SOME were members of his infamous Midnight Cabinet. Others were his drinking and gambling buddies and business partners.
What happened to former President Joseph Estrada’s bosom buddies after his fall from power? Some are still in touch, but many are no longer his confidantes. Still others have fled the country in order to avoid facing charges such as stock manipulation and fraud.
Here’s how Estrada’s cronies have fared:
- Luis ‘Chavit’ Singson: Singson lost his senatorial bid on the May 2007 elections despite being the second-biggest election spender. He spent a total of P97.8 million during his campaign. Singson and Estrada are now bitter enemies after the former accused the later of receiving billions of pesos in jueteng payoffs.
- Charlie ‘Atong’ Ang: A co-accused in Estrada’s plunder case, Ang struck a deal with the government, following his extradition from the United States, for a lesser offense in exchange for admitting that he funnelled P130 million in kickbacks from illegal gambling and the tobacco excise tax to Estrada’s “Jose Velarde” account. The plea bargain allowed Ang, a consultant of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) on jai alai operations during Estrada’s time, to walk away with only a maximum penalty of six years’ imprisonment and returning P25 million from his take in the tobacco excise tax. He has since been released from detention by the Sandiganbayan, granting his petition for probation.
- Lucio Lao Co: There has been no news about Co, who topped the list of 14 suspected major smugglers in 1999. Co owns the Puregold Duty Free Shop and was also dubbed “the chicken king” for supposedly importing shiploads of duty-free chicken from the United States and then diverting these to Metro Manila stores. Estrada reportedly has not been in contact with Co for a long time.
- Dante Tan: Tan faces seven criminal cases for violations of the Revised Securities Act of 1982, involving stock manipulation and fraud. He fled the country in 2001. In 2003, he reportedly fled Australia after members of the Parliament began investigating allegations that he received a residency visa from a government minister after making a political donation.
- Jacinto Ng Sr.: Ng is said to have maintained his ties with Estrada, visiting during the latter’s birthdays. His friendship with Estrada dates back to the latter’s stint as mayor of San Juan. Ng has interests in numerous businesses and has connections to at least three Estrada households.
- Luis ‘Baby’ Asistio: Asistio was defeated by incumbent Enrico ‘Recom’ Echiverri for the Caloocan mayoral post. Asistio has been Estrada’s friend since 1978 and is said to still call the former President.
- Mark Jimenez: Jimenez has remained in the limelight due to his family problems. His children have filed a petition to appoint a guardian over him and have him declared mentally incapacitated after he was accused of kidnapping his live-in partner Carol. Jimenez has also been cited for his charity contributions. He was jailed for over two years in the United States for tax fraud and illegal campaign contributions.
- Jaime Dichavez: Dichavez is reportedly out of the country. A self-described “errand boy” for Estrada, he was also known as the former president’s red wine buddy and advance party at Tagaytay Highlands. Dichaves is one of the directors of Belle Corp., which owns Tagaytay Highlands, and is also a business partner of Laarni Enriquez.
- Jose Luis ‘Sel’ Yulo: Yulo has also kept a low profile. A Palace perennial visitor during the first two years of the Estrada administration, Yulo was controversially named chair of the Presidential Commission on Mass Housing and presidential adviser on housing. He resigned less than a month later after the Manila Times reported that he was facing lawsuits for bouncing checks and unpaid credit card bills.