Estrada Arrested on Corruption
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Joseph Estrada on Wednesday became the first Philippine leader to be arrested for alleged corruption in office, taken from his home amid a tense standoff between police and thousands of his supporters.
Estrada, who left the presidency Jan. 20 amid mass street protests against him after a six-week impeachment trial stalled, left with police even as he defiantly maintained his innocence and insisted he never gave up the presidency.
Hours earlier, the chief anti-graft court ordered Estrada’s arrest on plunder charges, which carries the death penalty although it is considered highly unlikely to be imposed in this case.
To clear a path along the narrow streets to his house, riot police used truncheons and plastic shields to disperse angry Estrada supporters as a police helicopter hovered low overhead. Vowing to block his arrest or go to jail with him, the crowd pelted police with stones.
``We will not even allow him to surrender. We are ready to die for him,″ said Jojo Ibay, a 38-year-old supporter who had been outside Estrada’s house for three days.
Hundreds more Estrada supporters rallied outside the court near demonstrations organized by his detractors. Some wore T-shirts marked ``Pro-God, Pro-Constitution,″ a reference to Estrada’s claim that his ouster was unconstitutional.
Under the brutal midday sun, police were forced to climb over the Estrada compound’s fence to unlock the gate so they could deliver the warrant.
The former action film star then was being driven in a black minivan about two miles to Camp Crame, the main police camp, where a special cell has been prepared for him.