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Friday, 19 January, 2001, 11:24 GMT
A tale of betrayal and revenge
Singson producing a ledger detailing alleged payments in the senate hearing
Governor Singson felt let down by president
By BBC News Online's Emma Batha

Rumours about Philippines President Joseph Estrada's alleged corruption and messy personal life had been rife long before they hit the headlines.

Mr Estrada
Mr Estrada: Allegations are 'politically motivated'
The former film star has been accused of taking nearly $12m in bribes from illegal gambling syndicates and cuts from tobacco taxes.

There are also allegations that he has bought plush houses for his various mistresses using illegally acquired money.

The man behind the bribery accusations is his erstwhile drinking and gambling buddy, provincial governor Luis Singson.


I did not receive a single cent of jueteng money

President Estrada
"Estrada should resign," Mr Singson recently told AsiaWeek Magazine.

"He is not just a gambling lord. He is a gambling god. He is the most corrupt person I have ever met."

Lottery

The scandal broke when Mr Singson, governor of Ilocos Sur, called a press conference to announce that since 1998, he had collected $11.7m in dirty money for the president.

Cardinal Sin
Cardinal Sin said Estrada had no moral authority to govern
He said nearly $8.9m of this was payoffs from operators of jueteng, an illegal lottery game particularly popular among the poor.

Mr Singson says he delivered nearly $4.3m in person in attache cases which he would leave in Mr Estrada's office.

The rest was allegedly transferred through bank accounts.

He also accuses Mr Estrada of skimming a $2.8m share off tobacco taxes.

Revenge

Mr Singson appears to have dished the dirt after Mr Estrada awarded a lucrative gambling contract to a business rival Charlie "Atong" Ang.

Posters depicting Estrada as mafia boss The Godfather
Protesters depicted Estrada as The Godfather
The contract was in relation to the launch of a legal lottery game called Bingo Two-Ball, intended as a revenue raising replacement for jueteng.

AsiaWeek says Mr Estrada cancelled the contract and suspended the new game around the same time as Mr Singson went to the press.

But Mr Estrada has repeatedly insisted he is innocent and remained defiant in the face of calls for his resignation.

He has said his former friend's allegations are a cover-up for missing funds in the province.

Drinking

What has convinced some that Mr Singson is telling the truth is that his allegations have also opened himself up to prosecution.

He says he first got to know Mr Estrada in the 1960s and their relationship developed during nights out drinking - the future president's preferred tipple was said to be Blue Label scotch.

Mr Singson, who is godfather to one of Mr Estrada's children, says he threw his weight behind his friend in the May 1998 election, only to find himself betrayed two years later.

Resign

Shortly after the scandal broke, the head of the powerful Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Jaime Sin, called on Mr Estrada to step down.

The following week a group of congressmen started impeachment proceedings against Mr Estrada, accusing him of corruption, betrayal of public trust and violation of the constitution.

The allegations sent the economy into a nosedive and brought protesters out onto the streets in their thousands.

Critics in the business community, former president Corazon Aquino and Vice-President Gloria Arroyo also joined calls for him to quit.

Mr Estrada faced four charges; corruption, bribery, betrayal of public trust and violation of the constitution.

Th impeachment trial collapsed on 16 January leading to increased street protests, and eventually, Mr Estrada's decision to call an election in which he would not stand.

(Figures in the story are at the rate of 46.5 pesos to the dollar)

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See also:

16 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada accuses enemies of plot
10 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada faces new allegations
09 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada: I didn't spend 'bribes'
14 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada 'conscience clear'
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