8791) – The measure opens up the local banking industry to foreign players after almost 50 years of having it exclusively reserved and protected for Filipino nationals. With the industry's liberalization, at least 10 foreign banks have already established their presence in the Philippines.
- Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 (Republic Act No. 8792) – Outlaws computer hacking and provides opportunities for new businesses emerging from the Internet-driven New Economy.
- New Securities Act (Republic Act No. 8799) – This law liberalizes the securities market by shifting policy from merit regulation to full disclosure. With its strengthened provisions against fraud, the measure is expected to pave the way for the full development of the Philippine equities and securities market.
Administration and cabinet
Other cabinet-level and high posts
- Executive Secretary
- Press Secretary
- Presidential Spokesman
- Fernando Barican (1998–2001)
- Presidential Chief of Staff
- Aprodicio Lacquian (1999–2000)
- Head of the Presidential Management Staff
- Leonora de Jesus (1998–2000)
- Macel Fernandez (2000–2001)
- Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman
- Jejomar Binay (1998–2001)
- Flagship Programs
- Robert Aventajado (1998–2001)
- Director General, Philippine National Police
- Gen. Roberto Lastimoso (1998–1999)
- Gen. Edmundo L. Larozza, Officer-in-Charge (1999)
- Gen. Panfilo Lacson (1999–2001)
Joseph Ejercito Estrada, President (1998–2001)
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Vice-President (1998–2001)
Ronaldo Zamora, Executive Secretary (1998–2001)
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Secretary of Social Welfare and Development (1998–2000)
Orly Mercado, Secretary of National Defense (1998–2001)
Benjamin Diokno, Secretary of Budget and Management (1998–2001)
Mar Roxas, Secretary of Trade and Industry (2000)
Alfredo Lim, Secretary of Interior and Local Government (1999–2001)
Edgardo Angara, Secretary of Agriculture (1999–2001) and Executive Secretary (2001)
Perfecto R. Yasay, Jr., Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (1998–2000)
Rafael Buenaventura, Governor of the Central Bank (1999–2001)
Jejomar Binay, Chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (1998–2001)
Ramon Mitra, Jr., Chairman of the Philippine National Oil Company (1998–2000)
Panfilo Lacson, Director-General of the Philippine National Police (1999–2001)
Angelo Reyes, Armed Forces Chief of Staff (2000–2001)
Supreme Court appointments
Estrada nominated the following to the Supreme Court of the Philippines:
- Justice Bernardo P. Pardo – September 30, 1998
- Hilario Davide, Jr. – Chief Justice November 30, 1998 (an associate justice since 1991)
- Justice Arturo B. Buena – January 5, 1999
- Justice Minerva P. Gonzaga-Reyes – January 5, 1999
- Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago – April 6, 1999
- Justice Sabino R. De Leon, Jr. – October 12, 1999
- Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez – December 22, 2000 (his last SC justice appointee)
President Joseph Ejercito Estrada granted pardon to the following:
In 1998, Joseph Estrada was elected president. Even with its strong economic team, the Estrada administration failed to capitalize on the gains of the previous administration. His administration was severely criticized for cronyism, incompetence, and corruption, causing it to lose the confidence of foreign investors. Foreign investors' confidence was further damaged when, in his second year, Estrada was accused of exerting influence in an investigation of a friend's involvement in stock market manipulation. Social unrest brought about by numerous bombing threats, actual bombings, kidnappings, and other criminal activities contributed to the economy's troubles. Economic performance was also hurt by climatic disturbance that caused extremes of dry and wet weather. Toward the end of Estrada's administration, the fiscal deficit had doubled to more than P100 billion from a low of P49 billion in 1998. Despite such setbacks, the rate of GNP in 1999 increased to 3.6 percent from 0.1 percent in 1998, and the GDP posted a 3.2 percent growth rate, up from a low of −0.5 percent in 1998. Debt reached P2.1 trillion in 1999. Domestic debt amounted to P986.7 billion while foreign debt stood at US$52.2 billion.
Masa format on radio
During his term, Estrada ordered to the National Telecommunications Commission by the adoption of Filipino language-based radio format known as masa. Named for his icon Masa (or Masses), all radio stations adopted the masa format effective since 1998, as DJ's wanted to replace English language-based stations immediately to air OPM songs and requests. After his term in 2001, several FM stations adopted the masa format nationwide until this day.
With the purpose of investigating the alleged anomalies of the Ramos administration, President Joseph Ejercito Estrada created the "Saguisag Commission" headed by former Senator Rene Saguisag. Ramos, however, refused to appear before the commission for he argued that the jurisdiction lies in the court.
