By Beting Laygo Dolor i Contributing Editor
(2nd of two parts)
That the capital city of Manila can now lay claim to be the second home of the celebrity-politician after Quezon City can be gleaned from the fact that two of the three candidates for mayor were previously movie stars, while the third had a stint as a TV host.
Incumbent Mayor Joseph Estrada was one of the country’s biggest box office stars in the 60s and 70s before embarking on one of the most colorful political careers in the country. He is seeking his third and final term as Manila mayor.
Oddly enough, Estrada began his political career as mayor of another city, San Juan. He then rose to senator, vice-president, and finally president, where he was overthrown by the Edsa II revolution. Despite being incarcerated after his removal from office, he managed to revive his political career by running and winning the post of Manila mayor back in 2013.
Isko Moreno is challenging the man known to all as Erap by offering himself as a young alternative to the two other very senior candidates for the city’s top post.
Moreno ran for senator in the 2016 elections but lost. He then got a post as assistant secretary in the Duterte administration. Moreno was previously vice-mayor of Manila. He, too, had a career as an actor before running for public office.
The oldest of the three bets has, like Estrada, an equally long career in public office. Alfredo Lim may be best known as a crime fighter, starting as a policeman in the 60s, rising to PNP chief, senator, NBI head, Local Government secretary (under Estrada), as well as two previous stints as Manila mayor. He hosted a public service TV show more than a decade ago and is the only one of the three whose life story has been made into a film.
As is in many election season in the country, the candidates cite various surveys to indicate that they are sure winners.
Lim, who is the official bet of President Rodrigo Duterte’s party, the PDP-Laban, first released survey results two weeks ago showing that he would be the runaway winner. This, after he lost in a tight race against Estrada in the previous election.
For his part, Estrada’s camp last week came out with its own outside commissioned survey showing he would emerge victorious in what he has described as his last political race.
Meanwhile, Moreno promised to spring a surprise in the May polls. He says it is time for Estrada and Lim – both in their 80s – to retire rather than let their lieutenants run the city in their old age.
Meanwhile, the post of councilor is one that a good number of celebrities have occupied or tried to.
A longtime fixture in Manila politics is comedian Lou Veloso, who served as city councilor and sought the higher post of vice-mayor on more than one occasion.
Another councilor who made a name for himself in movies and television is John Martin Nieto, seeking re-election in May. He is better known as Yul Servo.
Singer-actress Sheryl Cruz of the well-known showbiz clan is seeking her first political post as councilor with the blessings of her godfather, Mayor Estrada.
Past celebrities who served in the city council include the likes of TV host Cita Astals and arguably the greatest basketball player the Philippines has ever produced, the late Carlos Loyzaga.
Since elections in the Philippines are, for better or worse, little more than popularity contests, celebrities can be expected to run for political positions in the years and decades to come, name recall being their primary advantage.
And for sure, the capital City of Manila will have no shortage of celebrity candidates.