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The BBC's Fiona Werge
"Processed by the police like a common criminal"
 real 56k

The BBC's Simon Ingram in Manila
"Many were in tears as the former president was driven off to jail"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Estrada speaks to BBC from prison
Imprisoned former Philippines President Joseph Estrada with his lawyer, Rene Saguisag, left
Mr Estrada spoke with his lawyer after he was arrested
Former Philippines President Joseph Estrada was arrested on Wednesday and faces corruption charges that could theoretically lead to his execution.

Shortly after his arrest, he spoke to the BBC by telephone from his cell.

BBC: Mr Estrada, what is your response to the charges that you undertook economic plunder in your country?

Joseph Estrada: Those are all fabricated charges and I vehemently denounce this systematic violation of basic human rights and our constitution and under the laws of our land.

BBC: But you are charged with plundering about $82m in kick-backs during your 31 months in office.

Mr Estrada: There is no truth to that - that is all fabricated. I wasn't given the chance to be heard and now I am being incarcerated. This is blatant oppression without due process of law.

I will have to make the supreme sacrifice [of being imprisoned] for defending our people and our constitution

Joseph Estrada
BBC:You are talking about the process of law. Can you give us your response to the allegation that you economically plundered $82m in kick-backs?

Mr Estrada: There is no truth to that. I did not get a single cent out of the government's coffers. This is all fabricated.

It is because the newspapers, the radio and the television are owned by the big corporations who conspired to really put me down and discredit me. They keep on feeding disinformation to the public.

BBC: But these are charges drawn up by an independent judiciary and the police. They clearly believe that they have good evidence. Otherwise they wouldn't have detained you.

Mr Estrada: Under this current administration even the Supreme Court has been pressured - how much more the lower court?

BBC: Let us take one example - $2.6m of tobacco taxes allegedly siphoned off under your hand?

I had no choice but to submit myself to this mob-rule government

Joseph Estrada
Mr Estrada: That is not true again. Even in court my lawyers have not been heard. So all this is disinformation to the public.

BBC: What about the process during which you were picked up earlier today in your house - what happened inside when the judges turned up?

Mr Estrada: I had no choice but to submit myself to this mob-rule government. Up to now I considered this an illegitimate government. They were able to get power by mob-rule, so this is not a duly constituted authority - which, I hate to say, is unconstitutional.

BBC: What about the more general charge against you that you conducted your presidency with a shadowy group of friends often involving all-night drinking sessions and that that gave the impression that you were not acting in a lawful way - that you were helping friends more than the country?

Mr Estrada: Of course not. It can be shown in our economic statistics since I took over. Our economy grew after more than a year.

BBC: What about the provincial governor, Luis Singson, who was charged in October and alleged that you received bribes from gambling bosses and embezzled government funds?

Police process former President Joseph Estrada after arresting him
Mr Estrada was processed like any other suspect
Mr Estrada: These conspirators took advantage of this [self]-confessed illegal gambler, this [self]-confessed criminal.

BBC: When you were elected president, you said you would "weed out corruption". You are appear now to be charged with being the pinnacle of corruption which you said you were going to weed out.

Mr Estrada: This was planted by my political enemies and a group of big businessmen here in the Philippines.

BBC: Why do you believe your former friends have now, as you put it, turned against you and been lured into trapping you?

Mr Estrada: They were intimidated, they were harassed, they were threatened. If they do not submit they will be charged with plunder. They were intimidated and threatened.

BBC: Mr Estrada, you are now in police custody. What has been your reaction to the way you are being treated by the police?

Mr Estrada: I would say that fortunately they are hospitable and kind to me - I have no complaints about their treatment of me.

BBC: Where are you speaking to me from now then?

Mr Estrada: Inside my cell. We have here just a small room for visitors.

I can assure you that I am innocent and I think the truth will come out in the end

Joseph Estrada
BBC: What facilities do you have there?

Mr Estrada: Just an ordinary room with a bed - it is air-conditioned though. So it is good enough. I can bear with it.

BBC: It is rather different to the presidential palace and the large house from which you were taken earlier.

Mr Estrada: Of course. There is no comparison.

BBC: How are you going to cope with being in such a small room for quite a long time now?

Mr Estrada: I will have to make that supreme sacrifice for defending our people and our constitution.

BBC: What about the prospect of facing charges which could lead to the death penalty?

Mr Estrada: I know I am innocent and my lawyers believe that the charges against me are very weak and this is all done by my political enemies and the big businessmen. But I can assure you that I am innocent and I think the truth will come out in the end.

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