Political Chess setIt becomes hard to piece together the big picture of Philippine history from 1998 onward objectively, so I have decided to be subjective and tell it like I see it as of now – like a teleserye.

Everybody is invited to put in their own picture as a comment, their own observations of these times – towards the goal of a broader understanding which is non-partisan but not necessarily neutral.


Erap or Joseph Estrada became President in 1998. He was very much a man of the people, who inspite of his mestizo origins had exposure to the world of the streets and of the film industry.  His slogan was Erap para sa mahirap – Erap for the poor. His use of Tagalog or Filipino, his living a lifestyle more like that of the masses than of the former ruling class endeared him to many. Exactly some of these ways such as his publicly known mistresses (link) – a breach of the “delicadeza” of the elite – and more work-related, his midnight cabinet (link) made him an enemy of these classes.

On the policy side, he was known for his anti-crime task forces (link) headed by Panfilio Lacson, his favoring the death penalty (link) which was already restored in the time of President Ramos. The all-out war (link) against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as well as the Sipadan kidnappings (link) of the year 2000 also come to mind as important matters during his administration.

There were also scandals such as possible stock market manipulation (link) and charity sweepstakes shares (link). What sunk his administration was the juetenggate scandal (link).


This all lead to a dramatic impeachment trial (link) which revealed possible bank accounts under the name “Jose Velarde”. Absurd aspects of the trial which was televised in the Philippines and accessible via Internet come to mind: the maid Delia Rajas whose name was used by someone else at a bank, Senator Miriam Santiago berating someone on the balcony for staring at her, the never solved Dacer-Corbito murder case (link) and finally the suppression of a second envelope (link) with possible evidence and Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta dancing with joy and singing “no, no, no”.

The anger at the brazen dancing seemed to be the spark that lit a fire, this is what I remember. Text messages played a major role in getting people to come to the EDSA Dos Revolution from 17-20 January 2001 (link) which led to the ouster of Estrada. Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became President. The Supreme Court confirmed it as legitimate with the reasoning that “the welfare of the people is the supreme law”. Some foreign commenters saw EDSA II as a “cover for a well- planned coup” by an “opportunist coalition of church, business elite and left”.

After the arrest of Estrada in April 2001, the so-called EDSA Tres (link) started on 30 April 2001, supported by Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Vicente Sotto III, Gringo Honasan, Panfilo Lacson and Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Demonstrators tried to storm Malacañan Palace. President Arroyo declared a state of rebellion which was lifted on 7 May 2001.


The first thing that disturbed me about President Arroyo was a statement by herself that she, daughter of former President Macapagal, was returning to the place where she grew up – including jokes in some papers that she never grew up, a reference to her stature. The brazen sense of entitlement was suspect to me. But the Philippine general election of 2001 (link) was seem as giving general approval to her administration. Her idea was to “build a strong republic” (link), focusing on “building up a strong bureaucracy, lowering crime rates, increasing tax collection, improving economic growth, and intensifying counter-terrorism efforts”. Yet there were first warning signs like the Oakwood mutiny in 2003 (link) – the first major appearance of then still Lt. Trillanes. Inspite of a cease-fire and peace talks with the MILF (link), there was the Davao airport bombing of 2003 which was attributed to them. This part of the story was to worsen yet still.

Construction of the LRT-2 which started in 1996 finished in Arroyo’s term. The entire LRT-MRT-PNR network in Manila was then called the “Strong Republic Transport System”.

The Philippine population increased from around 75 million to around 85 million from 1998 to 2004. There are many other aspects of this time such as increasing number of OFWs or overseas foreign workers, the nascent BPO or business process industry, and the ever-increasing population of Metro Manila which was turning very modern. The next episode took strange turns.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 25 June 2016

Thanks to Karl Garcia for assisting with sources!