In the so-called Centennial Expo scam, Mr. Ramos claimed the Senate committee that conducted the probe "never closed the case" because it did not issue any final report. Instead, he rued, former President Estrada created an administrative fact-finding commission headed by former Senator Rene Saguisag. But six former government officials during his administration who were implicated in the Centennial Expo scam were subsequently "exonerated" by the Ombudsman in October 1998. Former Vice President Salvador Laurel, who chaired the Centennial Expo and was among the principal accused in this case, however, died before he could be exonerated, Mr. Ramos rued.
In the Smokey Mountain case, he said, he appeared in 2000 before the public hearing of the House committee on good government chaired by then Rep. Ed Lara whose panel cleared the project as valid and legal. Subsequently, he said, the Supreme Court ruled 13-0, with 2 abstentions, in favor of the project. The SC also upheld the legality and constitutionality of the project and dismissed the petition filed against it by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.
In the questioned Masinloc power project, he said, the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee looked into the privilege speech of then Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. on Ramos' alleged influence that this power plant be sold to a consortium connected with former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad.
The Estrada administration widened the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to the landless peasants in the country side. The latter's administration distributed more than 266,000 hectares of land to 175,000 landless farmers, including land owned by the traditional rural elite. (Total of 523,000 hectares to 305,000 farmers during his 2nd year as President). On September 1999, he issued Executive Order (EO) 151, also known as Farmer's Trust Fund, which allows the voluntary consolidation of small farm operation into medium and large scale integrated enterprise that can access long-term capital. President Estrada launched the Magkabalikat Para sa Kaunlarang Agraryo or MAGKASAKA. The DAR forged into joint ventures with private investors into agrarian sector to make FBs competitive. In 1999 a huge fund was allocated to agricultural programs. One of which is the "Agrikulturang Maka Masa", through which it achieved an output growth of 6 percent, a record high at the time, thereby lowering the inflation rate from 11 percent in January 1999 to just a little over 3 percent by November of the same year.
Anti-crime Task Forces
In 1998, by virtue of Executive Order No.8, President Estrada created the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) with the objective of minimizing, if not totally eradicating, car theft and worsening kidnapping cases in the country. With the help of this task force, the Philippine National Police for the first time in history achieved a record-high trust rating of +53 percent. Panfilo Lacson was its first head. He also created the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime (PCTC) in 1999, with the objective of formulating and implementing a concerted of action of all law enforcement, intelligence and other government agencies for the prevention and control of transnational crime.
However, in November 2000, during the Juetenggate scandal of President Estrada, high officials of the PAOCTF – Cesar Mancao, Michael Ray Aquino, Glen Dumlao, and PAOCTF chief Panfilo Lacson - were implicated in the murder of publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito at the Cavite province. Dacer at that time was accused to be behind a black propaganda against President Estrada – a charge Dacer denied.
The death penalty law in the Philippines was reinforced during the incumbency of Estrada's predecessor, Fidel Ramos. This law provided the use of the electric chair until the gas chamber (method chosen by government to replace electrocution) could be installed. However, the electric chair was destroyed some time prior due to a typhoon, leaving only a blackened scorch mark. Some sources have said it had burnt out the last time it had been used.
However, the first execution by injection took place under Estrada's administration. On February 5, 1999, Leo Echegaray, a house painter, was executed for repeatedly raping his stepdaughter. He was the first convict to be executed since the re-imposition of death penalty in 1995.
His execution sparked once again a heated debate between the anti and the pro-death penalty forces in the Philippines with a huge majority of people calling for the execution of Echegaray. That there was a strong clamor for the imposition of the death penalty should be viewed from the point of view of a citizen who is desperately seeking ways to stop criminality.
The Estrada administration peddled the death penalty as the antidote to crime. The reasoning was that if the criminals will be afraid to commit crimes if they see that the government is determined to execute them. The opposition maintained that the death penalty is not a deterrent and that there have been studies already debunking the deterrence theory. Legislators and politicians refused to heed the recommendation of the Supreme Court for Congress to review the death penalty riding on the popularity of the pro-death penalty sentiment.
Six years after its re imposition, more than 1,200 individuals have been sentenced to death and seven convicts have been executed through lethal injection. Yet today, there are no signs that criminality has gone down.
From February 6, 1999, a day after Leo Echegaray was executed, to May 31, 1999 two leading newspapers reported a total of 163 crimes which could be punishable by death penalty. But perhaps the best indicator that this law is not a deterrent to criminality is the ever-increasing number of death convicts.
From 1994 to 1995 the number of persons on death row increased from 12 to 104. From 1995 to 1996 it increased to 182. In 1997 the total death convicts was at 520 and in 1998 the inmates in death row was at 781. As of November 1999 there are a total of 956 death convicts at the National Bilibid Prisons and at the Correctional Institute for Women.
