updated 10/25/2007 9:06:48 AM ET 2007-10-25T13:06:48

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo pardoned her ousted predecessor Thursday, paving the way for Joseph Estrada’s release a month after he was sentenced to life in prison for corruption.

Acting Executive Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the pardon would restore Estrada’s civil and political rights and would take effect upon his acceptance.

There was no immediate reaction from the 70-year-old Estrada, who has been allowed by the anti-graft Sandiganbayan court to be detained in his sprawling villa near Manila while appealing his Sept. 12 conviction for plunder.

Estrada’s lawyers withdrew his appeal Monday, removing a key obstacle to the grant of pardon.

Arroyo cited her government’s policy of releasing convicts who have reached 70, Estrada’s 6 1/2 years’ detention and his public pledge not to seek any public office in deciding to pardon her political nemesis.

A court order forfeiting a mansion and more than $15.5 million in bank accounts believed to be owned by Estrada would remain in place, according to Arroyo’s decision, which was read by Bunye in a nationally televised announcement.

“Arroyo is fully convinced that this pardon is in order,” Bunye told reporters.

A Sandiganbayan court spokesman, Renato Bocar, said it would order Estrada’s release after receiving a copy of Arroyo’s grant of pardon.

Ousted by 'people power' revolt
Estrada was ousted by a nonviolent “people power” revolt that was co-led by Arroyo, then his vice president, in 2001 over allegations of massive corruption and misrule. He was arrested and detained a few months later, angering his legions of followers.

Estrada was convicted last September after a landmark six-year trial on charges that he took bribes and kickbacks while in office. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Estrada has denied the charges and accused Arroyo of masterminding his removal in a conspiracy with leaders of the Roman Catholic church and senior military officers.

A former action film star who once pulled off the biggest election victory in Philippine history, Estrada remains popular among impoverished Filipinos who adored his B-movies, where he often portrayed roles as a champion of the poor.

He served as an opposition icon, often criticizing Arroyo from behind bars.

Estrada told The Associated Press earlier this week that he would not seek public office even if that right were restored by presidential pardon. He said, however, he would continue to criticize Arroyo.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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