Will age be a factor in Manila’s mayoral contest?
MANILA, Philippines — Two octogenarians and someone half their age are slugging it out for the highest seat of the City of Manila, the nation’s capital.
Joseph “Erap” Estrada, the former president and incumbent mayor who is seeking reelection, is turning 82 years old tomorrow. His top challengers are Alfredo Lim, a former senator and city mayor who is 89, and ex-city Vice Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso who is 44.
While on the campaign trail, the former allies turn rivals don’t just bank on their platforms and projects. They also discuss their age, particularly Domagoso who believes that his youth gives him an edge over his opponents.
But does age really matter in Manila’s mayoral race?
The Inquirer sought one-on-one interviews with all three candidates but only Domagoso obliged.
Estrada’s public information officer Bambi Purisima said the mayor was “busy with his campaign.”
A request to observe Estrada for a day on the campaign trail was also turned down. Lim’s aide, on the other hand, said that only his chief of staff would be available for interviews.
In his talk with the Inquirer, Domagoso, a former actor before he went into politics, said that mayors needed a “certain energy and physical capacity” to effectively govern a city.
These, according to him, were something Lim and Estrada did not possess anymore.
“You know, people do not look for the President. But as mayor, you are the ally of the people. You look after their immediate and long-term needs,” he said.
Based on his experience as vice mayor to both Estrada and Lim, Domagoso said the two officials worked “day in, day out.”
“One day, they would be at city hall but the next day, they would be out,” he quipped.
“A mayor needs to be at city hall [in order] to govern and to create a lot of programs. You also need to go out into the streets to know the real situation in our communities,” he said.
Domagoso cited as an example how the city government tackled the garbage collection program only after someone complained about it on social media.
“If you’re a mayor who attends to the needs of the city daily, then you would have known the problem beforehand,” he said.
Without naming names, Moreno asked “old” politicos to retire and give way to the new generation of leaders. After all, he stressed, most Metro mayors were young bloods.
In previous interviews, Estrada and Lim had stressed that despite their age, they remained willing and able to govern the city.
In a chance encounter with the Inquirer on March 10, Estrada downplayed calls for old politicians to retire, saying that age had nothing to do with one’s fitness for political office.
“This is not sports. It’s not how fast you can run but how fast you can think for the good of the people,” he said.
When asked about his thoughts on being old, Estrada, who had undergone a knee operation in the past, dismissed the query.
“That’s not a question,” he said before breaking into a dance. With both hands on his head, he started twirling his hips before asking the Inquirer: “Who’s old now?”
Estrada said he was not worried about the polls because he believed the people would judge candidates not on how old they were but on what they had done for the city.
Like Estrada, Lim said that reputation should determine the victory of candidates, not their age.
In a dialogue with senior citizens in Tondo on the first day of the campaign period on March 29, Lim, a former policeman, said he could “take on anyone’s challenge for a marathon, weight lifting and the like.”
“Why? Won’t you get old, too? You mean, you will just get rid of your parents if they grow old? Remember this, people who don’t look back at their past won’t get to where they want to go,” he said.
For Moreno, however, it’s not only about physical strength, but the mental ability to have a vision for uplifting the city and its residents.
“We should not settle for passive leadership anymore,” he said.
See the bigger picture with the Inquirer's live in-depth coverage of the election here https://inq.ph/Election2019
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