October 27, 2007

Philippine president Joseph Estrada come back

Free for the first time in six-and-a-half years, ousted president Joseph Estrada thanked his successor for pardoning him and vowed yesterday to stay out of “dirty politics” while dedicating the rest of his life to helping the poor. The former action star’s first hours of freedom played out live on national television like a scene from one of his old films, which won him legions of fans for his portrayals of underdog heroes. Estrada’s joyous release from house arrest was followed by a speech to thousands of cheering supporters in Manila’s San Juan district, where he once served as mayor, then a bedside visit to his ailing 102-year-old mother and a dinner of his favorite dishes. His wife said she was making rice cake and paella. Estrada was convicted last month on graft charges and given a life sentence. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo pardoned him on Thursday. Estrada thanked Arroyo, reiterated his wish to live the life of a “plain citizen” and, in a turnaround from previous attacks on the administration, urged his supporters to back Arroyo’s programmes to combat poverty and hunger. Arroyo’s spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said the pardon restored Estrada’s civil and political rights.

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