Former president Joseph Estrada has a complete list of 12 senatorial candidates of the opposition (or at least his own Partido ng Masang Pilipino) for next year?s elections. He ticked their names off at the Kapihan sa Manila last Monday: reelectionist Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Jinggoy Estrada, former Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño, United Opposition spokesman Adel Tamano, Aquilino ?Koko? Pimentel III (if he loses his election protest against Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri), broadcast journalist Ted Failon, Grace Poe, daughter of bosom friend Fernando Poe Jr., and incarcerated Brig. Gen. Danny Lim. Former Sen. Agapito ?Butz? Aquino and Makati Mayor Jejomar ?Jojo? Binay were listed as reserves, in case some of the first choices backed out.
Former Senate President Ernesto Maceda, who was beside Estrada, quickly explained that the list was tentative, that the lineup would be shuffled in case the opposition parties decided to field a single ticket. Each party would be given at least three senatorial candidates and therefore the PMP slate would be drastically pruned.
Who would be the opposition presidential candidate?
?An opposition committee will resolve that,? Estrada said. He repeated his refrain that he himself would run for president if the opposition cannot unite around one candidate. His logic goes like this: With a multiplicity of candidates, the opposition would be at a disadvantage to the administration candidate.
But won?t his joining the fray divide opposition votes even more?
?I have 30 to 40 percent of the votes,? he replied. ?That would give me an advantage over all the others.?
But the surveys rated him lower than most of the others.
?That?s according to the surveys. But the surveys have been wrong in the past. In the last presidential elections, the exit polls said GMA (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) would win in the whole of Metro Manila but she lost in all the cities and municipalities of Metro Manila except Las Piñas,? Estrada exulted.
He added that he has visited all the provinces and cities of the Philippines, except for a few, in his ?Lakbay Pasasalamat? tour and the reception in all of them had been enthusiastic. ?You have seen footage of the tour,? he said. Indeed, he showed footage of his rallies in the different provinces and they showed the masa (common man) just going crazy over Estrada.
He pointed out one more advantage of his over other candidates. He is starring with Ai Ai de las Alas in a comedy titled ?Ang Tanging Ama N?yo,? a sequel to Ai Ai?s box office hit ?Ang Tanging Ina.?
He also revealed that he would make a commercial for an arthritis medicine. It would show somebody asking him, ?Pwede pa ba kayong tumakbo?? an oblique reference to questions about his qualification to run for president again. Estrada would then answer: ?Kung gusto mo karera tayo.? The commercial would then show him running fast, leaving his rival way behind, thanks to the arthritis drug.
?Thus, while my rivals would be spending millions for their commercials and advertisements,? Estrada laughed, ?I would be earning from my movie and commercials. And I would have my mug and name plastered in billboards advertising the movie and the arthritis drug, all for free. Binabayaran pa ko. And after the movie has made the rounds of all the movie houses, I can show it for free in the town plazas to attract the crowds before my rallies, with the commercial thrown in. How can I lose??
As to the real-life legal question about his qualification to run again for president, Estrada said his legal advisers had studied the matter thoroughly and they concluded that there is no bar to it.
?The Constitution bars a sitting president from running for reelection because he/she would inevitably use the powers, patronage, and finances of the government to her advantage,? he said. ?But I am not a sitting president. I have been ousted, illegally and unfairly, from the presidency. I am not running for reelection; I am running for a new term. There is a gap between my first term and the new one. So that cannot be called a ?reelection.??
As to the pardon, it restored all his civil rights. That means he can vote. He voted in the most recent election, he said. And if you can vote, you can be voted upon.
What about the whereas clause in the pardon that said he promised not to seek public office again?
?In a legal document,? Estrada replied, ?the most important part is the dispositive portion, not the whereas clauses. There is nothing in the dispositive portion that bars me from running for any position.?
It will be Estrada?s birthday on April 19. How will he spend this day?
On his birthday and the days before that, he will distribute 30,000 food bags in depressed areas in Metro Manila. ?Instead of feeding the burgis in a formal birthday dinner,? he said, ?I will feed the poor. Imagine, I would spend P1,650 per head for the food of the burgis. That?s enough to feed how many poor families??
If he becomes president again, how will he solve the present problems?
Estrada: ?Restore peace and order, insure food security and self-sufficiency. Develop the countryside. Squatters invade the urban cities because there is no livelihood in the countryside.
?When peace and order is restored, we can free the armed forces to build roads instead of shooting people. Imagine the savings. Instead of taxpayers? money going to crooked contractors and politicians and being used to make ?farm-to-pocket? roads, it will be used to make real farm-to-market roads.?
But how will he solve the Mindanao problem?
?Di ba almost solved na yon when I was ousted?? he said. ?Camp Abubakar had been captured by the AFP. Now Gloria has given it back to the MILF.?