Estrada's eager HK fans await his arrival

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 January, 2008, 12:00am

Supporters of disgraced ex-Philippine president Joseph Estrada in Hong Kong were last night eagerly awaiting their leader's visit, which was announced in a text message.

Ching Bautista, a trustee of NGO Balikatan sa Kaunlaran (Shoulder to Shoulder for Progress), said: 'The text said 'President Estrada is arriving. He will be a sponsor in a wedding'.'

But late last night, Ms Bautista said her group was still waiting for details of today's gathering.

Her group was set up by one of Estrada's partners, Guia Gomez.

Ms Bautista said several members were already on standby for Mr Estrada's visit.

A Philippine newspaper, the Manila Bulletin, reported on its website that Mr Estrada was to fly to Hong Kong yesterday.

It would be his first foreign trip as a free man after six years under government detention.

Mr Estrada, 70, was granted a presidential pardon and released from detention for corruption late last year.

He was allowed to visit Hong Kong for kneecap replacement surgery in 2005, during a period when he was detained in his plush Tanay villa.

His first wife, former senator Luisa 'Loi' Ejercito Estrada, is with him on this trip.

She was also by his side during his knee surgery.

'In reaching out to our OFWs [overseas Filipino workers] in Hong Kong, I will know how I can help - as private citizen Erap - their families they have left behind in chasing their dream to build a better future for their children working far from home,' Mr Estrada said in a statement from Manila.

Additional reporting by Raissa Robles in Manila