MANILA (JGL) – After four decades in politics, 77-year-old Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada still feels that he still has many more years of public service left ahead of him.
Taking a page from his idol, President Ronald Reagan, who was asked if he was going to run for re-election and saying, “No. I am not going to run. I want to retire when I can no longer carry my own luggage,” Estrada told this reporter that if ever he retires from politics, “I want to retire when I can still make love.”
“Wala ka na ngang magawa kung retired ka na (You are already left doing nothing when you had retired), why limit your ambition to carrying a luggage,” he asked.
The “love” that keeps Estrada’s fire in his belly is his love to transform Manila back to its old glory. Believing that a “quitter never wins,” he is on course to keep Manilenos back on their feet.
Left with a proverbial empty bag by his predecessor, Mayor Alfredo Lim, Estrada found out that when he took over the City a year ago, the City owes Meralco (Manila Electric Company) 613-million pesos (US$14-M); the City was found by Commission on Audit in arrears by P3.5-B (US$79.5-M) although its cash holdings were placed at P1.006-B) (US$22.7-M); unpaid bill of P33,633,186.06 (US$764,390) and unpaid previous Year’s Obligation (PYO) amounting to P24,137,756.82 (US$548,585) by Maynilad Water Services, Inc. for a total of P57,770,942.88 (US$1.3-M) and Bureau of Internal Revenue tax liabilities of Manila for taxable year 2007 amounting to P684,418,057.76 (US$15.6-M) with interest computed up to April 15, 2014.
As a result of the deficit, Mayor Estrada has stopped hiring casuals and regular employees, which are composed of 11,000 employees. “We don’t have money to pay for the salaries of new employees,” Estrada said.
Like the mythical Hercules, Estrada had no choice but to clean Manila’s Augean Stable when he found it.
Slowly but surely, he is trying to make a dent in its City’s tax collection, according to City treasurer, Liberty Toledo.
For instance in the City’s RPT (Real Property Tax) IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment), she was able to collect P6,236,237,807.81 (US$141-M) from January 2 to April 25, 2014 although the prior administration was able to collect for the whole of 2012 P7-B (US$140-M), according to Fritz Yenko, head of Manila’s General Services.
Estrada said his recent trip to Hong Kong was not only to apologize to the Hong Kong government and to the survivors of a botched rescue by Manila police to tourists held hostage by a Manila policeman but was also aimed at enticing Hong Kong tourists back to Manila and the Philippines. Eight Chinese tourists died at that time.
“We are not talking about compensating the tourist victims here,” Ike Gutierrez, Estrada’s consultant, told this reporter. “The lives of tourists are priceless. Manila could not probably compensate the victims. But you know Erap (nickname of Estrada), wants to give abuloy (token donation) to those who died to assuage the feelings of the relatives of the victims.”
In extending a sincere apology to the surviving relatives of the Hong Kong tourists, their families and the Hong Kong government, Erap was able to regain the trust of the Hong Kong government. The government is now on course to lift the threat of sanctions against the Philippines, ranging from the government’s ban against tourists to the Philippines, tourist visa restrictions to Filipinos going to Hong Kong and, of course, restrictions of working visas to more than 160,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) in Hong Kong.
The decision of Estrada to apologize was a rebuke to the decision of President Noynoy Aquino, who went on denial by not extending an apology to the mishandling of the hostage crisis by Erap’s predecessor, Mayor Lim, who was administratively penalized by Aquino’s trusted Local Government and Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo before Robredo died in a plane crash.
C-IN-C SHRIEKING FROM RESPONSIBILITY
Commander-in-Chief Aquino has forgotten the Truman admonition that “the buck stops at the President” under the command responsibility doctrine.
Aside from tourists, Estrada has also in mind attracting business investors and donors to the capital city with his apology.
“The City of Manila has received offers from businessmen to put up high-rise condominium buildings, construction of SM mall in place of Central Market without the city spending a cent and donation of 10,000 Solar street lights from South Korean investors to replace the expensive Meralco electric lights,” Estrada said.
Some investors from Canada put together by Filipino Canadian investors are also planning to offer Manila a modernized waste management system (Plasco Energy Group) that will not only generate energy from the wastes but will restrict expansion of the ever burgeoning need to locate, relocate and expand additional spaces to dump Manila’s garbage. This is going to be Public Private Partnership legacy project of Estrada. He referred this project to his City Engineer, Robert Bernardo, for further consideration and study.
Another group of investors from California are going to propose to Mayor Estrada installation of solar panels at City Hall and other government buildings to cut down on the City’s electricity and power consumption.
Saying that there is “no economic growth without peace and order,” Estrada is bent on implementing a “one-strike” policy against kotong (extorting) cops.
