That was how the former president on Sunday described his decision to run for mayor of Manila in the May 13 national elections, all but shutting the door on another possible political run three years from now.
“This is my last hurrah. No more, no way,” Estrada said in a phone interview amid speculation that he still might hanker for a grand ending to his political career by again running for president in 2016.
“I believe that public service has no boundaries,” he said. “I promised to serve the masses until the last breathe of my life and I can serve them even if I am just a barangay captain.”
The interview coincided with the anniversary of Estrada’s removal from power on Jan. 20, 2001, at the height of street protests, which occurred during his impeachment trial on corruption charges.
Back to the people
Three months shy of 76, Estrada is now one of the pillars of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), an opposition coalition which has touted Vice President Jejomar Binay as its presidential bet for 2016.
Born on April 19, 1937, Estrada was 17 years old when he starred in his first major film, “Kandelerong Pilak,” under LVN pictures. Thirteen years later, he forayed into politics, winning the mayoralty race in San Juan at the age of 30. He topped this by winning the presidency in 1998.
A native of Tondo, he is now running for mayor in the city where he was born.
“Studies have shown that the highest rate of poverty in Manila is in Tondo and I plan to change (that),” Estrada said. “It’s time to give back to the people who stayed behind me.”
‘A terrible mistake’
Estrada said he felt “vindicated” since President Benigno Aquino III took power in 2010 because former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who took over the presidency after his downfall, was herself now in detention.
He claimed his appeal to the masses had been validated by his strong showing in the 2010 presidential election, when he finished runnerup to Mr. Aquino.
He pointed out that while almost everybody celebrates the anniversary of the first Edsa People Power revolution every February, “nobody comes out in the street for Edsa Dos, probably because they are ashamed about participating in what has turned out to be a terrible mistake.”
He was referring to the 2001 popular uprising that brought him down and swept Arroyo into power.
“It’s poetic justice,” Estrada said of the “jailing” of Arroyo.
Arroyo, currently a Pampanga representative, is under hospital arrest. She has been accused of electoral sabotage in the 2004 elections, illegal diversion of charity funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, and taking bribes in the aborted $329-million National Broadband Network-ZTE Corp. deal.
“Let the courts decide her fate,” he said. “I never regretted stepping down from office to avoid bloodshed in the street. It was an expensive lesson not only for me but for the masses…. It was a lost decade.”
“The only benefit I received during that time was I became closer to God,” added Estrada, who has fathered several children outside marriage.
Loyal through the years
Estrada said he felt proud that the masses had not abandoned him.
“The people who believed me when I started out in politics despite criticisms that I was ‘bakya’ (unlettered) have remained loyal through all my trials,” he said.
Referring to President Aquino, Estrada said in a statement: “I must give credit where it is due and applaud P-Noy. His father fought for our freedom, his mother fought for our democracy and now he has fought for justice for the Filipino people.”
“P-Noy continued the fight of his mother against corruption and took this a step further and put GMA behind bars.” With Inquirer Research