By Beting Laygo Dolor | Contributing Editor
If his original wish were to come true, the May 2019 elections would have marked the final chapter of his colorful political life story. He would have won his third and final term as mayor of the capital city of Manila before bowing out of public service in a blaze of glory.
Instead, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, known to all as Erap, lost to Isko Moreno by more than 140,000 votes.
A stunned Estrada did not take his first ever political defeat well. As far as he was concerned, “I was ahead in all the surveys.”
The 82-year-old Estrada initially refused to concede to his former vice-mayor but relented when it became clear that in the absence of any proof of cheating, he had been soundly trounced by the 44-year-old Moreno.
Estrada, however, insists that he was a victim of a “conspiracy” and his supposed loss was due to the Commission on Elections’ automated vote counting machines.
His loss was “the voice of the machines, so it’s not the voice of God,” he says.
But he is standing firm in his belief that while powerful people may try to put him down, he will eventually emerge the winner. It happened once before, it can happen again, he says.
The former president of the Philippines who had been forced from office by virtue of what is now known as EDSA Dos (or the second People Power revolution), believes he can reclaim the post of Manila mayor in the 2022 elections.
Age, he says, is not going to be a factor.
“I am younger than Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad,” he argues. Estrada is correct. Mahathir shocked the world last year when he returned to power at 92, making him the oldest president or prime minister currently holding the reins of power.
Estrada says he still has a lot of gas left in his tank.
Like Moreno, Estrada is a former actor. He became one of the Philippines’ biggest stars by taking on mostly everyman roles, or champion of the poor. It is an image that he maintains to this day.
He will run again in 2022 because Estrada says “I do not like the way” that his successor is running the city. Specifically, Moreno’s cleaning up Manila by forcing thousands of illegal vendors out of the city’s main streets has resulted in their “families going hungry.”
“(Moreno) should not have rushed in removing the vendors. He should have given them time to look for an alternative place where they can sell their products,” according to Estrada.
Analysts say a return to power not as president of the Philippines but as Manila mayor is improbable, if not impossible. The sun, they say, has set on the Estrada dynasty.
Estrada was not the only member of the political dynasty that he has created over the past five decades.
Two of his sons – Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito – both failed in their bids to return to the Senate, while his family also lost control of his original bastion of San Juan. Close relatives lost in their bids to become mayor of San Juan, as well as councilor of one of Manila’s districts.
The wipe-out would have been complete but for a lone member of the Estrada clan who was elected councilor in San Juan. The Zamoras, former allies of Estrada, have taken control of the city where his political career began in the early ‘70s.
For now, the happy ending he had envisioned for himself will have to wait until 2022. Being out of power, Estrada says he may mount a comeback not in politics but in show business “where I earn more.”
In his mind’s eye, Estrada sees himself rising from the ashes of his crushing 2019 defeat and reclaiming his throne three years down the road. The masses, he believes, will want him back in Manila City Hall. Only Mayor Isko Moreno stands in his way.