BAGUIO CITY—An old face in Philippine politics emerges on stage, not at all as rundown as the Baguio Convention Center here, waving to the raucous crowd with one hand in his pocket, his typical pose.
Former President Joseph Estrada—deposed in 2001, charged with plunder and pardoned seven years later—is in familiar territory. It’s another election season and the campaign is his stage in a continuing crusade to redeem himself.
At the age of 75, the movie action star turned politician was clearly in his element during the United Nationalist Alliance rally on Sunday night. He cracked one “Eraption” after another with impeccable timing and delivery, even if many of them had been heard before.
But with UNA candidates slipping out of the winning circle based on recent surveys, can a vintage Erap infuse life into their campaign?
Estrada believes he could still be a factor, especially with Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile—the so-called three kings of the UNA.
“I’m doing my best to help the ticket,” he told the Inquirer in a recent interview.
By March 30, the start of the campaign period for local candidates in the May elections, Estrada is expected to have more on his plate. He is running for mayor of Manila, and he’s up against reelectionist Mayor Alfredo Lim—filmdom’s “Asiong Salonga” taking on the man known as “Dirty Harry.”
Estrada’s proclamation rally is set at Liwasang Bonifacio on Easter Sunday, the eve of April Fool’s Day, in an event he dubbed, “Happy Easterada.”
In the meantime, he is all business with the UNA, whose senatorial lineup includes his son, San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito.
Given his own commitments in his mayoral run, Estrada could join only major UNA campaign sorties. But whenever he is around, he is the undisputed star of the UNA show, as was the case here last weekend. In motorcades and in the ensuing rally in the evening, he was the main attraction, the senatorial candidates his supporting cast.
Not that they mind it, especially with Estrada bringing the power of his political endorsement for each UNA candidate.
But first they all had to listen to his story.
Estrada spent the first half of his campaign remarks recalling how the ruling class (“naghaharing uri”) purportedly conspired to unseat him in 2001.
Apologies from Cory
Estrada is convinced he had found redemption when the late President Corazon Aquino, Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias (whom he mistakenly referred to as “archi-bishop”), and ex-Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Perfecto Yasay all apologized to him for Edsa II.
Videos of these apologies were shown on a huge screen providing a dramatic entrance for Estrada, who later told the crowd in Filipino: “I am confident to face you because I am innocent. I stole not a single centavo.”
It’s only after he had unburdened himself on the events of 12 years ago that he began making a pitch for the UNA candidates one by one.
“I won’t face you tonight and endorse them if they are tainted with any anomaly,” said Estrada, who made an amazing run for the presidency in the 2010 elections, placing second in the balloting.
With everything said and done, Estrada retired to his seat, yielding the spotlight to his son, the second to follow his footsteps to the Senate, and who knows where else.