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Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
What next for Estrada?
Police process former Philippines President Joseph Estrada after his arrest
The government wants to make an example of Mr Estrada
By South-East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head

Philippines President Joseph Estrada faces a series of charges, including perjury, but government prosecutors are expected to concentrate their efforts on one charge, that of economic plunder - which can carry the death penalty.

Mr Estrada still insists the charges are fabricated and that he was illegally deposed from the presidency back in January.

His overthrow was described by the government as an historic moment.

Now that the trial process has started, President Gloria Arroyo, and her backers in the church and the business community, seem determined to make an example of Mr Estrada.

Few convictions

However it could be a slow and difficult process.

Phillipines President Gloria Arroyo
President Arroyo has the backing of business
The special anti-corruption court where his case is being heard has a poor record of convicting those charged with corruption.

None of the family of former President Ferdinand Marcos, who was accused of much greater abuses of power, have ever been successfully prosecuted.

Mr Estrada's lawyers remain confident that the charges against their client are too weak to stick.

Changing allegiances

The trial might also allow Mr Estrada the opportunity to give damaging testimony against the many powerful business figures who used to back him but have now transferred their allegiance to the new president.

Estrada supporters
Mr Estrada still has support among the poor
The government will also keep a watchful eye on Mr Estrada's supporters, some of whom tried to block his arrest.

The former film star still has a strong following among the poor in the Philippines, who see him as more sympathetic to their plight than Mrs Arroyo.

But until now they've been unwilling or unable to organise themselves in sufficient numbers to pose any real challenge to the security forces.

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See also:

25 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada in custody
19 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada parties with poor on birthday
22 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Graft focus on Estrada's wife
08 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Lawsuit filed to seize Estrada's wealth
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