Is Manila ready for a “Happy Easterada”?
With the campaign period for local candidates set to begin on Black Saturday, former President and now Manila mayoral candidate Joseph “Erap” Estrada is all business for his showdown with the incumbent Alfredo Lim, who is seeking a third and final term.
Estrada’s proclamation rally is set the following day at Liwasang Bonifacio, an event he called Happy Easterada.
But whether he would indeed be happy at the end of the race depends on how much the 75-year-old Estrada has left in his political fuel tank.
“Win or lose, this will be my last hurrah,” he told the Inquirer on Wednesday.
Estrada started out as San Juan mayor in 1969, became a Senator in 1987, Vice President in 1992 and then President in 1998. But this peak in his political career also saw his steepest downfall with his ouster from Malacañang on corruption charges in 2001. He was later convicted for plunder and pardoned by his successor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2007.
He ran for president again in 2010 but lost to then Sen. Benigno Aquino III. Estrada placed second in that race and finished ahead of early favorite Sen. Manuel Villar.
Though this comeback performance fell short, the Estrada camp still considered it a moral victory. “Remember that I basically had the same number of votes in 2010 and when I first ran (for President) in 1998,” he said.
In his view, Mr. Aquino owed his victory to the public sympathy over the death of his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, the year before the elections.
The votes he continued to get, he said, “all came from the poor. They never abandoned me.”
The former movie star said he is returning the favor by again running for public office, this time as mayor of what he maintained to be the city of his birth.
“Mamamatay at mabubuhay si Erap, ngunit hinding-hindi makakabayad sa mahihirap (Erap can come and go, but he can never do enough to repay the poor),” he said, mouthing an old campaign mantra.
On his upcoming contest with Lim, Estrada said he looks forward to a good, clean fight and admitted that their earlier verbal skirmishes in public debates had gone below the belt.
Estrada insisted that his ouster in 2001 is a thing of the past and that his new focus is the state of Manila during Lim’s six years in office.
Manila has become “madi-lim” (dark), he said, spicing things up with a pun. “It’s not hard to see how bad Manila’s condition has become. Just look around and tell me if what you see is good.”