HE usually played a poor man in his movies, but Joseph Estrada was born to a well-to-do family. He also had a lucrative film career that spanned decades. When he became president, therefore, Estrada was already quite wealthy. Many, however, were still curious how he could afford the lavish lifestyles of his wives, who on their own were not independently rich.
In a two-part series that the PCIJ released in July 2000, we noted, among other things, that Estrada had a declared net worth of P35.8 million and net income of P2.3 million in 1999. Yet the then president, his wives, and his children were listed as shareholders of at least 66 companies, 14 of which were already worth P600 million. The first two years of the Estrada presidency also saw a burst of entrepreneurial energies among his families, which formed 11 new companies between 1998 and 2000. Many of the Estrada businesses, moreover, apparently had transactions with government agencies, raising conflict-of-interest concerns.