LEGAZPI CITY?Former president Joseph Estrada launched his ?new? ?JEEP ni Erap? on Friday, the first of a series in the country as the 2010 elections draw nearer.
A close friend, actor Paquito Diaz, a resident of Daraga, Albay was among those who joined the ?JEEP ni Erap? motorcade during its launching at the Legazpi Airport.
Estrada, who arrived in a private plane with former senator Ernie Maceda and Gina de Venecia, wife of former House Speaker Jose de Venecia, is touted as one of the presidential candidates in the coming elections.
The former president, however, said he was only up to 10 percent sure if he would run for the highest position in the land.
The former president was welcomed by his supporters carrying placards that read: ?Presidente Erap Mahal Ka Namin,? and ?Kay Erap Pa Rin Kami.?
?We will try our best and exert all our effort to find ways so that Erap qualifies to run for president,? former Agrarian Reform Secretary Horacio ?Boy? Morales told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net).
Morales said Estrada was the most qualified and also a consistent opposition leader ?unlike those who pose to be opposition but are actually behind the present administration.?
Estrada said he visited the Bicol region because his supporters which consist of the ?masa? (ordinary people) have been longing to see him after his six-year jail term.
?JEEP ni Erap,? which stands for citizen?s movement for Justice, Economy, Environment and Peace is the mass-based support group of Estrada which helped him rise to the presidency in 1998.
?JEEP is not a political organization but we strongly support Erap because he upholds the advocacies of JEEP and based on our study, what the country still needs is economic reform due to the current crisis,? said Morales.
Morales, who conceptualized ?JEEP ni Erap?, said they visited Bicol to re-launch and revitalize the group?s continuing advocacy.
He said the use of an eight-cylinder Ford E-150 converted into a jeepney best symbolizes their advocacy.
There are many other jeepney units of the same make and design still undergoing finishing touches at the factory which will be deployed to other areas of the country for relaunching, he added.
Started in 1997, JEEP continues with its ?trips? across all provinces in the country. Morales, however, said Estrada has yet to endorse local candidates.
Morales explained that the objective was to promote the agenda for social change, social development, and national renewal through peace and sustainable economic development.
From the airport, Estrada made a courtesy call on Albay governor Joey Salceda before proceeding to the Legazpi City Public Market, Daraga Public Market, and the town of Guinobatan and Ligao City.
Salceda, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?s economic adviser, said that ?Estrada?s presence in Bicol is part of a national campaign and is very much political and partisan but democracy has enough space for civility and friendship.?