Philippine ex-president shoots movie

Asks for equal treatment on the set

MANILA, Philippines -- Former Philippine President Joseph Estrada, once an action movie star, is returning to the big screen with his first film since he was toppled on corruption charges.

"I am back. I am happy," Estrada told ABS-CBN television, the sister company of film maker Star Cinema. "This is where I came from, where I became known."

Estrada, 72, on Wednesday started filming a comedy about a minibus driver trying to deal with his daughter's plans to marry her Filipino-American boyfriend.

"He really thinks that the poor, who are already suffering, should not be made to cry some more in the movies," spokeswoman Margaux Salcedo said. "He wants to make them happy, even if only briefly."

Estrada built his political career as a champion of the poor, largely based on his movie roles as an underdog. He rose from town mayor to senator to vice president before taking the presidency.

He stepped down amid massive protests in 2001 after serving only half of his six-year term. He was convicted of "plunder" in September 2007 but was immediately granted a pardon by his successor and political nemesis, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Estrada has said he will consider running for president again next year and that the constitutional ban on a second term does not apply to him.

Estrada, with his trademark mustache, pompadour and wristband, is a Filipino movie hall-of-famer, having starred in more than 100 films.

His last movie, "Sa Kuko ng Agila (In the Eagle's Claws)" -- made in 1989 while he was a senator -- portrays him as another minibus driver who opposes U.S. military bases in the Philippines.

Estrada said he felt uneasy Wednesday with the modern "high-tech equipment" on the set.

Toni Gonzaga, who plays his daughter, said she was honored to work with the former president.

"I am speechless. He is really a classic actor," she said.

They were shooting a scene inside a jeepney, the ubiquitous Filipino minibus that was originally fashioned from surplus World War II U.S. jeeps.

Director Wenn Deramas also praised Estrada, saying he didn't need second takes for his scenes.

He said Estrada gave specific instructions that he be treated like other actors.
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