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Philippines' Estrada defiantly returns to politics

MANILA -- Graft-tainted former Philippine President Joseph Estrada was mobbed by fans Tuesday as he applied to run for mayor of Manila, nearly 12 years after a military-backed revolution ousted him.

The 75-year-old actor-turned politician vowed he had the energy to return to politics, and was ready to turn around the fortunes of the country's rundown capital.

“I am still strong, and I will not stop serving the people until the end,” Estrada told AFP shortly after registering his candidacy to run for mayor of Manila in midterm elections next year.

“Manila needs a change. There is urban decay, people are without jobs, the government is in deficit.”

Estrada said that, if he won, he would continue his programs for the poor that were halted when an uprising forced him to step down as president in 2001, only halfway through his six-year term.

Estrada was convicted in 2007 of corruption for plunder and taking kickbacks worth tens of millions of dollars while president. But his successor, Gloria Arroyo, quickly pardoned him.

Estrada, whose enduring popularity derives from an acting career in which he typically played heroes of the poor, finished second in the 2010 presidential race won by incumbent Benigno Aquino.

Estrada has said repeatedly that result vindicated his stance that powerful political and business figures had conspired to oust him from power unfairly.

Some of the roughly 500 supporters who crowded around Estrada as he registered at the election office on Tuesday also said he had been framed for corruption.

“I don't believe he was involved. That was just black propaganda,” said April Medina, 28, an unemployed mother of a baby boy.

Many of Manila's 1.6 million people live in slums, and large parts of the the city where the country's former colonial Spanish rulers were based are dilapidated.

Estrada's main opponent will be Alfredo Lim, 82, the incumbent mayor who is also very popular with the masses.

Lim, a former policeman, earned the nickname of “Dirty Harry” in the 1990s during an initial stint as mayor for closing down Manila's strip bars and marking the homes of suspected drug pushers with spray paint.

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Former Philippine President Joseph Estrada, center, is mobbed by fans after filing a certificate to run for mayor at the Commission on Elections in Manila on Tuesday, Oct. 2, nearly 12 years after a military-backed revolution ousted him. (AFP)

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