Vice President Joseph Estrada, a former movie actor, was elected to the presidency with a landslide victory in the 1998 elections, pledging to help the poor and develop the agricultural sector. Under the cloud of the Asian financial crisis which began in 1997, Estrada's wayward governance took a heavy toll on the economy. Unemployment worsened, the budget deficit grew, the currency fell. Eventually, the economy recovered but at a much slower pace than its Asian neighbors.
In late 1999, Estrada waged an all-out war against the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Central Mindanao, which displaced half a million people. In March 2000, the bandit group Abu Sayyaf kidnapped to Basilan 21 hostages, including 10 foreign tourists, from the Sipadan Island resort in neighboring Sabah, Malaysia. They were freed in batches after over $20 million ransom were reportedly paid by the Libyan government.
In October 2000, Estrada was charged of receiving millions of dollars in illegal gambling payoffs. He was impeached by the House of Representatives, but his impeachment trial in the Senate broke down when the senate voted to block examination of the president's bank records. In response, masses of people protested and demanded Estrada's resignation. Estrada's cabinet resigned en masse and the military and police withdrew their support. On January 20, 2001, the Supreme Court declared the presidency vacant and swore in Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the country's fourteenth President.