Estrada's 'other' children found

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The Independent Online
WHEN Joseph "Erap" Estrada, the former matinee idol and president- elect of the Philippines, won the presidency by a landslide in May he claimed it would be the "greatest performance of his life".

But it seems that Mr Estrada has been performing well in other ways, too - he is the father of 10 children, seven of whom are reported to be illegitimate.

The existence of his illegitimate children was no secret. What was in doubt was the number. Now a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer claims to have cleared up the matter. The newspaper says the seven illegitimate children belong to five different mothers.

Mr Estrada's transition team has been considering whether these illegitimate offspring should be treated as members of the first family, especially in terms of security. Mr Estrada, as a private citizen, has always insisted that he treats all his children equally.

Mr Estrada has cheerfully acknowledged a history of drinking, gambling and womanising, but he insists that this is all in the past. Eloisa, his previously estranged wife, returned from almost 20 years in exile in the US to be reunited with her husband. They even managed a public kiss, at an open-air mass before the poll.

The country's powerful Catholic church establishment tried to prevent Mr Estrada from gaining the presidency, saying the office required an incumbent of high morals.

The Church's views clearly do not reflect those of the electorate, who seem unperturbed by the prospect of an unconventional president.

Illegitimate children are common in the Philippines and many middle-class men keep second and third families. Mr Estrada's lack of hypocrisy has earned him brownie points rather than brickbats.

One of his favourite lines is to say that both he and Bill Clinton have experienced sex scandals. The difference, he says, is that the US president is left with the scandals whereas Mr Estrada has the sex.

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