MANILA, Philippines?(UPDATE 3) Former president Joseph ?Erap? Estrada made official his presidential comeback bid as he filed his candidacy for president with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Bonifacio Day.
Estrada, who drove a jeep from Liwasang Bonifacio on his way to Comelec to file his certificate of candidacy, said he filed his bid Monday to ?give significance? to the filing by honoring the 146th birthday of revolutionary hero, Andres Bonifacio.
Together with him are his running mate Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, who withdrew plans for presidency and later allied with Estrada, and his wife, former Senator Luisa ?Loi? Ejercito.
Estrada and his supporters were all wearing orange, the color of Nacionalista Party?s Senator Manuel Villar Jr., who formalized his presidential bid earlier this morning.
In Estrada?s senatorial slate are Senators Juan Ponce-Enrile and Jose ?Jinggoy? Estrada, Agusan Del Sur Representative Rodolfo Plaza, Jose De Venecia III, Apolinario ?Jun? Lozada, and JV Bautista.
His party has three guest candidates for senator: Senators Miriam Santiago and Ramon ?Bong? Revilla (who are also guest candidates under NP), and retired Brigadier General Danny Lim.
Former labor secretary Bienvenido Laguesma and Grace Poe have backed out of the senatorial race while actor Rez Cortez is still under consideration.
Both Estrada and Binay vowed to return power to the masses by offering ?new leadership? to rebuild the country that was ?mismanaged for over eight years? under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Estrada and Binay unveiled the United Opposition's platform of government, mainly focused on pro-poor initiatives, during a program at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila before filing their bids.
Legal debates arose after Estrada declared months ago that he would take another shot at the presidency, claiming he was ?disrupted? from his term in 2001. Lawyers who drafted the 1987 constitution said the ousted president is ?ineligible? to run ?for any re-election.?
Asked to comment on this, Comelec legal chief Ferdinand Rafanan said the poll body has a ministerial duty to accept all presidential bids filed within the set period, however, like anyone's candidacy, the former president's ?can be challenged.?
?It must also be noted that all candidacies can be challenged by any person. While it is true that Comelec has a ministerial duty to accept all candidacies filed, the Comelec is also mandated to include only those qualified on the official list of candidates for the 2010 elections,? he told INQUIRER.net.
Estrada maintained he is qualified to seek re-election for president since he was unable to finish his term in 2001.
If there is someone who cannot seek re-election, he said it was President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because she is an incumbent and is about to finish her six-year term, aside from the previous three and a half years when she succeeded Estrada.
?Based on my understanding, the provision in the constitution states that any president cannot seek re-election applies for incumbent president. I was only able to serve for two and a half years, and I am not an incumbent president so that rule does not apply to me. If you remember, the late president Cory Aquino apologized to me before (regarding the ouster),? said Estrada.
?I have consulted with legal luminaries and they said that I am eligible for president. We have studied this and we are ready to face the challenges and charges that they would file to try to disqualify me. We have prepared for this for over a year,? he added.
Estrada said his party would advance pro-poor programs especially social services for health, education, and peace and order.
Had he been the president until now, he said the election-related Maguindanao massacre would not have happened, citing the iron rule with which he tried to control the Muslim separatists.
Estrada said that during his rule, he was able to overrun the 46 camps of Moro Islamic Liberation Front, including Camp Abu Bakr.
?That would never happen under my rule. I believe for us to move on we have to secure peace and order,? he said.
Estrada added he was confident to have the vote of the masses, who caused his win in the 1998 elections with 11 million votes.
He pointed out the masses continued their support for him even when he was charged with plunder. Proof of this is that though he was jailed when he made his endorsement for his wife Senator Luisa ?Loi? Estrada and son Senator Jose ?Jinggoy? Estrada, both won seats in the Upper House.
Binay said he and Estrada are the real ?pro-poor party? despite claims by other parties that they advocate the rights of the poor.
?We owe a lot to the masses?especially the overseas Filipino workers with their remittance?who have kept the economy afloat despite the fiscal crisis,? said Estrada.