MANILA, Philippines - He may be 75, but former President Joseph Estrada is not yet ready to retire from public service.
Estrada has offered his services to no less than President Aquino, as a “presidential adviser on love life to the country’s most eligible bachelor.”
Estrada made the offer to express his gratitude to Aquino for attending his birthday party at Le Pavillon on Roxas Boulevard last Thursday night and staying for nearly four hours.
Also at the celebration were Aquino’s sisters Ballsy Cruz and Pinky, who was with husband Manolo Abellada.
Aquino was seated at the main table with Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., Balsy, Pinky, and Manolo.
“I am offering myself to be an adviser on your love life. That is in case you need a consultant for your love life, I may be able to help you,” Estrada said in his speech.
This drew laughter from the audience, including the President who said: “Malamang, sir (most likely).”
Aquino had been linked to several women since he assumed the presidency in July 2010.
Lately, Aquino had admitted dating television personality Grace Lee, who is Korean.
When he was still president, Estrada recalled that he always invited and brought along on his state visits then Tarlac Congressman Aquino “because I recognized his potentials as a leader. I was thinking then he will have a good future in politics and perhaps for higher office.”
“Di ko akalain, siya ang makakalaban ko at siya ang tatalo sa akin. Kaya, Mr. President, saludo ako sa iyo (I did not realize he would be my opponent and he even beat me. So, Mr. President, I salute you),” said Estrada, who placed second to Aquino in the May 2010 presidential elections.
“Kasama mo kami sa paglaban mo sa korupsyon. All the way, kasama mo kami (We join you in your battle against corruption – all the way),” he told Aquino.
Acknowledging the presence of Binay, Estrada also thanked “his partner,” since Binay ran as his vice presidential bet in the last elections.
“Hindi ko akalain, siya ang mananalo, ako ang natalo (I never thought he would win and I would lose),” Estrada added.
Binay’s PDP-Laban and Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino recently joined forces for the May 2013 elections under the umbrella of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
On a serious note, Estrada said his age does not matter and promised to continue his public service to the Filipino people that started more than five decades ago.
Despite his being known as a womanizer, Estrada won when he first ran for mayor of San Juan and served for 16 years, then later as senator, vice president and then president.
His term as president was cut short by the EDSA 2 uprising in January 2001 while he was undergoing impeachment trial at the Senate on charges of allegedly taking payola from jueteng operators.
He was detained for more than six years. The Sandiganbayan subsequently convicted Estrada of plunder. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo later granted him executive clemency.
Estrada also acknowledged for the first time in public that he has sired 12 children with six different women.
He cited his children and their mothers who sustained him through his ups and downs in life, especially those darkest days while under detention that took him away from them.
“My true value in my life today are my children. I thank them for supporting and celebrating this day with me. They are the evidence of a truly productive life,” Estrada said.
Each of the 12 Estrada children gave their respective testimonials to their “Dad” during the birthday program.
The siblings were gathered together for their father’s birthday celebration by Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada and his sister Jackie Ejercito-Lopez, two of Estrada’s three children (the other is Jude) with former first lady and later senator Loi Ejercito.
The others are: Tetchie and Jojo (with Peachy Osorio); San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito (San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez); Joan (Mary Ann Murphy); Jason (Larena); Jerica, Jake, Jacob (Laarni Enriquez); and Joma (Joy Melendrez). Osorio, Gomez, Murphy and Enriquez are all former movie actresses, while Melendrez and Larena are former flight attendants.
Estrada’s children, grandchildren, and sons- and daughters-in-law did their respective song and dance numbers during the program.
His former Ateneo high school classmates and former Cabinet members organized by former presidential legislative liaison chief Jimmy Policarpio also contributed song and dance numbers in the program emceed by actress and former Estrada leading lady Boots Anson-Roa.
Estrada also had emotional moments with former movie colleagues led by Susan Roces, widow of his late buddy Fernando Poe Jr., and their daughter Grace Llamanzares.
A video presentation was shown with a movie scene where Poe was singing “Kumusta Ka” and Estrada doing his own adaptation of this song he composed for the funeral rites of his late best friend.
Meanwhile, Aquino has apparently been reaching out to Estrada and Binay even after the two formed the political coalition UNA for the 2013 elections.
Aquino on Thursday toured the office of Binay and then attended Estrada’s birthday later that night.
The President cited the invaluable traits of Estrada, particularly his continuing mass appeal that inspired Filipinos in times of hardship and trials, and wished him the best of health.
In his message during Estrada’s birthday celebration, Aquino acknowledged Estrada’s unique character of dealing with the emotions of the common people and giving them hope to surpass challenges.
“You were embraced by the Filipino masses and the reason for this was quite clear to all – you possess the ability to feel their pulse and touch their hearts,” Aquino said.
“In times when hope was scarce and many had been losing courage to persevere in life, the masses held on to Erap. Because of you, Juan de la Cruz had the feeling of security, he had an ally to face life’s challenges and had an Erap standing up and fighting for his dreams,” he said.
The Chief Executive said that the former president’s legacy would forever linger in the minds of the people, which will push them to strive further to attain progress.
“That is why in giving Filipinos strength and hope, Erap is already instilled in the minds and hearts of the people for the rest of their lives. On your birthday, we have no prayer but for you to have good health and more years of providing inspiration to the nation. Again, thank you and happy birthday,” Aquino said.
Also at the presidential table were Senator Jinggoy Estrada and presidential sister Kris Aquino.
Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Sergio Osmeña III, Gregorio Honasan, Vicente Sotto III, Ramon Revilla Jr., Edgardo Angara and
Aquilino Pimentel III were also present.
The Cabinet members who attended include Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas, among others.
Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said the President’s attendance at Estrada’s birthday was was like the visit to Binay’s office.
“It’s really just a social event,” he said. With Aurea Calica