MANILA, Philippines – Former President Joseph Estrada again played coy on Thursday about his reported plan to run for mayor in Manila in May 2013, but took a dig at erstwhile ally Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.
In his speech during the oath taking of new members of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) in San Juan City, Estrada lamented the current state of the country’s capital.
“For the past 20 years, Manila has been left behind by Makati, Quezon City, Taguig and even San Juan. How has it come to that?” Estrada said.
Estrada , who was born in Tondo and became famous in local cinema for his portrayal of the movie, “Asiong Salonga,” recently bought a house in Manila, dropping hints of challenging Lim in next year’s mayoralty contest.
Lim left Estrada’s PMP after a “falling out” and ran for mayor in the 2010 elections under the ruling Liberal Party.
Estrada has been preparing for his mayoral run for the past few months. Three months ago, reports said he commissioned a University of the Philippines study on the “urban renewal” of Manila.
Last March, he said he was able to convince current Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno to be his running mate, but on the condition that he (Estrada) would serve only for one three-year term.
Still, Estrada could not categorically say if he would run for mayor in Manila. At the Club Filipino Thursday after he sworn in new PMP recruits, he said he would announce his decision whether or not to run for mayor in Manila on May12, which is the last day for him to formally register his permanent residential address in Manila to comply with the required one year residency for him to qualify in the mayoralty race in 2013.
In his speech, the former president did not hide his displeasure at the performance of Lim in running Manila.
“This is not to belittle cops. It’s a good thing I don’t think like a cop… shoot to kill. You don’t handle things that way,” he said, obviously referring to Lim, a former police general. “Maybe Manila needs a complete urban renewal.’’
Estrada said that the 2013 midterm elections would be a testing ground for parties for the 2016 presidential elections.
The Estrada-led PMP, which coalesced with Binay’s PDP-Laban to form the coalition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), took in former Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz’’ Zubiri, Moreno, 28 Manila city councilors, and ex-Solicitor General Frank Chavez as new members.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, PMP chairman, said Estrada would likely run for mayor in Manila. Enrile said the upcoming 2013 mid-term elections would be a preview of the 2016 national elections.
“The 2013 elections are connected with the 2016 elections. The 2013 elections are the testing ground. This is the curtain raiser,” Enrile said.
That’s why, Enrile said, all party members should “march’’ with PDP-Laban members with “a single voice, single cadence, single enthusiasm’’ in the 2013 and 2016 elections, in accordance with the orders of Estrada, PMP chair emeritus.
The coalition between Estrada and Binay’s forces has been seen as a crucial preparation for the latter’s planned crack at the presidency in 2016.
Enrile made it clear that the coalition would be limited to PMP and PDP-Laban to avoid nomination problems at the local level, but would accept individual candidates from any party.
Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now detained at a State-run hospital over electoral sabotage charges, cast a shadow over Zubiri’s entry into the PMP.
Estrada mentioned Arroyo, whom he had accused of masterminding his ouster in 2001, while talking at length about his life story in his keynote address.
“FPJ (the late movie king Fernando Poe Jr.) and I were tough guys in the movies. We didn’t know we’d lose to somebody [of that size],’’ he cracked as he gestured with his hand, drawing applause and laughter.
He said he lost his position to Arroyo, while Poe was allegedly robbed of presidential victory in 2004 by Arroyo.
Estrada, who was convicted of plunder but later pardoned by Arroyo, said he was thankful to God that he had overcome all the difficulties, and that he was free to move around, and speak at gatherings like this.
“I pity her because apparently nobody pities her,’’ he cracked, drawing peals of laughter. “I don’t know if Migz pities her.’’
Speaking of Zubiri, Estrada vouched for his integrity and cleared him of any involvement in the sabotage of the elections in Mindanao in 2007. He said PMP doesn’t accept anybody who is tainted by irregularity or anomaly.
“We’ve investigated Senator Migz. He was only implicated in the fraud, and if he were part of it, he should also be in jail. And since he’s not behind bars, then he’s not part of the electoral sabotage case,’’ he said. “He has no record of irregularity. He’s exhibited good performance.’’
Zubiri said it was unfair for the media to ask him why he had crossed over from Arroyo’s Lakas party to Estrada’s PMP when more prominent politicians had done this ahead of him. He also apologized to Estrada for the scathing words he had said against him in the past.
“We need a party that heals the wounds of the past, not one that judges your personality,’’ he said in his speech.
Estrada and Enrile were optimistic that Sen. Aquilino “Koko’’ Pimentel III of PDP-Laban and Zubiri could thresh out their differences.
In November 2011, the Commission on Elections and the Department of Justice charged Arroyo, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former Comelec officer Lintang Bedol over the allegedly fraudulent 2007 election in Maguindanao. They allegedly conspired to ensure a 12-0 win for administration candidates, including Zubiri.
Zubiri was proclaimed the 12th senatorial winner, but quit in August last year after Bedol admitted the commission of fraud. Pimentel, who placed 13th and filed an electoral protest against him, is now serving the remainder of his term.