As of December 31, 1999, based on the statistics compiled by the Episcopal Commission on Prisoner Welfare of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, there were a total of 936 convicts interned at the National Bilibid Prisons and another 23 detained at the Correctional Institute for Women. Of these figures, six are minors and 12 are foreigners.
President Estrada immediately ordered the removal of all sovereign guarantees on contracts for public projects which would require the sovereign Filipino people to assume the financial losses of private companies doing business with the government. Records will show that until January 20, 2001, he did not sign a single government contract with a sovereign guarantee.
During the Estrada Administration, the practice in use since the Commonwealth, of reproducing the signature of the President of the Philippines over the legend "President of the Philippines" was abandoned in favor of explicitly stating the president's name.
Under President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, there was a similar attempt to change the 1987 constitution. The process is termed as CONCORD or Constitutional Correction for Development. Unlike Charter change under Ramos and Arroyo the CONCORD proposal, according to its proponents, would only amend the 'restrictive' economic provisions of the constitution that is considered as impeding the entry of more foreign investments in the Philippines.
There were once again objections from opposition politicians, religious sects and left wing organizations based on diverse arguments such as national patrimony and the proposed constitutional changes would be self-serving. Like his predecessor, Estrada's government was accused of pushing Charter change for their own vested interests.
War against the MILF
During the Ramos administration a cessation of hostilities agreement was signed between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in July 1997. This was continued by a series of peace talks and negotiations in Estrada administration. However the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an Islamic group formed in 1977, seeks to be an independent Islamic State from the Philippines, despite the agreements, a sequence of terrorist attacks with the Philippine military and the civilians still continued. Such of those attack are 277 violations committed, kidnapping a foreign priest, namely Father Luciano Benedetti, the occupying and setting on fire of the municipal hall of Talayan, Maguindanao; the takeover of the Kauswagan Municipal Hall; the bombing of the Lady of Mediatrix boat at Ozamiz City; and the takeover of the Narciso Ramos Highway. By doing so, they inflicted severe damage on the country's image abroad, and scared much-needed investments away. In addition to this, the Philippine government learned that the MILF has links with Al-Qaeda. Because of this, on March 21, 2000, President Joseph Ejercito Estrada declared an "all-out-war" against the MILF. During the war the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) asked Estrada to have a cease-fire with MILF, but Estrada opposed the idea arguing that a cease-fire would cause more terrorist attacks. For the next three months of the war, Camp Abubakar, headquarters of the MILF, fell along with other 13 major camps and 43 minor camps, and then all of which became under controlled by the government. The MILF leader Salamat Hashim fled the country and went to Malaysia. The MILF later declared a Jihad on the government. On July 10 of the same year, the President went to Minadanao and raised the Philippine flag symbolizing victory. After the war the President said, "... will speed up government efforts to bring genuine and lasting peace and development in Mindanao". In the middle of July the president ordered the military to arrest top MILF leaders.
In his state of the nation address, the President highlighted his vision for Mindanao:
- The first is to restore and maintain peace in Mindanao—because without peace, there can be no development.
- The second is to develop Mindanao—because without development, there can be no peace.
- The third is to continue seeking peace talks with the MILF within the framework of the Constitution—because a peace agreed upon in good faith is preferable to a peace enforced by force of arms.
- And the fourth is to continue with the implementation of the peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front, or MNLF—because that is our commitment to our countrymen and to the international community.
In addition to this the president said his administration can move with more speed in transforming Mindanao into a progressive economic center. High on the list of priorities was the plight of MILF guerrillas who were tired of fighting and had no camps left to report to. On October 5, 2000 the first massive surrender of 669 MILF mujahideen led by the renegade vice mayor of Marugong, Lanao del Sur Malupandi Cosandi Sarip and seven other battalion commanders, surrendered to President Joseph Ejercito Estrada at the 4th ID headquarters in Camp Edilberto Evangelista, Bgy. Patag, Cagayan de Oro City. They were followed shortly by a second batch of 855 surrenderees led by MILF Commander Sayben Ampaso on Dec. 29, 2000.
However, the war with the MILF was severely criticized by foreign and media observers. In fact Agriculture Secretary Edgardo Angara bridled at the high cost of Mindanao specifically the diversion of resources from military operations that eat away from the agriculture modernization program. Angara was quoted as saying "What General Reyes asks, he gets". Moreover, the fighting in Mindanao even destroyed more than P135 million worth of crops and 12,000 hectares of rice and corn fields.
On March 15, a combat patrol of the Phil. Army's 26th Infantry Battalion stumbled upon MILF guerrillas in Bgy. Inudaran, Lanao del Norte, killing two of the rebels. The following day, 700 rebels of the MILF 303rd Brigade Camp Jhon-Mack) led by Abdullah Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo, swooped down on nine Army detachments in Linamon, Bacolod, Kauswagan and Maigo towns.
