As an action film star, Mr. Joseph Estrada was constantly dodging perils. Last week, he made another escape; this time for real. The former president of the Philippines walked out of jail after being amnestied by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. This act of clemency may be more than it seems: It looks like an attempt to curry favor with the opposition as Mrs. Arroyo faces her own scandals.

Elected in 1998, Mr. Estrada was a populist who played up the underdog image that he had developed as a film star. Mrs. Arroyo, an experienced politician from a long family of politicians, served as vice president and became the repository of elite hopes during Mr. Estrada’s stormy populist reign.

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