MANILA -- Mayor Joseph Estrada is gunning for a third and final term, seeking to close out his political career with a victory over former alies-turned-nemeses.
Monday’s mayoral race in the Philippine capital city pits the 82-year-old former president against a fellow octogenarian, former Mayor Alfredo Lim, who lost to him in the last 2 elections.
But Estrada is seen to be facing a tougher challenge against former Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, who secured the backing of 2 influential religious sects.
The bloc-voting Iglesia Ni Cristo supported Estrada in 2013 and 2016, but opted to endorse Moreno this time. The Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai also went for the youngest of the 3 candidates.
The 44-year-old Moreno described the election as a battle for the “soul of Manila,” citing the city’s state of decay over the years.
“Kung ano ang mukha ng Maynila, yun ang mukha ng bansa,” he told ABS-CBN News on Friday.
(The face of Manila is the face of the nation.)
Estrada’s campaign pitch was no different, promising to “bring back the old glory of Manila” and saying he needed 3 more years for the job.
“I want to leave a legacy,” he told ABS-CBN News in March.
But his critics consider Estrada as a political outsider even if the former movie actor was born in Tondo, an impoverished community in Manila that shared top billing in some of his action films.
Estrada in fact built his political dynasty in nearby San Juan in 1969, the year he assumed the town’s mayoralty after winning his electoral protest.
The family has since kept a tight grip on San Juan politics, limiting political power among close relatives with the exception of the Zamora clan, who later turned against them.
Former Vice Mayor Francis Zamora is challenging an Estrada granddaughter for the mayoralty, which is held by Mayor Guia Gomez.
Gomez is the mother of Estrada’s son, Sen. JV Ejercito, who is running for a second term. Ejercito’s half-brother Jinggoy is also a senatorial candidate.
In March, Zamora said the Estradas might not be as focused on their mayoral candidate in San Juan because many of them were preoccupied with their own campaigns either for local or national posts.
“Masusubukan dito ang pamilya nila kung gaano kalakas pa sila politically at gaano kalakas pa yung following nila,” Zamora said.
(This will test the family's political strength and the strength of their following.)
In Manila, Moreno courted voters with his rags-to-riches backstory and a 10-year infrastructure plan to revive the city.
But Moreno also made sure to pounce on the issue of political dynasty against the Estradas.
“It seems na parang wala nang kabusugan ang mga Estrada, occupying all positions in government,” he said in a previous interview, clearly exaggerating.
(It seems the Estradas are insatiable, occupying all positions in government.)
Whenever criticized over his dynasty, Estrada often insisted his relatives never “inherited” their positions but were chosen in free elections.
“It’s the people who have the last say... that is democracy,” he said in March.
Estrada promised to retire after serving a final term, closing a chapter in a dynasty he has firmly entrenched in 2 cities.