Former President Joseph Estrada, mayoral candidate for Manila, was criticizing his rival, Mayor Alfredo Lim, and the Manila police for not being able to curb criminality in the city during the Kapihan sa Manila forum at the Diamond Hotel last Monday when I got a note that a former Manila cop wanted to respond to all of Erap’s criticisms of the police. I told him to come forward.
Out of the crowd of reporters and photographers emerged an old man, white hair slicked back, wearing sunglasses and a long-sleeved blue-striped shirt. The crowd gasped. It was Mayor Lim, a former Manila policeman. He walked straight to the table where Erap was seated, extended his right hand, which Erap clasped in a handshake.
“I came here to answer, point by point, all the criticisms against me, beginning with the alleged lack of peace and order,” he said. Erap said nothing.
The old man continued: “On the contrary, because of me there is now peace and order in Manila. Upon my orders, all the criminals are now resting in peace.
“He said Manila is dirty. We can’t do anything about that. That is why I am called Dirty Harry.
“He said I cried when I went to him to ask for his forgiveness after he was deposed in the Edsa Dos revolt. It is true I shed tears at that time, but they were tears of joy [because Erap was already an ex-President].”
The old man went on and cracked more jokes directed at Erap, who took it all like a good sport, sitting back in his chair and giggling.
The reason there were no fireworks at all when Dirty Harry confronted Asiong Salonga again was that the white-haired old man was not Mayor Lim but master mimic Willie Nepomuceno, a good friend of Erap, impersonating the Manila mayor at the Kapihan to promote his new show, “Epal, the Musical” (Music Museum, April 12). If you want to see more of Willie Nep’s impersonations and hear more of his jokes, go watch the show which starts at 8:30 p.m.
During the forum before the arrival of Willie Nep as Lim, Erap outlined what he plans to do in Manila if he is elected mayor. For starters, he said he would cleanse the police force to rid it of scalawags. He showed newspaper clippings that reported the filing of criminal charges against 12 Manila policemen, the so-called “Dirty Dozen,” for kidnapping and extortion. A Fil-Canadian woman had accused them of extorting P1 million from her.
But the reports also said that it was Mayor Lim—whose help the woman had sought—who ordered that they be relieved of their jobs and charges be filed against them.||Erap showed another news story that Manila has overtaken Quezon City as the “car theft capital of the country.” And still another about the Commission on Audit saying that the city government is deep in debt, with P3.5 billion in total debts. Manila is one of the poorest cities in the Philippines, Erap said, in spite of it being the nation’s capital.
He said he will see to it that the funds for public schools will not be spent for other purposes. Of the P310-million appropriation for the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, only P70 million went to the school, he said.
Erap also said that his anti-drug campaign will not be through shaming people by painting their houses with signs that they are homes of drug dealers and addicts, as Lim used to do.
We will hear the answers to these accusations on April 15, when it will be Mayor Lim’s turn at the hot seat of the Kapihan.
Asked about his platform of government if he becomes mayor, Erap enumerated his plans:
1. Provide in-city housing for squatters.
2. Create more jobs for Manila residents.
3. Provide better health and medical services.
4. Provide more educational opportunities at all school levels for the poor.
5. Crack down on criminality.
6. Protect the youth and women, and increase aid to senior citizens.
7. Protect the environment through the proper collection and disposal of garbage.
8. Improve the markets, ports, and tourist spots.
9. Stop corruption and provide more transparency in tax collection and expenditures of the city government.
10. Set up an Emergency Response Action Program during disasters such as floods, fires, and accidents.
Erap repeated that he would cleanse Manila by reforming the garbage collection system which would, at the same time, minimize flooding. He said there are six city government hospitals in Manila, one in each district, but these have no medicines and no equipment. He said Lim had vetoed the P240-million budget for hospital equipment. The Gat Andres Bonifacio Hospital, he added, has no functioning elevator and patients have to climb four flights of stairs.
Erap also said that he would do to Manila what he did so successfully in San Juan, of which he was mayor for three terms before he became a senator, then vice president, then president. What did he do in San Juan? According to him, he got rid of mulcting cops, set up the San Juan Park, built the Agora market and more public schools, provided free funerals for the poor, computerized the collection of real estate taxes, and relocated and provided housing for squatters.
“My father was city engineer of Manila,” Erap said. “I want to restore the Manila that my father helped build, and the Manila that my father knew.”