On March 17, the rebels occupied the Kauswagan town hall, taking more than 400 residents hostage.
The Phil. Army's 4th Infantry "Diamond" Division under the command of Brig. Gen. Roy Cimatu (now Phil. Ambassador to the Middle East) immediately launched a counterattack.
Cimatu mobilized Task Force Inudaran from the Army 402nd Infantry Brigade and the 1st Marine Brigade under Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Teodosio which recaptured Kauswagan on March 18. The task force also cleared the Iligan-Dipolog highway where rebels had set up several roadblocks, and set up covering forces to protect vulnerable town centers while far-flung detachments were forced to hold their own against the enemy attacks.
On March 21, 2000, then Philippine President Joseph Ejercito Estrada personally visited Kauswagan and declared an "all-out war" against the MILF. Estrada tasked Cimatu to carry out the offensive against the MILF in the Lanao area.
From March 16 to June 12, 2000, the 4th Division captured 15 major MILF camps, 49 satellite camps, a training base and control tower at a cost of 38 soldiers killed and 196 wounded. MILF casualties totaled 589 killed and 916 wounded.
Cimatu outlined five major operations against the enemy. The first of these was Oplan SOVEREIGN which called for Task Force Diamond III under Col. Felipe Berroya to attack camps and staging areas of the MILF 303rd Brigade (Camp Jhon-Mack) checkpoint near the highway.
"I did not want the MILF to have time to regroup themselves", Cimatu said. "Time was very essential."
Marines overran the MILF 303rd Brigade (Camp Jhon-Mack) outpost check point in Bgy. Inudaran on March 19 and Camp John Mack, headquarters of the MILF 303rd Brigade at Bgy. Delabayen, Kauswagan on March 20.
The following day, Task Force Diamond III captured Famous Camp Bilal, the largest MILF camp in Lanao del Norte, located in the municipality of Munai.
Meantime, the Army's 402nd Brigade under Col. Samuel Bagasin successfully cleared Bgy. Pacalundo after a day of fierce fighting. Apo Hill, the major MILF communications center in the outskirts of Baloi led by Comammder Mike, finally fell to Task Force Diamond III after a month of heavy air and artillery attack on April 26.
Following the success of Oplan SOVEREIGN, Cimatu next moved on to Operation FREEWAY designed to clear the Narciso Ramos Highway of rebels. The 1st Marine Brigade moved on to Pualas, Lanao del Sur while Task Force Diamond moved up to Marawi city. In a classic pincer movement, Task Force Diamond was ordered to clear the hilly portions of the highway, the 1st Marine Brigade the immediate vicinity of the highway while the 6th Infantry Division moved up from the opposite direction in Matanog town.
As the northern end of the pincer closed in, the Army's 302nd Infantry Brigade under Col. Allan Cabalquinto arrived on May 10 to secure the rear areas cleared by Task Force Diamond. On May 15, the Narciso Ramos highway was finally cleared of MILF rebels, in spite of stiff resistance encountered by the 6th Division from rebels entrenched in bunkers and trenches along the highway.
Next on the schedule was Operation SUPREME, aimed at capturing Camp Bushra in Butig, Lanao del Sur, the second largest camp and training center of the MILF. It is also the home of the Lanao Area Command headquarters under MILF Vice Chair Aleem Abdul Azziz Mimbantas and headquarters of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces 3rd Field Division.
Task Force Diamond initially made a feint against MILF camps in Marogong, then moved right abreast of the 1st Marine Brigade which had moved overland from Balabagan. The 302nd Infantry Brigade and the newly arrived 802nd Infantry Brigade under Col. Nagamora Lomodag followed the two attacking brigades. On May 28, Camp Bushra finally fell to the combined air-artillery and infantry attacks of the four brigades.
This set the stage for Operation SWEEPER, aimed at reducing the MILF sphere of influence in Lanao del Sur, particularly in the Basak area around the eastern portion of Lake Lanao.
While the 1st Marine Brigade secured Camp Bushra and re-established government control in Butig, Cimatu ordered Task Force Diamond, the 302nd and 802nd Brigades to clear the municipality of Masiu and eastern side of Lake Lanao. This phase of the operation successfully defeated the rebels capability to wage in sustained a low-intensity conventional warfare in Northern and Central Mindanao.
Up next was Operation SUMMIT, which aimed to destroy all MILF camps north and west of Camp Abubakar. The 1st Marine Brigade and 302nd Infantry Brigade launched the attack on Camp Abubakar from the north while the 6th Infantry Division attacked from the south and west, with Task Force Diamond in reserve.
