MANILA - Joseph Estrada stared at the big screen in his San Juan City living room on Thursday, rewatching a video summarizing his colorful 50-year political career.
Estrada sought comfort in his latest 20-minute, self-congratulatory production, more than 2 months after he and his family suffered a crushing defeat in the May midterm elections.
His two sons both lost in the senatorial election, while a granddaughter was defeated in San Juan’s mayoral race, marking the end of the Estrada-Ejercito’s 5-decade dynasty in the city.
Estrada himself was denied a third term as Manila mayor, losing by more than 140,000 votes to his former ally Francisco “Isko” Moreno.
“For now, this is Mayor Erap signing off,” he addressed the camera from what used to be his office at the Manila city hall.
Asked if he was retiring for good, he turned to this reporter and said in jest: “Drama lang.”
Estrada, 82, said he was not leaving politics yet and was in fact waiting for the next opportunity to regain his seat.
“If I have a chance to come back, I will,” he told ABS-CBN News Thursday, insisting he still had a lot to offer even with his advanced age.
“I’m still strong,” he added, noting he was much younger than Mahathir Mohamad, who made a stunning comeback as Malaysia’s Prime Minister in 2018 at 92.
Estrada’s political goal is more modest and personal, desiring not to run for president again, but to retake Manila and re-establish his San Juan dynasty.
He said he had no intention of selling his vast Sta. Mesa property and its one-story house that he bought in 2012 precisely to meet the electoral residency requirement in Manila.
But his home, he admitted, has always been No. 1 Polk Street in San Juan, where he first captured the mayoralty in 1969, setting off a political career that led all the way to Malacañang.
It has not been easy for the family, one of the most powerful political dynasties in the Philippines, to come to terms with their stunning defeat last May.
To this day, Estrada spoke of a “conspiracy” to defeat his family by manipulating the vote electronically.
“We suspect lang but we have no proof,” he said. “It’s the voice of the (vote-counting) machine so it’s not the voice of God.”
Election analysts believe the fall of the Estradas was also their own doing, spreading their candidates too thin, political greed seemingly getting the better of them.
“Bakit greedy? Siraulo nila. Bakit di nila gawin? It’s the will of the people,” the family patriarch protested.
(Why greedy? They’re out of their minds. Why don’t they run as well?)
Behind the scenes, his sons Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito still blame each other for their mutual defeat in the senatorial election.
Ejercito believed his reelection bid was compromised the moment his older half-brother sought to regain his Senate seat.
In a separate interview with ABS-CBN News in May, Jinggoy Estrada argued that he became a senator ahead of Ejercito.
The half-brothers spent much of the campaign hitting the other in TV ads.
Their father said he did not regret fielding 2 sons for senator as other relatives sought elective posts in Manila and San Juan.
One family member made it as a councilor in San Juan, which is now controlled by the Zamoras, former supporters of the Estradas who first sought to unseat them in 2016.
Estrada insisted he never built a political dynasty because relatives who served over the years had won in free elections.
“The people’s will is the voice of God. Anong dynasty? Hindi ba kayo nagbabasa ng dictionary?” he said.
(What dynasty? Why don’t you check its meaning in the dictionary?)
Since unseating Estrada, Moreno has been all over media highlighting what the former mayor had failed to do in 6 years: clean up a city in decay.
Estrada said he never considered ridding areas such as Divisoria of street vendors “at the expense of the poor people.”
“I could not, in conscience,” he said. “Magpapasikat lang ako, maglilinis, pero ang daming magugutom na mahihirap.”
(I could have showed off but many would have gone hungry.)
Estrada’s detractors consider his inaction more as a lack of political will, with insinuations that he made money out of the vendors.
“Imposible naman,” he said. “Eh di mag artista na lang ako. Mas malaki pa kikitain ko. Papatulan ko pa mahihirap na tumulong sa kin? Kalokohan 'yan.”
(It’s impossible. I should have just returned to the movies. I would have earned more. Why would I milk the poor who helped me? It’s foolish.)