The reason for Estrada's good spirits is obvious: he expects Fernando Poe Jr. to win the presidency next week. "We have been friends for 40 years," Estrada says, "but he never asked me any favors. I can't ask him any favor except one: to give me a fair trial." (A presidential pardon is also possible, although the Philippine constitution only allows one after a conviction.) Estrada denies rumors that he engineered Poe's candidacy or that he might act as a shadow President if Poe wins: "I believe Nixon and Carter were better people as ex-Presidents. I'll just imitate them."
In mug shots after his arrest in April 2001, Estrada looked shocked and depressed, and he confirms that was how he felt. "My first year was really pretty awful," he says. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be a prisoner. I was a superstar! A President!" He says the depression lasted for eight months, until the day the Supreme Court appointed a special tribunal to try him, which Estrada views as a kangaroo court. "I blew my top," Estrada recalls. He also dismissed his legal team, deciding to defend himself through publicity, including a CD titled And the Truth Will Set You Free. Slowly his sense of humor returned. "I have to laugh," Estrada explains, "or I'll deteriorate in here."
Estrada claims he was pulled from office by prominent businessmen and the Catholic Church, which resented his policies on birth control. "I may have committed some mistakes in governance," he says, "but with a straight face I can say corruption was not one of them." He rejects the notion he might be persuaded to go into exile in the futureespecially if Poe losesand points out that Washington denied him a visitor's visa last November, when he wanted to go to Palo Alto, California, for knee surgery. "For God's sake," he laughs, "I'm not the Shah of Iran!" The former President may be in the clinkbut he's not beyond hope.