MANILA - Former President Joseph Estrada vowed Tuesday to launch an all-out war to end decades of deadly Muslim and communist insurgencies should he be re-elected as president next year.
The tough-talking movie action star, who will formally launch his presidential campaign on Wednesday, said the Southeast Asian nation's economic woes could be cured by bringing peace and order to the often lawless countryside.
"We have to declare an all-out war against insurgencies to earn peace," Estrada, 72, told a United Nations anti-poverty forum of presidential candidates when asked about their priorities should they win.
Estrada was elected in 1998 and, before being ousted from office three years later in a military-backed popular revolt, employed tough policies against Muslim and communist rebels.
He scored some major successes, including capturing the sprawling main base of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Mindanao island.
The military under his command also pressed hard against the communist New People's Army.
Both insurgent groups have been waging rebellions over the past four decades, leading to thousands of deaths and scaring away investors from the countryside.
Estrada's successor, incumbent Gloria Arroyo, launched peace talks with both rebel groups, and even signed a ceasefire with the MILF.
But Estrada said this policy had only emboldened the rebels.
"We talk peace, sign a ceasefire, but insurgencies continue, the bombings continue, the kidnappings continue," he said.
His comments came more than a week after an Irish missionary was kidnapped by gunmen on Mindanao, the latest in a long list of abductions in the south.
Estrada was ousted in 2001 amid allegations of widespread corruption. He was convicted of large-scale graft and sentenced to life in jail in 2007, but Arroyo pardoned and freed him six weeks later.
Estrada is currently running a distant third in opinion polls of candidates for the May 2010 elections, although he still has powerful political supporters and some support among poor Filipinos.
Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, son of late democracy heroine Corazon Aquino, is leading the polls.