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Philippine citizens overthrow President Joseph Estrada (People Power II), 2001
In 1992, Joseph E Estrada ran for Vice President on the National People’s Coalition ticket. Although the party’s presidential candidate, Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., lost the election to Fidel Ramos, Estrada won the vice presidential contest. He served as Vice President for 6 years leading the Anti-Crime Commission and was also responsible for a number of high-profile crime arrests in the Philippines.
In 1998 Estrada ran for President, running on the same platform of law and order. He won the election by the largest majority in the Philippines history of free elections. He then set about improving the country's tax collection system and worked towards demilitarizing the Philippine government.
In early October 2000, reports emerged that Estrada had been gambling and improperly using finances directly derived from taxpayers’ money. On 4 October Governor Luis Chavit Singson, a well-known friend of Estrada, went public with accusations.
One month later the House of Representatives called for the impeachment of the President, on charges of violating the Constitution through “bribery, graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Constitution.”
The next day Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin led a National Day of Protest which included a march in the city of Manila asking President Estrada to resign rather than force the country to endure a lengthy impeachment trial.
Estrada did not resign. One month later the trial began. During the trial, a bank provided evidence that, if opened and used in the case, was rumored to confirm that President Estrada had placed 500 million pesos in a bank account that was later used in gambling. Despite the fact that this evidence could heavily influence the case, 11 out of the 21 senators voted not to open the envelope and use the evidence. All of the anti-Estrada spectators and prosecutors present left the courtroom when the decision was announced.
Soon after the announcement, Cardinal Sin made a public statement asking the people to gather in the Ortigas Avenue and Epifanio de los Santos Advenue in Quezon City. Cardinal Sin called upon the people to rise up as they had years earlier in 1989, for the People Power movement when they overthrew the then dictator Ferdinand Marcos (see Filipinos campaign to overthrow dictator (People Power), 1983-1986). The Cardinal called this People Power II, and within a single day 100,000 had gathered in Quezon City to protest. The demonstrators, angered by the suspension of the trial, raised their fists and sang songs in protest.
By the second day the number of people tripled. They gathered together in a “human chain” on both avenues in order to display their unity and strength against Estrada. By the third day, there were two million people in the plaza and multiple police and military officials had joined them, showing that there would be no forceful opposition to stop or heed the protestors.
President Estrada appeared on television that evening at 5:00 p.m., informing the people that he would not resign and would like the trial to continue. Estrada stated that he would only step out of office if he was legally and constitutionally impeached.
An hour later he reappeared on television to address the nation, this time offering an earlier election in May if the people were to cease their protests. In response the protestors stated that if Estrada had not resigned by six o’clock the next morning, they would march to his palace in Malacanang to force his resignation.
The next morning one third of the protestors marched to Malacanang. While the president hid in his mansion, the Supreme Court declared that the position of president had been vacated. At noon vice president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency, as constitutional law dictated.
At 2:00 pm Estrada released a letter saying he had "strong and serious doubts about the legality and constitutionality of her proclamation as President." Nevertheless he would give up his office to avoid being an obstacle to healing the nation.
Weeks later he withdrew this statement and claimed that Arroyo was merely acting as a president in his absence. There was a movement soon after by some to reinstate Estrada as president, but it was unsuccessful.
Cardinal Sin’s call to action was the primary initiator in motivating the people to begin People Power II. The people, though, were entirely responsible for the immense and swift growth of the movement. Filipinos, using cell phones and text messages, convinced their friends and neighbors to participate in the revolution. Recorded texts were meant to mobilize the people to action. “Wear black to mourn the death of democracy,” “Expect there to be rumbles,” and “Military needs to see 1 million at a rally tomorrow, Jan. 19 to make a decision to go against Erap (Estrada)! Please pass on.” In a single day 70 million texts were recorded, nearly 40 million more than on an average day in the Philippines. The forced resignation of President Joseph Estrada truly was showing of the power of the people.