Governor Luis Singson of Ilocos Sur has blown the whistle on President Estrada, telling the Senate that he personally made payments from illegal gambling to the President, family members and close officials, worth over US$18 million. In the ensuing uproar, President Estrada is fighting for his political life.
As early as 1990 in Geneva, Switzerland, overseas Filipino contract workers (OCWs) became aware of the businesses of the wives of then Senator Joseph Estrada. Many OCWs entered Switzerland at that time through "recruitment agencies" owned and managed by one of Estrada's wives. These agencies were notorious for charging sky high fees and leaving OCWs at the mercy of "Filipino migrant hosts". In many cases, they became "bonded undocumented workers" for these "hosts". Joseph Estrada's election slogan was "Erap para sa mahirap" (Erap for the poor). In the May 1998 presidential election, many Filipinos believed him. But for many OCWs in Switzerland, Estrada looked just like the fallen dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo resigned from her Cabinet post and started convening a united opposition movement. Representative Roilo Golez and Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr resigned from the Estrada coalition party, LAMP (Lapian ng Masang Pilipino). The resounding view from various ruling elite factions is that the gambling payola scandal is too extreme, and the involvement of Erap and his family is no longer acceptable.
The people's anger against the regime has been sparked because of the stark collaboration between the regime and the oil cartel to increase the price of oil, the extreme devaluing of wages and salaries, and the intensifying lack of land to till, and deepening poverty of the peasantry. Political analysts in the Philippines are now predicting the downfall of the Estrada regime and the eventual takeover by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The reasons they give are the immediate political crisis, combined with the devaluing of the peso and the decline of the whole economy.
The moves by the US government to either repair the damage to Estrada or to dump him, will be very interesting to watch.