Philippines' Estrada given pardon

Disgraced former Philippine President Joseph Estrada has been granted an official pardon by his successor, a government spokesman has confirmed.

President Gloria Arroyo's office said the decision was reached after Estrada agreed not to pursue political office.

Estrada was given a life sentence last month after being convicted of corruption following a six-year trial.

The 70-year-old ex-film star was found to have embezzled $80m (42m) before being forced from office in 2001.

'Demeaning' decision

Ms Arroyo's spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said Estrada's age and the fact he had spent six years under house arrest were taken into account when awarding the pardon.

The former president, who analysts say retains huge popularity among poor Filipinos, will officially be freed on Friday.

He had been serving his sentence at his sprawling country estate near the capital, Manila, rather than a jail cell.

Estrada's son, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, said he thanked Ms Arroyo from the bottom of his heart for releasing his father.

But political opponents of Estrada were highly critical of the move.

"If we are going to show the world that we are for the rule of law, then there should be no pardon for Estrada," said Senator Richard Gordon.

Prosecutors involved in the Estrada case said the president had no right to pardon him, and claimed the move had "totally demeaned" their efforts to combat corruption.

After his conviction for plunder in September, Estrada denounced the verdict as a "political move" and said he had been tried in a "kangaroo court".

A successful movie star with populist appeal, Estrada was elected president in 1998 by the biggest margin ever.

He was seen as a refreshing change from the wealthy elite that had previously dominated political life.

But it was not long before his presidency ran into trouble amid allegations of corruption.

He was ousted three years after coming to power in a revolt backed by the army and the church. Mrs Arroyo - who was his vice-president at the time - took over.

25/10/2007

Bron : BBC News

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