On July 12, 2000, the late MILF chairman Salamat Hashim called for a jihad against all government forces and installation but few of the Bangsamoro heeded his call. As the rebels forces broke up into smaller, disorganized units, MILF guerrillas went on a rampage against helpless civilians, killing 21 farmers in Bgy. Sumugot, Bumbaran, Lanao del Sur on July 16, 2001 and another 13 workers of the Maranao Plantation, Inc. in Matling, less than a week later.
With the fall of Camp Abubakar, the conventional warfare against the MILF came to an end and the process of reconstructing and rehabilitating the war-torn areas began.
High on the list of priorities was the plight of MILF guerrillas who were tired of fighting and had no camps left to report to. On October 5, 2000 the first massive surrender of 669 MILF mujahideen led by the renegade vice mayor of Marugong, Lanao del Sur Malupandi Cosandi Sarip and seven other battalion commanders, surrendered to former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada at the 4th ID headquarters in Camp Edilberto Evangelista, Bgy. Patag, Cagayan de Oro city.
They were followed shortly by a second batch of 855 surrenderees led by MILF Commander Sayben Ampaso on Dec. 29, 2000.
The latest and biggest batch of surrenderees formally surrendered to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Tamparan, Lanao del Sur on March 14, 2001, one day to the date from the start of the Mindanao war last March 15, 2000 in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.
The 931 surrenderees were led by Macabagol Paudak, brigade commander of the MILF Striking Force, 308th MILF Brigade, who also formally turned over some 506 firearms, plus 20 RPGs, three .50-cal. machineguns, three 60mm mortars and two pump boats.
The Estrada administration upheld the foreign policy thrusts of the Ramos administration, focusing on national security, economic diplomacy, assistance to nationals, and image-building. The Philippines continued to be at the forefront of the regional and multilateral arena. It successfully hosted the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 1998 and undertook confidence-building measures with China over South China Sea issue through a meeting in March 1999. President Estrada strengthened bilateral ties with neighboring countries with visits to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea.
The country also sent a delegation of 108 observers to the Indonesian parliamentary elections, and engaged in cooperative activities in the areas of security, defense, combating transnational crimes, economy, culture, and the protection of OFWs and Filipinos abroad.
RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement
On 1999 a Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, which was ratified in the Senate. The first Visiting Forces Agreement was actually signed under President Ramos in 1998, and the second was subsequently signed under President Estrada. The two agreements came to effect a year later. The primary effect of the Agreement is to require the U.S. government (1) to notify RP authorities when it becomes aware of the apprehension, arrest or detention of any RP personnel visiting the U.S. and (2) when so requested by the RP government, to ask the appropriate authorities to waive jurisdiction in favor of RP, except cases of special interest to the U.S. departments of State or Defense. [VIII 1] (Waiving of jurisdiction in the U.S. is complicated by United States being a confederation of states in which each individual state has its own judicial system, and the U.S. Federal Government not being in a position to simply order a State to waive jurisdiction).
The Agreement contains various procedural safeguards which amongst other things establish the right to due process and proscribe double jeopardy[VIII 2–6]. The agreement also, among other provisions, exempts RP personnel from visa formalities and guarantees expedited entry and exit processing[IV]; requires the U.S. to accept RP driving licenses[V]; allows RP personnel to carry arms at U.S. military installations while on duty[VI]; provides personal tax exemptions and import/export duty exclusions for RP personnel[X, XI]; requires the U.S. to provide health care to RP personnel[XIV]; and exempts RP vehicles, vessels, and aircraft from landing or ports fees, navigation or overflight charges, road tolls or any other charges for the use of U.S. military installations[XV].
Third informal ASEAN summit
President Estrada hosted the third Informal ASEAN summit at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) from November 24–28, 1999. The Chief Executive met with the leaders of the nine Asean member-countries and three dialogue partners of the regional grouping, namely China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. The 10 Asean member-countries are Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. The Philippines is the third Asean country to host the Asean Informal Summit. The first informal summit was held in Jakarta on Nov. 30, 1996 while the second was held in Kuala Lumpur on December 15–16, 1997. Myanmar, which joined the Asean only in 1997, was supposed to host the Third Informal Summit but it begged of. Following the alphabetical order, the Philippines was next in line to host the informal summit.
The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their three dialogue partners concluded their informal summit on Sunday, Nov. 28, vowing to further broaden East Asia cooperation in the 21st century to improve the quality of life of peoples in the region.
A joint statement issued after the 3rd Asean Informal Summit and separate top-level meetings with the leaders of China, Japan and Korea expressed the resolve of the heads of states and governments of Asean and its dialogue partners to work toward the attainment of peace and stability in Asia and the Pacific.
