Joseph Estrada Biography

Film Actor, President (non-U.S.), Producer, Actor (1937–)
Filipino actor and politician Joseph Estrada served as the 13th president of the Philippines from 1998 to 2001.


Joseph Estrada was born on April 19, 1937, in Manila, Philippines. Over the course of his prolific film career, he has acted the lead role in more than 80 films and produced over 70. In 1992, he ran for vice president and won. In 1998 he became president of the Philippines. In 2001 he was arrested and imprisoned for six years. He ran for re-election in 2010, but lost to Benigno Aquino III.

Early Life

Joseph Estrada was born Joseph Marcelo Ejercito in the Tondo district of Manila, Philippines, on April 19, 1937. He was one of 10 children. Estrada’s father, Emilio Ejercito, was a government engineer. His mother was named Maria Marcelo. Joseph’s parents were wealthy landowners. When Joseph was still very young, his family moved to San Juan, which has since become a part of metropolitan Manila.

Estrada received his primary education at a local Jesuit school called Ateneo de Manila University. After graduating from Ateneo de Manila, he enrolled in engineering courses at the Mapúa Institute of Technology. To his parents’ grave disappointment, Estrada dropped out after three years. He was the only one of his siblings not to receive a college diploma.

Film Career

When Estrada was a young adult, he stumbled upon an acting role and enjoyed the sense of escapism that acting provided him. Quickly proving his acting prowess, he opted to pursue an acting career in lieu of completing his education. His parents strongly opposed to the decision and forbade him to use the family name. Instead, the fledgling actor took the screen name Joseph Estrada, “Estrada” being the Spanish word for “street.” He also gave himself the nickname “Erap,” a Spanish term for “pal” spelled backward.

Over the course of his prolific film career, Estrada has acted the lead role in more than 80 films made in the Philippines, and has also produced more than 70 movies. “I have been a jeepney driver, labor leader, a Communist guerilla,” Estrada said of his many roles, which often entailed playing a poor man seeking justice. He was awarded Best Actor and Best Film awards by the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Science (FAMAS) five times each, earning him spots in the FAMAS Hall of Fame in both 1981 and 1984.


In 1967, Estrada used his popularity with audiences to garner votes in the San Juan mayoral elections. He served as mayor for 17 years, during which time he focused largely on education and health care reform.

In 1987 Estrada became a national politician when he took a seat in the Philippine Senate. During his five-year stint in the Senate, Estrada served as chairman of the Committee on Rural Development and Committee on Cultural Communities, as well as the vice chair of the Committee on Health and Committee on Natural Resources and Ecology.

In 1992 Estrada ran for vice president and won. He retained the position for the next six years. As vice president, Estrada led the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission and was responsible for a number of high-profile criminal arrests.

Estrada’s 1998 presidential campaign was centered on this same law-and-order platform. Despite accusations of electoral fraud, Estrada won the presidency by a landslide, leaving his closest competitor, Jose de Venecia, in the dust. During Estrada’s administration, he improved the country’s tax collection system and worked toward demilitarizing the Philippine government.

On April 25, 2001, Estrada was arrested on charges of plunder that his political adversaries had filed against him. After a long and humiliating trial, Estrada was imprisoned in Tanay for six years and was eventually released based on an unconditional pardon in October of 2007.

Recent Years

Following his release from prison, Estrada has worked for a number of local humanitarian causes, including disaster-relief missions and programs that strive to help the poor by eradicating hunger.

In 2009, Estrada made a comeback in the film industry with an acting role in One and Only Family, filmed in Quezon City.

In 2010, he ran for president again but came in second to Benigno Aquino III in the general elections.

As of 2011, Estrada continued to reside -- along with his wife, former senator Dr. Luisa Pimentel -- in the Tondo district of Manila where Estrada grew up. The couple has three children, including their son Jinggoy, who has served in the Philippine Senate since 2004.

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