[JURIST] Former Philippine President Joseph Estrada [BBC profile] was freed from detention Friday after receiving a presidential pardon [text; JURIST report] earlier this week. Estrada had been held for over six years on corruption charges. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's decision to issue the pardon has been questioned by her critics as Article VII, Section 19 of the Philippines Constitution [text] prohibits the president from pardoning those who have been impeached. Acting Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera on Friday defended the pardon as properly issued because although impeachment proceedings against Estrada began in the Philippines Senate, Estrada left office before any impeachment actually took place. Devandera also noted that the pardon was for Estrada's conviction for violating the nation's economic plunder law [text]. AP has more. The Sun-Star Manila has local coverage.
Held under house arrest since 2001, Estrada was sentenced to life in prison [JURIST report] last month after his conviction for stashing some $77 million in gambling payoffs, kickbacks and illegal commissions in secret bank accounts under an alias. In addition to the prison sentence, the court ordered Estrada to pay $15.5 million, and under the terms of the pardon "The forfeitures imposed by the Sandiganbayan remain in force and in full, including all writs and processes issued by the Sandiganbayanin pursuance hereof, except for the bank account(s) he owned before his tenure as President."