According to the joint statement, the leaders also voiced "satisfaction with the rapidly developing relations" among their countries that is expected to pave the way to greater East Asia cooperation.
The Asean countries that participated in the summit were Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Noting the bright prospects for enhanced interaction and closer linkages in East Asia, the leaders said the growing interaction has helped increase opportunities for cooperation and collaboration among their countries.
Closer linkages in this part of Asia, they pointed out, have strengthened the promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
"Mindful of the challenges and opportunities in the new millennium, as well as the growing regional interdependence in the age of globalization and information, they agreed to promote dialogue and to deepen and consolidate collective efforts with a view to advancing mutual understanding, trust, good neighborliness and friendly relations, peace, stability and prosperity in East Asia and the world", the joint statement said.
They likewise underlined their commitment to conduct their mutual relations under the principles of the United Nations Charter, the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and the universally recognized principles of international law.
The leaders further underscored their commitment to build on existing cooperative processes in the economic, social and political fields.
On economic cooperation, the leaders of the Asean countries, China, Japan and South Korea agreed to accelerate trade, investments, technology transfer, cooperation in information technology and promotion of industrial and agricultural cooperation, and the encourage development of growth areas in East Asia, including the Mekong River Basin.
On monetary and financial cooperation, they agreed to strengthen policy on financial, monetary and fiscal issues, including the cooperation mechanism for finance and central banking system.
In the political-security area, they agreed to continue dialogue, coordination, and cooperation to increase mutual understanding and trust, towards forging lasting peace and stability in East Asia.
The leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation in addressing common concerns in the area of transnational issues in the region.
In other fields, the leaders also agreed:
- to intensify coordination and cooperation in various international and regional forums, including the United Nations, World Trade Organization and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, as well as in regional and international financial institutions.
- to strengthen regional cooperation in projecting an Asian point of view to the rest of the world and in intensifying people-to-people contacts,
- to strengthen social and human resources to sustain growth in East Asia by alleviating economic and social disparities within and among East Asian countries.
- to support Asean efforts in the implementation of the Hanoi Plan of Action towards advancing economic and sustainable development.
Subic Bay leadership dispute
After winning the 1998 presidential elections on May of that year, newly elected President Joseph Ejercito Estrada issued Administrative Order No. 1, which ordered the removal Richard Gordon as Chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority or SBMA. Estrada appointed Felicito Payumo, Gordon's critic and congressman of Bataan as new chairman. Gordon refused to step down, stating that his re-appointment from the Ramos administration gave him civil service protection. The removal process was not easy. Hundreds of volunteers and paid people barricated the gates of SBMA and Gordon locked himself inside the SBMA Administrative Office Building 229. After this, he was dubbed a dictator because of the fact that he rebelled against an executive order. The issue sparked the interest local and foreign press known as the Showdown at Subic.
Gordon filed for a temporary restraining order before the local court. The local court of Olongapo granted Gordon's request but Payumo's party filed an appeal before the Court of Appeals (CA). The CA reversed the local court's ruling and it was affirmed by the Supreme Court. With the Supreme Court decision, Gordon called Payumo and turned over the reins of SBMA at the Subic Bay Yacht Club two months later on 3 September 1998. Together with the Subic volunteers, they cleaned up the facility.
Textbook scam intervention
In 1998, Estrada allegedly appointed a cousin, Cecilia de Castro, as presidential assistant. The President denied knowing her in the wake of the textbook scam in 1998. The President later intervened in the investigation of the said scam. Another is the appointment of brother-in-law, Captain Rufino F. Pimentel, as PAGCOR director. Also a brother-in-law, Raul de Guzman, was appointed member of the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines. De Guzman's son was also appointed as presidential consultant on environment and water.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer ads pullout
Estrada criticized the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the nation's most popular broadsheet newspaper, for "bias, malice and fabrication" against him. In 1999, several government organizations, pro-Estrada businesses, and movie producers simultaneously pulled their advertisements in the Inquirer. The presidential palace was widely implicated in the advertising boycott, prompting sharp criticism from international press freedom watchdogs.
The Manila Times controversy
Estrada launched a libel suit against the country's oldest newspaper the Manila Times over a story that alleged corruption in the awarding of a public works project. After a personal apology from an owner was published, the libel suit was dropped. Within three months the Manila Times was sold to a "housing magnate with no previous newspaper experience" and was quickly shut down.
BW Resources scandal
BW Resources a small gaming company listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange and linked to people close to Estrada experienced "a meteoric rise" in its stock price due to suspected stock price manipulation. The ensuing investigation led only to further confusion when the head of the compliance and surveillance group of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) and his entire staff resigned  saying "I believe I can no longer effectively do my job." The events created a negative impression. "The BW controversy undermined foreign investor confidence in the stock market" and "also contributed to a major loss of confidence in the Philippines among foreign and local investors on concerns that cronyism may have played a part."
