ILOILO CITY ? Eight years after he was ousted over corruption scandals, former president Joseph Estrada said on Tuesday he was ?99.9 percent? sure of running for president in the 2010 elections.
"It seems impossible now that the opposition will field only one presidential candidate. There is a 99.9 percent chance that I will be running for president," Estrada told a press conference on Tuesday here and attended by opposition leaders and prospective candidates.
Estrada visited Iloilo towns afterwards.
In a press conference in Antique on Monday, Estrada, chairman of the United Opposition (UNO), said he would announce his decision late September or early October. He added that 2010 would be "an opposition year."
Estrada has repeatedly said that he would run for president if the opposition failed to unite and field a common presidential candidate. But he has visited 64 of the total 81 provinces in the country since his release from house arrest in October 2007.
Estrada was ousted in a people's uprising dubbed "Edsa II" in 2001. He was later charged and convicted of plunder but was pardoned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The deposed president said that if he were to run, he would pick a running mate from the opposition, which would include the likes of Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay and Senator Loren Legarda who accompanied him during his trip in Antique.
Binay and Legarda are among those who announced their intentions to run for president but have been lagging in the popularity surveys lately. The vice presidency, however, has become Plan B for some presidential aspirants struggling to get ahead of the pack.
Binay said he would be willing to slide down as vice president if Estrada decided to run. Legarda said she was also open to discuss options.
Along with Binay, Legarda, and former senator Ernesto Maceda, Estrada arrived on Monday at the Evelio B. Javier Airport in the capital town of San Jose and was met by politicians from different political factions in the province that appeared to unite because of his arrival in Antique.
Antique Governor Salvacion Zaldivar-Perez, a close administration ally, Vice Governor Rhodora Cadiao and other officials welcomed Estrada's party. Former Assemblyman Arturo Pacificador of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan who run but lost to Perez in the 2007 elections also met with Estrada.
Cadiao, a member of the administration party Lakas-CMD, was later sworn in as a member of the Estrada's Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino and was designated by Estrada as his party's provincial head and official candidate for governor in next year's elections.
A 25-vehicle convoy accompanied Estrada from the airport to Sibalom town, 10 kilometers north of San Jose.
Estrada, Binay and Antique officials later transferred to a mini-truck before reaching the town proper of Sibalom. As Estrada and Binay waved and greeted the crowd, their supporters distributed pocket calendars, caps and t-shirts printed with "Erap Para sa Mahirap," his campaign slogan in the 1998 elections.
Estrada was mobbed by hundreds of officials and residents when he spoke briefly in front of the municipal building and at the Polytechnic State College of Antique (PSCA).
During the stopovers, Perez kept on referring to Estrada as "Mr. President" and told her provincemates that Estrada would bring more projects to Antique if he would become president again.
Legarda, who played a prominent role during Estrada's impeachment trial before he was ousted, urged residents to "continue to love and support President Joseph Estrada."
At one point during the program at the PSCA, students first chanted "Erap, Erap," and then "GMA [Arroyo initial] Resign" as Maceda and actor Rez Cortez kept on asking the crowd if they wanted Estrada back in Malacañang.
From Sibalom, Estrada's party motored back to San Jose and again boarded the mini-truck and went around the town's main streets. They later proceeded to the Evelio B. Javier Freedom Park for a short program before having their lunch at the provincial capitol.
Also on Monday, Estrada visited and spoke briefly in Hamtic town in Antique and the towns of San Joaquin, Miag-ao, and Tigbauan in Iloilo before staying overnight in Iloilo City.
On Tuesday Estrada continued his sorties to Passi City and the towns of Barotac Nuevo, Pototan, Calinog, Lambunao and Janiuay in Iloilo accompanied by Ilocos Norte Representative Ferdinand "Bong-Bong" Marcos Jr. and businessman and whistle-blower Jose "Joey" de Venecia III both planning to run for senator.