MANILA -- Half-brothers Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito shared the campaign stage in February, raising each other’s hand in a rare show of unity for their respective senatorial campaigns.
But as the May elections drew near, and survey results started coming in, the feuding sons of former President Joseph Estrada predictably turned against the other, using carefully crafted campaign ads.
They’re among 5 candidates from some of the most prominent political clans in the Philippines, vying for the 10th to 12th places in the latest Pulse Asia Survey.
Ejercito, who is seeking reelection, came up with ads describing himself as “the good one.”
“So, ako yung bad? (So, that makes me the bad one?)” Estrada told ABS-CBN News, reacting in jest to the ads.
“Siguro sinasabi, s’ya ‘yung good, ako ‘yung bad pero sabi ko nga, hayaan mo na ang ‘yung taong bayan na humusga.”
(Maybe he's saying he's the good one and I'm the bad one but like I said, let the people decide.)
Out on bail, Estrada is running for a fresh term, believing that a victory would “vindicate” him and reboot a political career derailed by allegation that he plundered P183 million in pork barrel funds.
Despite the criminal case, Estrada ranked higher than Ejercito in pre-election surveys, which did not sit well with the younger brother who found it “frustrating.”
Ejercito conceded that his brother was carrying the much more popular surname, a political brand that began when their father assumed the mayoralty of San Juan 50 years ago.
The incumbent senator was convinced his brother’s candidacy was eating into his own base of supporters.
“Obviously, there are two Estradas, two siblings running... it’s confusing,” Ejercito told ABS-CBN News.
Said Estrada: “Ako, lagi ko naman sinasabi, kung ako lang masusunod, sana pwede kaming manalong dalawa.”
(I've always said, if it's possible, we should both win.)
Jinggoy is Joseph Estrada’s son with wife Luisa Ejercito, while JV is the former president’s only son with former actress and outgoing San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez.
A campaign ad describing Jinggoy as the “real Estrada” seemed to put the spotlight on this touchy issue.
Toward the end of the ad, the father gives his endorsement and describes him as “Estradang tunay” (genuine Estrada).
Estrada said it was done in “good faith” because the Filipino word “tunay” sounded close to 2 and 9. When combined, the figures correspond to 29, his designated number on the ballot.
Ejercito said the ad was “an obvious swipe,” but insisted their father might have merely delivered the line from a script with no intention of hurting him.
“I don’t think he would do that,” the senator said.
The sibling rivalry mirrors a persistent crack in one of the oldest political dynasties in the Philippines, held together only by its 82-year-old patriarch, Joseph Estrada. The former president is seeking reelection as Manila mayor.
This month’s senatorial election will be the first time his two sons from different mothers will contest the same position.
“Sobra na yun (That's too much),” said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.
Casiple warned against the impact of allowing political clans to “monopolize” the 24-member Senate on national policy.
The half-brothers, he acknowledged, had achieved a “certain level of accomplishment” in the Senate, but whose victories in the past were because “they’re the children of Erap.”
“Kung ako ‘yung ordinary botante at wala namang outstanding reason why I would choose the 2, isa na lang pagbibigyan ko,” Casiple told ABS-CBN News.
(If I were a voter and I see nothing outstanding from either one, why would I choose 2? I would pick just one.)
Saddled by low survey numbers early on, Ejercito tweaked his campaign to focus on his “clean track record,” and pet bills on universal health care and housing.
In his final campaign ad, the senator finally got their father’s endorsement: Joseph Estrada, who was once convicted of plunder, is also vouching for the “good one.”