PCSO funding controversy
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has reported that there are 66 corporate records wherein President Estrada, his wife, mistresses and children are listed as incorporators or board members. Thirty-one of these companies were set up during Estrada's vice-presidential tenure and one when he assumed the presidency. Based on the 1998 and 1999 financial statements, 14 of the 66 companies have assets of over P600 million.
The First Lady, Mrs. Loi Ejercito, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on 15 October 1998 her private foundation—the Partnership for the Poor Foundation, Inc. which provides relief and livelihood to the poor. A few months after its incorporation, the foundation received P100 million from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office as donation. The donation far exceeded the PCSO's combined donation of P65 million to regular beneficiaries like orphanages and hospitals. The complainants consider this a conflict-of-interest. The donation of government funds to the private foundation of the First Lady was also found to have been delivered to their legal residence in San Juan.
Estrada was reported by his Chief of Staff Aprodicio Laquian to have allegedly spent long hours drinking with shady characters as well as "midnight drinking sessions" with some of his cabinet members during meetings. Members of the so-called midnight cabinet were:
- Luis 'Chavit' Singson – Governor of Ilocos Sur
- Luis 'Baby' Asistio – Representative of Caloocan City
- Dante Tan – Head of the BW Resources Corp.
- Ramon Lee – A close associate of Dante Tan and an Estrada election contributor
- Lucio Co – The goateed owner of PureGold duty-free stores, who was recently accused of being a big-time smuggler
- Jaime Dichavez – A fiberglass manufacturer and real estate developer who was recently involved in the corporate coup at Belle Corporation, operator of the controversial jai-alai games
- William Gatchalian – Presidential adviser on overseas Filipinos
- Eusebio Tanco – Acquired the Tiwi-Makiling-Banahaw geothermal power plant from the National Power Corporation. Tanco is the brother-in-law of one of the country's biggest coconut millers, Douglas Lu Ym
- Jacinto "Jack" Ng – Multimillionaire, owner of Republic Biscuit Corp. or Rebisco and of some hefty real estate
- Mark Jimenez – a shadowy businessman wanted for illegal campaign contributions in the U.S. Jimenez is reportedly a mean singer at the karaoke and is an occasional "good time" associate of Estrada
During the juetenggate scandal, Estrada's critics claimed that Estrada's mistresses received financial benefits from the President. The following are Estrada's mistresses:
- Guia Gomez
- Laarni Enriquez
- Joy Melendez
- Rowena Lopez
- Peachy Osorio
Hot cars scandal
Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo II (Valenzuela) exposes the assignment of Pres. Estrada of some seized luxury vehicles and SUVs to his Cabinet Secretaries and favored political allies through an obscure office "Presidential Retrieval Task Force." Initially Pres. Estrada resist his critics of the call to return the "hot cars" to the Bureau of Customs, and challenged them to file a case against him. But, by November, the President backs down from his earlier decision and instructs the Customs to dispose the vehicles through an auction.
Building laws violation
President Estrada and his family reportedly violated many construction and building laws in their real estate firms.
Singson is known to have Estrada's fall, when in October 2000 he alleged he gave President Joseph Estrada Php 400 million as payoff from illegal gambling profits. On October 16, 2000, he accused the Estrada, as the "lord of all jueteng lords" for receiving 5 million pesos protection money from jueteng every month during his term of presidency.
Dacer–Corbito double murder case
Salvador "Bubby" Dacer, publicist in the Philippines, and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, were abducted in Makati, the business district of Manila. They were later killed, and their vehicle dumped. In 2001, a number of arrests were made.
The ultimate reasons for Dacer's murder remain a subject of debate. Fidel Ramos has publicly accused his successor, Joseph Estrada, of giving the original order — Estrada was mired in a corruption scandal at the time, and according to some reports, Estrada believed Dacer was helping Ramos destabilize his rule.
Second envelope suppression
On January 17, 2001, the impeachment trial of President Estrada moved to the investigation of an envelope containing crucial evidence that would allegedly prove acts of political corruption by Estrada. Senators allied with Estrada moved to block the evidence. The conflict between the senator-judges, and the prosecution became deeper, but then Senate Majority Floor Leader Francisco Tatad requested to the Impeachment court to make a vote for opening the second envelope. The vote resulted in 10 senators in favor of examining the evidence, and 11 senators in favor of suppressing it. After the vote, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. resigned as Senate President and walked out of the impeachment proceedings together with the 9 opposition Senators and 11 prosecutors in the Estrada impeachment trial. The 11 administration senators who voted YES to block the opening of the second envelope remained in Senate Session Hall together with the members of the defense. They were chanted with "JOE'S COHORTS" where their surnames were arranged.