Aside from reinstating some Manila police officers, who were placed in “floating” (relieved of their duties) status by Mayor Lim due to suspicion that these officers curried favors of Estrada during the Manila mayoral campaign elections, Estrada is planning to install some 385 CCTV (Close Circuit Television) cameras on major Manila street intersections not only to monitor congested traffic but also to catch kotong”cops and document criminal activities around the metropolis of millions of people.
CCTV CAPTURES EXTORTION, CLEARS TRAFFIC
“Some of our CCTV cameras that were initially installed have already captured in real time a Manila police officer receiving extortion money from vendors and cleared up congested traffic,” an excited Estrada told this reporter. “We already dismissed the kotong cop.”
“We expect to catch more of the same once all the CCTV cameras are all installed not only in Manila streets but also on all business establishments doing business in Manila.”
Among those officers who are going to be given re-assignments, probably in Police Station No. 3 (Central Market), were Col. Luis R. Francisco, Jr. and SPO3 Felizardo “Dodie” Estrada, both formerly of Police Station No. 10 in Pandacan, who were relieved by Mayor Lim shortly after providing security escorts to then mayoral candidate Estrada.
Dodie Estrada is the younger brother of voice impersonator Filipino American Ronnie Estrada of Quezon City and San Jose, California.
To keep Manila police officers vulnerable from kotong activities, Mayor Estrada made good his promise to provide a lump sum four-month P10,000 (US$227) allowance to each Manila police rank and file and eight kilos of rice at a cost of P27.8-M (US$613,000) during his birthday last April 19th. “Di ba dapat ako ang ni-reregaluhan? (Isn’t is that I am supposed to receive a gift on my birthday?),” he said in a soliloquy.
Each policeman is going to receive P2,500 monthly allowance. Basic pay for an entry-level policeman is P20,000 salary a month.
“Umaasa ako na susuklian ng mga kapulisan and benepisio na ibinigay sa kanila ng Maynila ng tapat at kapaki-pakinabangan na serbisyo (I hope our (2,800-member) police officers will appreciate the generosity of the City government with loyalty and fruitful public service.) to boost their morale,” Estrada appealed. City Hall is being secured by former San Juan police officer, Police Chief Inspector Bernabe Adora Irinco, Jr., whose tour of assignment is determined by the Philippine National Police.
RETURNING MANILA’S FINEST BACK
“I want to bring Manila’s Finest back on the street.” Estrada said. He adds that Manila is now the worst police force in the metropolis for being involved in kidnapping, carnapping and other criminalities.
Under his watch, Estrada already relieved four station commanders and he hopes it will be it.
But he is facing trouble brought about by his truck ban during daytime. “How can trucks deliver their goods when Pier operation is closed at night?” an exasperated businesswoman dealing with Customs goods from Hong Kong to Manila asked this reporter.
On the other hand, someone whose business were opened at night to decongest the vendors, Estrada is getting round applause with the opening of Divisoria Market at night.
“We are not only collecting P2-Million a month from vendors at P1,800 business permit each, we are able to clear up the streets of Divisoria that used to be occupied by vendors.”
Aside from peace and order, Estrada wants to provide Manila residents with affordable health care services by the City’s three public hospitals, namely Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital, San Lazaro Hospital and Philippine General Hospitals and the 64 health lying-in centers.
And he wants to provide a boost on education, which consists of 103 public elementary and high schools, three universities, including the flag-ship Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, for the general welfare of the people, which he said “is the supreme law of the land.”
If Estrada could make good all his plans for Manila, the clamor for him to make a bid for presidency in 2016 will not be far-fetched.
Photo 1: ZERO TOLERANCE ON KOTONG: Manila Mayor Joseph E. Estrada reminds the public that if they have any extortion (kotong) complaint against Manila police officers, they can just dial the listed phone numbers. (JGLPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)
Photo 2: RIGHTING THE WRONG: Manila Mayor Joseph E. Estrada tries to right the wrong committed by former Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim when he re-instated back to their positions Col. Luis R. Francisco, Jr. (second from left) and Francisco’s subordinate, SPO3 Felizardo “Dodie” Estrada (extreme left), who were relieved of their duties on suspicion that they curried favors to Mayor Estrada while providing security escorts during the last mayoral elections. Looking on at right is long-time Estrada spokesperson, Ike Gutierrez, now consultant to the Mayor. (JGLPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)
Photo 3: REUNION OF OLD FRIENDS: Manila Mayor Joseph E. Estrada (left) welcomes an old friend, Joseph G. Lariosa (right), who covered Estrada as a movie star and later as San Juan Mayor at Manila City Hall recently. Lariosa was in Manila to cover the state visit of President Obama in Malacanang for Philippine Star and outlets of his Journal GlobaLinks, a news agency based in Chicago, Illinois. (JGLPhoto)
Photo 4: TRAFFIC & CRIME MONITORING: Manila Mayor Joseph E. Estrada explains that traffic and criminalities in Manila are getting easier to untangle and spot, thanks to magic of CCTV (closed circuit television) monitor he installed in his Manila City Hall office. (JGLPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)