SAN JUAN, Philippines (JGL) – On his 78th birthday celebration April 19 in his long-time residence in Greenhills, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada let his new, 20-minute video clip, “Destiny & Legacy, Building Our Tomorrow Today, Forward Manila,” do the talking.
Although the clip produced by his brother, Jessie Ejercito, did not provide clue of Erap’s political aspirations in 2016, it summed up Erap’s accomplishments that can be handy if he decides to open his campaign either for his re-election bid for Manila mayor or take another plunge in the presidential race.
Huwag muna natin pag-usapan yan. (Let’s not talk about it.) Erap demurred when this reporter pressed him for comment if he still entertains plans to regain the presidency during a luncheon and merienda he hosted to a small circle of close family and friends at his massive residence.
“You may just take a copy of video clip with you in the U.S. and spread the word around,” the former action star-turned-political veteran added.
On paper (newspapers and other news media), Erap announced he wanted to run for re-election for another three years as Manila mayor, taking back his word that he was a one-term mayor after he was elected.
He read his mayoral election as a vindication after he was forced out of the presidency by a conspiracy hatched by his critics in what was later called “EDSA People Power II.”
A friend of Mayor Estrada, Dr. Primitivo D. Chua, regent of the Unibersidad De Manila, the second public university of Manila after Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, told this reporter over dinner with friends Crispin K. Go, Osmundo Dizon, Jr., Romy L. Molina and Manila Bulletin’s Nate C. Barreto that because former Mayor Alfredo S. Lim, Amado Bagatsing and former Mayor and now Party List Representative Lito Atienza are exploring the possibility of wresting the Manila mayoral post from Erap, this scenario challenged Estrada to run for re-election as Estrada’s incumbent termed-out Vice Mayor Isko (Domagoso) Moreno may lose out in a four-cornered mayoral race.
Another close friend and supporter of Mayor Estrada, former Mindoro Occidental Lone District Rep. Ricardo “Ding” Quintos said although Estrada has a 78-year-old body, Erap can still withstand the rigors not only of the Manila mayoral campaign, which is actually “harder,” but also a national campaign which Estrada breezed thru in the 2010 presidential race when Erap came second to now President Noynoy Aquino. Erap has to thank the “stem-cell” treatment for his stamina.
Highlights of the video include former President Cory Aquino, SEC Chair Perfecto Yasay, Jr. and Bishop Antonio Tobias apologizing to President Estrada for supporting his ouster during the EDSA II People Power Revolution, which was supported by a military coup in connivance with the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and major business groups.
Another highlight was Erap getting Manila on the black. After inheriting a bankrupt administration that was P3.5-B (US$79.5M) in arrears, Erap launched an urban renewal by getting the “Seal of Good Governance” in good financial house cleaning, disaster preparedness, social protection, peace and order, business friendliness and environmental management chalking up 65 out of possible 70 indicators.
He also made Manila one of only two cities with an updated schedule of values and compliant tax rates of real property, increasing the total collection of taxes to P9.3-B (US$211-M) or an increase of 45%; out of this collection was a P2.2-B (US$50-M) from real property tax or 52%; an increase of business tax collection by P3.5-B (US$79.5M) or 25%; unpaid disbursement vouchers of P446-M (US$10.1-M) that were fully paid; retired the debt of P613-M (US$13.9-M) to Meralco; with a total unpaid obligation of P44-B (US$1-B) being “pared down without sacrificing the budget for basic services.”
Estrada pledged that by the end of the second year, “the City of Manila will be debt-free” thanks to computerized tax collection. He also vowed to let Manila’s Finest live up to its name by maintaining peace and order and become the “top police district” in Metro Manila.” He also earned plaudits by going to Hong Kong to apologize to restive Hong Kong people reeling under the hostage crisis that was mishandled by his predecessor. Estrada brought a check to assuage the feelings of the heirs of eight Hong Kong tourists, who died during the tragedy.
“ORANGE HEALTH CARD”
Estrada also launched socialized medicine by giving away “orange health card” and put up a “dialysis center” where the “poorest of the poor can get free and adequate heath service;” constructed infrastructure and urban renewal projects, where the city will work on 18 city roads, build more new schools, rehabilitate Manila Zoo and the Manila South Cemetery; and install solar lights that will turn “Manila into a green city of lights.”
During the merienda, Erap disclosed that after he was toppled from presidency, President Arroyo and then Secretary of Justice Hernani Perez gave him an option to go abroad and be free of any criminal or civil cases for as long as he signed away his resignation from the presidency. “Of course, I did not sign it because Arroyo’s takeover was illegitimate.”
Erap also told his Ateneo grade school mate, Servillano “Boy” Batac, that when he accepted the challenge of their grade school mate, Patrick “Amboy” Hilton, to rumble inside a comfort room (toilet) in Ateneo, he locked the door to make sure nobody would interfere during their mano a mano (hand to hand) combat. “But I did not know Hilton would beat me to a pulp,” he recalled.
Erap also disclosed names of some of his girl friends, who dumped him because he had no “kalansing” (money) although I had a “romancing” (sex appeal). These ladies, he said, never had foresight of Dr. Loi Estrada, who took him as her boyfriend and married him although “I had no kalansing, then.”