Estrada ‘drops’ plan to run for Manila mayor’s post–-as of now
There will be no showdown between “Dirty Harry” and “Asiong Salonga.” At least for now.
Claiming he has “nothing more to prove” in the political arena, deposed President Joseph “Erap” Estrada on Friday indicated he might not be running for mayor of Manila after all.
The movie star-turned-politician who after his ignominious ouster in 2001 and conviction for plunder in 2007, has been at pains to prove his political staying power, said he might just focus on campaigning for the candidates of the new United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
But true to his tough-guy screen image, Estrada made it clear that he was not changing his plans for fear of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, the ex-police general whose real-life exploits as a hard-nosed police chief earned him the sobriquet of “Dirty Harry,” after the Clint Eastwood police hero.
“Lim might think I’m afraid of him,” said Estrada, who rose to movie idol prominence when he played the Tondo toughie, Asiong Salonga, in the 1960s.
Lim was “never a factor” in his decision “because of the fact that he has not done anything, no vision, no development for Manila,” he said.
Estrada said he might just decide to support the mayoral run of Manila Vice Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno, his choice of running mate if he had decided to run. He said Moreno will be taking his oath as a member of his Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) next week.
“I know that Manila needs young blood,” he said.
In an interview at his San Juan residence on Friday, Estrada continued to dither, refusing to be pinned down on his Manila electoral plans.
Asked if the Inquirer could now report that he was no longer running and that he would endorse Moreno, he said: “Maybe.”
Was his decision final? “More or less,” he replied.
He phoned the Inquirer later that afternoon to say that he was still leaving the “door open” for a possible mayoral run. He said he would make a “final decision in two weeks’ time.”
Estrada, 75, gave the impression of a man torn between spending the rest of his political life as an elder statesman, and ending it exactly the way he started it. He began as a mayor then moved on to become a senator, vice president and later, president.
Last Tuesday, he said over the phone that he was “now preparing for my mayoral run.” He said a formal announcement could come in a month.
But a series of consultations with his family and close allies in the next three days appeared to have given him pause.
Binay’s, sons’ advice
Among those he consulted was Vice President Jejomar Binay, who advised him to focus on endorsing UNA candidates.
Estrada said his sons, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and San Juan Rep. Jose Victor Ejercito, had also told him that he had “nothing more to prove.”
In a meeting of top UNA leaders earlier this week, Estrada said Binay pointed to the combined strength of their endorsement power in the 2013 midterm elections, as shown by the results of a recent Pulse Asia survey.
In the survey, 73 percent of the respondents said they would vote for candidates endorsed by the Vice President, while 51 percent said they would go for bets backed by Estrada.
President Aquino emerged second with 66 percent of the respondents saying they would follow his endorsement.
“If we combine 73 and 51,(that) is 124. So our bets are really at an advantage (‘llamadong llamado’),” Estrada said.
That’s why the Vice President has advised him not to run anymore, “because we will be endorsing all the candidates of UNA all over the country.”
Estrada said Binay’s concern is that he might be “confined” to Manila—and therefore lose his endorsing power—if he runs for mayor.
“I have to sacrifice myself,” he said, noting that the opinions of Binay and his two sons carried “a lot of weight.”
“I’ve made a lot of sacrifices for the good of the country,” he said.
One term not enough
Estrada admitted to have been preparing for his mayoral run for the past few months. Three months ago, he commissioned a University of the Philippines study on the “urban renewal” of Manila, similar to a study he had commissioned for San Juan City when he first ran for mayor there.
Last March, he said he was able to convince Moreno to be his running mate, but on the condition that he (Estrada) would serve only for one three-year term. A mayor can be reelected for two more terms and serve for a total of nine years.
“I told him that I’ll run only for one term. I promised him that because this (will be) his last term as vice mayor and of course, he (also) has that ambition to become mayor,” Estrada said.
“But this time, I’m thinking of just giving it to him so I can concentrate on campaigning for the UNA candidates,” he said.
Last Wednesday, Estrada said he had spoken with Moreno, who broached the possibility of getting him to support his own mayoral run. “He asked if I could help him,” he said.
Estrada said the UP study was also a factor in his decision. Considering his arrangement with Moreno, his term of three years would not be enough to “change Manila, make it a showcase city.”
To complete the urban renewal plan, he said he would need a full nine-year term, but it would mean breaking his promise to Moreno, who could make a run for a third and final term as vice mayor next year.
“I was really definite on running (but) I also saw the study. I cannot finish it in one term. Mabibitin lang ako,” he said.