The Estrada presidency was soon dogged by charges of plunder and corruption. He was reported by his Chief of Staff Aprodicio Laquian to have allegedly spent long hours drinking with shady characters as well as "midnight drinking sessions" with some of his cabinet members during meetings. In October 2000, an acknowledged gambling racketeer, Luis "Chavit" Singson, governor of the province of Ilocos Sur, alleged that he had personally given Estrada the sum of 400 million pesos ($8,255,933) as payoff from illegal gambling profits, as well as 180 million pesos ($3,715,170) from the government price subsidy for the tobacco farmers' marketing cooperative.
Singson's allegation caused an uproar across the nation, which culminated in Estrada's impeachment by the House of Representatives on November 13, 2000 which did not succeed. The articles of impeachment were then transmitted to the Senate and an impeachment court was formed, with Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. as presiding officer.
Major television networks pre-empted their afternoon schedules to bring full coverage of the Impeachment Trial. There were three sets of cameras in the Impeachment Court (normally the Senate Chamber): one from ABS-CBN, one from the GMA Network, and one (using a poor camera) from the People's Television Network or PTV (later NBN, Now return PTV).
During the trial, the prosecution (composed of congressmen and private prosecutors) presented witnesses and evidence to the impeachment court regarding Estrada's involvement in an illegal numbers game, also known as jueteng, and his maintenance of secret bank accounts. However, the president's legal team (composed of a former chief justice, former congressman, former solicitor-general and other lawyers) denied such allegations including his ownership of an account under the name Jose Velarde. However, in February 2001, at the initiative of Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., the second envelope was opened before the local and foreign media and it contained the document that stated that Jaime Dichavez and not Estrada owned the "Jose Velarde Account".
Ilocos Sur Governor Luis "Chavit" Singson was one of the witnesses who testified against President Estrada. The President and the governor of Ilocos Sur were said to be "partners" in-charge of the operations of illegal gambling in the country. Governor Singson feared that he would be charged and stripped of power (there have been talks about the governor making a deal with the opposition... he was to help incriminate Estrada and he would be compensated for his service), but he was offered immunity by anti-Estrada lawmakers. He was then asked to accuse the President of having committed several illegal acts. Vice-President of then Equitable-PCI Bank Clarissa Ocampo testified that she saw the President, Joseph Estrada sign the false name "Jose Velarde" on the banking document and this was also witnessed by Apodicio Laquian.
According to Transparency International in an old survey that did not fit with newer information[by whom?], Estrada was the tenth most corrupt head of government ever, and being the second Philippine Head of State after Marcos in terms of corruption.
On the evening of January 16, 2001, the impeachment court, whose majority were political allies of Estrada, voted not to open an envelope that was said to contain incriminating evidence against the president. The final vote was 11–10, in favor of keeping the envelope closed. The prosecution panel (of congressmen and lawyers) walked out of the Impeachment Court in protest of this vote. Others noted that the walkout merited a contempt of court which Davide, intentionally or unintentionally, did not enforce. The afternoon schedule of television networks covering the Impeachment were pre-empted by the prolongation of the day's court session due to the issue of this envelope. The evening telenovelas of networks were pushed back for up to two hours. That night, anti-Estrada protesters gathered in front of the EDSA Shrine at Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, not too far away from the site of the 1986 People Power Revolution that overthrew Ferdinand Marcos. A political turmoil ensued and the clamor for Estrada's resignation became stronger than ever. In the following days, the number of protesters grew to the hundreds of thousands.
On January 19, 2001, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, seeing the political upheaval throughout the country, decided to withdraw its support from the president and transfer its allegiance to the vice president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The following day, the Supreme Court declared that the seat of presidency was vacant.
At noon, the Supreme Court declared that Estrada "constructively resigned" his post and the Chief Justice swore in the constitutional successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as President of the Philippines. Prior to Estrada's departure from Malacañang, he issued a press release which included:
|“||...I now leave Malacañang Palace, the seat of the presidency of this country, for the sake of peace and in order to begin the healing process of our nation. I leave the Palace of our people with gratitude for the opportunities given to me for service to our people...||”|
On January 18, 2008, Joseph Estrada's Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) placed a full-page advertisement in Metro Manila newspapers, blaming EDSA 2 of having "inflicted a dent on Philippine democracy". Its featured clippings questioned the constitutionality of the revolution. The published featured clippings were taken from Time, New York Times, The Straits Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Asia Times Online, The Economist, and the International Herald Tribune. Former Supreme Court justice and Estrada appointee as chairwoman of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Cecilia Muñoz Palma opined that EDSA 2 violated the 1987 Constitution.
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