I might run again – Erap

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — DISGRACED former President Joseph Estrada might run again for the presidency if the public wants him to, he said yesterday.

Speaking to the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Estrada also warned President Gloria Arroyo that she must resign “to avoid bloodshed and violence,” in the face of widespread anger over allegations of corruption.

Estrada, 70, a former film star, said he was not planning to run in the next election in 2010 but said: “If the people clamour for it, who am I to turn them down?”

Estrada was toppled in a military-backed uprising over corruption allegations in January 2001.

In September 2007, he was sentenced to life for plundering tens of millions of dollars in tax kickbacks and bribes. Six weeks later Arroyo pardoned him on the condition he not run for public office again.

The move was widely seen as an attempt to mollify the large numbers of people who still support Estrada, especially among the poor.

Estrada said it was up to the Supreme Court to decide if he was barred from running again but added: “If ever I run, I believe the fate of the presidency should be decided by the people” and not by the court.

Estrada brushed aside his conviction for corruption, saying: “The people have already acquitted me and the court that convicted me was a kangaroo court.”

The former president has recently been visiting urban poor areas, handing out gifts with his name and picture — fuelling suspicion he is seeking to run again.

He also said that his son, Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, was “not yet ripe for a higher position,” naming several other opposition senators who had a better chance of winning the presidency.