By Beting Laygo Dolor i Contributing Editor

The city of San Juan in Metro Manila has always been a fiefdom of Joseph “Erap” Estrada ever since the ‘70s, when the then popular actor ran and won as mayor for what was then a small town.

Even after he became senator, vice-president, and finally president — who was deposed as a consequence of EDSA II (or the second People Power revolution) — Estrada maintained a firm grip on San Juan.

His partner former actress Guia Gomez and son JV Ejercito took turns serving as mayor of San Juan even during his dark days when Estrada was placed under house arrest, until today. He still serves as mayor of the capital city of Manila, San Juan, considered as “Erap town.”

Estrada’s stranglehold on the city, however, could not be maintained without Ronnie Zamora, a former member of the Cabinet of former President Ferdinand Marcos. Considered a brilliant political tactician, Zamora’s family also owned a commercial bank, giving him economic, as well as political clout.

Estrada may have been vastly more popular but he always deferred to Zamora for political decisions in San Juan. Thus, while the actor was elected to progressively higher office, his partner-cum-backer stayed within the confines of San Juan, elected as member of the House of Representatives multiple times.

In recent years, however, the Estrada-Zamora ties have been strained. At the same time, discontent within the extended Estrada family also heated up regularly.

The latter problem for Estrada was brought about by his multiple families.

His wife, Dr. Loi Ejercito-Estrada, was officially First Lady during his shortened term as president.

With the First Lady, he had one son who was active in both politics and acting. Jinggoy Estrada took great pains to follow in his father’s footsteps, taking the same type of movie roles as his dad, then seeking and winning a Senate seat with an eye towards the vice-presidency and eventually the presidency. Those plans were seriously derailed when, like his father, he was accused of plunder when he was charged with receiving huge kickbacks in a notorious pork barrel scandal.

Jinggoy Estrada was known to openly dislike and badmouth his half-brother JV Ejercito, Estrada’s son by Guia Gomez. Even when both served in the Philippine Senate at the same time, the enmity between the two was palpable.

When Dr. Loi was First Lady of the Philippines, Estrada insisted that Gomez was First Lady of San Juan. JV, meanwhile, became mayor of the city and when he moved up to the Senate, his mother became mayor of San Juan.

Meanwhile, Zamora had been grooming his son Francis to eventually take over as mayor of the city, after having been elected vice-mayor.

The game of musical chairs eventually took its toll on the Estrada-Zamora partnership, even as the Jinggoy vs. JV drama took an unexpected twist this year.

With only two major posts being contested in San Juan – that of mayor and congressman – past alliances could not last, what with three camps battling for control of the city.

The Dr. Loi and Jinggoy Estrada camp which used to face off against the Guia and JV Ejercito camp left the Zamora group in tatters. This after the Estradas and Ejercitos agreed to work together to maintain their hold on both posts of mayor and congressman.

Not only are Jinggoy and JV both running for re-election to the Senate, the former’s daughter Janella now wants to be mayor of “their” city. Last week, Jinggoy asked San Juan voters to pick “JV first and me second” when casting their votes for senator in May.

For the post of mayor, Jinggoy’s daughter is running with the blessing of Guia Gomez and JV Ejercito.

However, the Zamoras are attempting to recover lost ground, with Francis Zamora running for mayor and his dad Ronaldo Zamora seeking a political comeback by running for his old seat in the House of Representatives in the lone district of San Juan.

The older Zamora is running against actor Edu Manzano, who was once vice-mayor of Makati City.

The battle to watch will be for the post of mayor, with the long-time Estrada-Zamora friendship and political partnership likely to end, whoever wins.