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‘Voice of the people is the voice of God’

Jose Rodel Clapano - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - God speaking through the people.

This was how Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada described yesterday the dismissal by the Supreme Court (SC) of the disqualification case against him.

“I appreciate very much and thank the Supreme Court for this victory. Vox populi, vox Dei – the voice of the people is the voice of God,” Estrada said upon learning of the SC ruling.

His predecessor Alfredo Lim filed the disqualification case.

“Manileños and the city government have long suffered from too much politics. I assure my fellow Manileños that we will double our services to them,” Estrada said.

In a statement, he said “it is with humility” that he and his officials received the news of the SC decision.

He thanked the SC magistrates for honoring the executive pardon granted to him by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo is in hospital detention for plunder.

Estrada’s wife, former senator Loi Ejercito, said that their son, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, was the first to call and congratulate the former president.

Jinggoy, detained at Camp Crame for plunder in connection with the pork barrel scam, said he hopes the high court’s decision would put to rest questions on his father’s right to vote or run for public office.

He also urged the detractors of his father to focus on helping Manila move forward.

“And now that this issue has been settled, let us focus on helping the local government of Manila led by President Mayor Estrada to succeed in the next 18 months in restoring the glory and grandeur of our beloved capital city which were lost due to years of mismanagement and negligence,” Jinggoy said.

In a press conference, Estrada vowed to double his effort to achieve his goal of restoring the glory of Manila, the country’s capital.

“I am forgiving the people opposed to me. As the Lord’s prayer read: forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sinned against us. We will further work for the betterment of Manila than what we inherited from my predecessor,” he said.

“I ask all the city hall employees and my fellow officials to work hard and prove to all Manileños that we deserve their votes and support to us,” Estrada added.

Estrada said Manila has long suffered from politics. He said improving tax collection is his administration’s priority, citing the reported mismanagement of the city’s finances by the previous leadership.

“I inherited a bankrupt city government. I cannot do any projects without funding. But now we are almost totally paid with our debts. By July, we will be debt-free,” Estrada said.

Jubilation

City hall employees greeted the SC ruling with jubilation – and even a brass band.

They paraded around the vicinity carrying photos of Estrada and chanting “Erap pa rin,” “Erap walang katapat” and “forward ever, backward never.” They later joined Estrada in the cavernous mayor’s office for the press conference.

Outside city hall, a handful of supporters from the Kalipunan ng Masang Pilipino (KAMPIL) joined the revelry.

“We are here to express our support to Mayor Estrada. We are very happy because his reforms and good programs will now continue. We will support him all the way should he decide to run for reelection or run for president again,” Kampil interim secretary general Rommel Mendoza said.

Vice Mayor Isko Moreno also congratulated Estrada.

“I and my fellow officials in the City Council are very happy with the decision of the Supreme Court. The high court, again, has listened to the mandate of Manileños and they did not consider the case as technical or legal. This is a vindication to president-mayor Erap who was elected in clean and fair elections,” Moreno said.

Word of honor

Estrada also said he is sticking to his promise to endorse Moreno as his replacement unless the latter decides to run for higher office.

“I have a word of honor. But if Vice Mayor Isko Moreno will run for a higher office, I might change my mind and I will run for reelection,” Estrada said.

He also hinted at running again for president if there is public clamor.

“I cannot do anything but follow the people. I thank the Manileños for trusting me. I don’t have plans yet right now. This is a vindication to me,” Estrada said.

Estrada wished Lim good luck in his “retirement.” “May God bless him and more power to your retirement,” Estrada said, addressing the former mayor.

“They throw mud at me. But the people trusted and supported me,” Estrada said.

ALFREDO LIM

AS THE LORD

CITY

ERAP

ESTRADA

MANILE

MAYOR

SUPREME COURT

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