A day after the Supreme Court removed the last legal obstacle to his keeping his current post, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said yesterday he would run again for president in 2016 – but only if neither Vice President Jejomar Binay nor Sen. Grace Poe would challenge the administration bet.
“That’s the only reason I would be compelled to run,” Estrada told The STAR.
He said he intended to stay on the sidelines if both Binay and Poe end up seeking the presidency.
“I will just be a spectator should VP Binay and Grace run against each other in the 2016 presidential elections. I cannot run against the two of them,” Estrada said.
He said it has always been his wish to retire and spend more time with his loved ones after his term as Manila mayor.
Voting 11-3 last Wednesday, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) allowing Estrada to run for mayor in 2013 despite his plunder conviction in 2007.
“After my term, I will retire from politics. But if Vice Mayor Isko Moreno decides to run for senator or congressman – that will be a different story. I will be forced to run for reelection,” Estrada said.
He said that he is definitely supporting Moreno if the latter decides to run for mayor.
“I cannot entrust the mayoralty post to anyone except Moreno. All the projects are now lined up. Only Moreno can continue that. He is the only one I can entrust the projects and reforms that I have started,” Estrada said.
On Poe, Estrada said he cannot abandon her because she was a daughter of his best friend, the late movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) who had an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2004 against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“She is also my inaanak (godchild),” Estrada said.
He reiterated that he owed Poe because her father helped him a lot when he was still a movie actor and later as politician.
“FPJ campaigned for me when I ran for mayor of San Juan, for senator, vice president and president. He did not make any movie so he could join my campaign for president in 1998,” he told The STAR.
“I regret that I was not able to campaign for him when he ran for president in 2004 because I was then in jail,” Estrada said.
As for Binay, Estrada said he had already made a commitment to support the Vice President in the latter’s quest for higher position.
Binay was Estrada’s running mate in the 2010 elections.
If Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito can have his way, he wants his father to retire after the end of his term and spend more time with his loved ones.
“Personally, I think he has nothing to prove further. I hope he will be given a chance to spend time with his family,” Ejercito said.
The mayor has hinted at running again for public office, including the presidency, following a Supreme Court ruling junking the disqualification case filed against him by former mayor Alfredo Lim and his lawyer Alicia Risos-Vidal.
Ejercito said he wants his 77-year-old father to enjoy his senior years after more than 45 years in public service. He said his father’s stint as Manila mayor should be his “last performance” in politics.
On the possibility of his father running against Binay in the presidential race, Ejercito admitted it would be hard to respond to such a scenario considering that the two are close allies. Just as unimaginable is a square off with Poe, he said.
“I think it will come to pass. They will work things out, it will be very difficult, especially with family members like Grace Poe,” he said.
But Estrada appeared not receptive to his son’s advice that he quit politics and enjoy retirement, saying “everything is now possible” with the SC ruling.
The Manila mayor also scoffed at lawyer Romulo Macalintal’s assertion that he can no longer run for president in 2016 because he had already served as chief executive.
“I can still run. I am not running for reelection (as president). The framers of the Constitution are very clear when they include that provision in the Constitution. They want to prevent the incumbent president from using the government resources in their reelection. I am not an incumbent president and I am not running for reelection (as president), that is why I can still run,” Estrada said.
But he stressed he has not yet made up his mind on the matter. “I still have one year and a half to decide,” Estrada said
While the SC may have removed the legal obstacle to Estrada’s running again for an elective position, “moral impediment” remains, according to Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
“Legally, there is no more obstacle to him seeking the presidency. If you raise the question to another environment, for example in the moral sphere, his enemies will have a field day dissecting his moral character,” Santiago told reporters after a signing event for her book “Stupid is Forever” at the National Bookstore Glorietta 1 in Makati.
She said she might consider running again for president just to stop “some of these people” from assuming power.
“But it will depend on my doctors,” she said.
She did not name names but she was apparently referring to Estrada and Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Santiago earlier revealed she was suffering from Stage 4 lung cancer.
“That is why I need to go to America for a second opinion. I might be going next week both to Los Angeles and New York. In New York I will be going to the Sloan Cancer Institute (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center), the foremost cancer institute in the world,” she said.
Santiago faced journalists yesterday with her right ring finger bandaged because of bleeding. A staff of the senator told reporters it was a side effect of the drug she is taking.
The senator also stressed the need for voters to get more education and be exposed to a higher level of political discourse.
“I always have hope for my fellow humans. I think that we can always raise the level of our mediocrity or our stupidity,” she said.
“We are trying to raise the level of our political discourse. You know when we talk of politics it’s always insulting or we always talk in negative terms or we’re always hateful or vengeful,” she said.
“But there is a level of politics that is academic which is restrained, which is courteous to the other party, but we could enable the entire citizenry to be enlightened on important topics of the day.”
Meanwhile, one of the lawyers who had sought Estrada’s disqualification said she would no longer appeal the SC decision.
“After deliberation with my lawyer (retired Sandiganbayan Justice Rodolfo Palattao), we made a decision not to file any MR (motion for reconsideration). This will clear the air for Mayor Estrada and for the Manilans as well,” Vidal told reporters yesterday.
“I respect the collective wisdom of the justices of the Supreme Court and with 11 of them voting to dismiss my petitions, it will be very hard to convince them to change their votes,” she pointed out.
Apart from Vidal, former mayor Lim filed his own petition assailing the Comelec decision allowing Estrada to run.
An insider said that even if Lim decides to file an MR, a reversal of the ruling would be farfetched given the margin of votes. – Christina Mendez, Mike Frialde, Aurea Calica