Estrada cleared for Philippines run
Former Philippine president given the go-ahead to run again in May elections.
Last Modified: 21 Jan 2010 03:54 GMT
Estrada came to power in 1998 but was removed amid corruption allegations in 2001 [Reuters]

Joseph Estrada, the former Philippine president, has been cleared to make a run for the presidency again in elections scheduled for later this year.

On Wednesday the Commission on Elections (Comelec) rejected a challenge from a group of lawyers that Estrada should be banned due to a constitutional requirement barring presidents from seeking re-election after serving one six-year term.

Estrada, who was removed from office in 2001, argues that he never completed his first term.

The movie star-turned politician was elected by a large margin in 1998, but was removed midway through his term by an army-backed uprising over allegations of corruption.

He was convicted of plunder in 2007 but pardoned weeks later.

"In the end, it is the Filipino people who would act as the final arbiter on whether they would have Estrada sit again as president. It is the electorate's choice of who their president should be," the Comelec committee ruled.

Nicodemo Ferrer, the head of the Comelec committee, ruled that the constitutional ban did not apply to Estrada, saying this pertains "to an incumbent president and not to someone already previously elected".

'Major victory'

Filipinos are due to go to the polls on May 10 for presidential, legislative and local elections.

However, signalling the legal battle may not be over, lawyer Evilio Pormento said he would appeal the ruling to the entire Comelec body.

Jose Melo, the Comelec chairman can still either uphold or reverse Wednesday's ruling.

However, Estrada said the ruling was a major victory.

"Now it's settled. Sovereignty emanates from the people and it will be the people who will decide who will be the next president," he told reporters.

"I'm very confident like in '98," he said, referring to the 1998 presidential election.

Last month three independent public opinion polls put Estrada in third place in the presidential campaign, behind front-runners Senators Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino and billionaire Manuel "Manny" Villar.

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