Battle of Manila: ‘Asiong Salonga’ vs ‘Dirty Harry’By Christian V. Esguerra, Jaymee T. Gamil
Philippine Daily Inquirer
From mayor to president to mayor again.
Former President Joseph Estrada is flirting with the idea of wrapping up his political career the way he started it: as mayor. But this time, he is eyeing the post in Manila where he was born, and not in San Juan City where his family has built a political dynasty.
Estrada, who turns 75 Thursday, said on Wednesday he had yet to make up his mind despite being “encouraged” by different sectors in Manila to seek the mayoralty. He said he would make his decision known within the month, or a year before the 2013 midterm elections.
In case he runs, Estrada said he would prefer to become an “underdog” just like in the movies. The 2013 mayoral race would pit him against Mayor Alfredo Lim, a tough-talking former policeman dubbed Manila’s Dirty Harry.
“I’m more used to uphill battles,” he said. “I prefer to be an underdog. It’s more challenging.”
Lim shrugged off rumors about Estrada running against him and wished him “good luck.” In a TV interview, Lim said: “It’s too early to think about that. Let’s keep working instead.”
Gift-giving in Tondo
On the eve of his birthday, before heading to an orphanage in Paco, Manila, to lunch with children, Estrada gave donations to Payatas in Quezon City, then Baseco compound, Smokey Mountain and Parola, all in Tondo.
He is set to attend Mass and hold another gift-giving activity at Sto. Niño church in Tondo Thursday.
Some Tondo residents shouted “Mayor! Mayor!” as they welcomed him back Wednesday.
Valenzuela Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian, who accompanied Estrada in his Tondo rounds, described the reception as overwhelming. “People mobbed him, and it wasn’t orchestrated,” he said.
“There is a public clamor for him to run. People love him. People know what he’s done as [San Juan city] mayor, senator, vice president and president, and they believe he can help them,” Gatchalian said.
Though admitting he was “overwhelmed” by the gesture, Estrada shrugged off the public clamor, saying: “Dati na ’yan (It’s always been like that.)”
“I never said I was running [for Manila mayor]. I have been popular ever since I was a movie star,” Estrada explained.
Estrada shot down suggestions that the gift-giving was preparation for the midterm elections. “I don’t do this for politics. I’ve done this since I was a mayor [in San Juan]. Even when I was incarcerated, I asked my wife to do this for me.”
Estrada likened the gift-giving to a panata (vow), as thanksgiving for the less fortunate.
The Asociacion de Damas de Filipinas foster home, in particular, has a personal significance because he had it rebuilt when it burned down when he was President, he said.
“My birthday wish is to uplift the state of our people. The poor are growing in number. The population has increased to 94 million, but our income has not. The government and the religious sector need to understand the plight of citizens, and have a population management program,” Estrada said in Filipino.
Binay in Palace
In the phone interview, he said he also “likes the idea” of Vice President Jejomar Binay occupying Malacañang in 2016 and himself serving as mayor of Manila, where the Palace is located, at the same time.
“It would be good. I could easily bring to his attention all the problems of Manila, particularly housing,” he said.
Binay was Estrada’s running mate during his unsuccessful second run for the presidency in 2010. Just recently, their respective political parties joined forces to form the United Nationalist Alliance coalition.
Estrada lamented that Manila had been “left behind” by Makati, Taguig and Quezon City.
“It’s sad because Manila is the capital city. It’s supposed to be a showcase city. It needs urban renewal,” he said.
His voter’s registration remains in Brgy. San Pedro Cruz, San Juan City.
50-50 to run
The former President said he was now more inclined to run for mayor. “Before, it was 60-40, meaning I was 40 percent inclined to run. Now, it’s 50-50,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the phone.
But the chances of Estrada throwing his hat into the political ring seemed much higher, given the way he discussed his plans for Manila “if ever I decide to run.”
Estrada said he didn’t mind the idea of being “relegated” to a mayor when he had already occupied the highest position in the country.
He was elected president in 1998 but was removed by a military-backed people’s uprising in January 2001 while on trial in the Senate impeachment court on corruption and other charges.
“I’m not concerned about stature,” he said. “I don’t care if I [had been] a president. I started my political career as a mayor. Who knows? I might end it as a mayor as well.”
Noting that he was born in Manila, he said the city, particularly the tough neighborhood of Tondo, had a “sentimental value” to him. It was the setting of his first starring role in “Asiong Salonga,” which launched his acting career.
Estrada went on to become a household name among the poor for portraying onscreen characters championing the weak and the downtrodden.
“I want to reciprocate the people of Manila considering their support for me all these years,” he said.
Originally posted at 05:25 pm | Wednesday, April 18, 2012