‘A hungry stomach knows no law’: Erap defends allowing vendors on Manila streets

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
�A hungry stomach knows no law�: Erap defends allowing vendors on Manila streets
This 2018 file photo shows former Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.

MANILA, Philippines— Former Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada on Monday defended his administration's efforts to clear the capital's streets.

With his performance being compared against that of his successor, Francisco "Isko" Domagoso Moreno, Estrada said he did not drive vendors away from the capital's busy streets out of consideration for their welfare.

"Kung ‘yung sasabihin mo sa’kin na yung mga vendors nalinis, naayos lahat e hindi ko kayang gawin yun hangga’t walang kapalit na hanap-buhay sila,” Estrada said in an interview with GMA News' "24 Oras".

(If you will tell me that the vendors are no longer on the street... I couldn't do that unless they had alternative livelihood.) 

“Kayang-kaya. Utusan mo lang hindi ba puwedeng sumunod sa mayor ang pulis saka mga bumbero? Orderan mo lang ‘yan. Sandali lang ‘yun, pero isipin mo naman yung damage na kawawa naman yung mga mahihirap dun lang umaasa sa pagkain nila,” he added.

(It’s very easy. Just order them, can’t the police and firemen follow the order of the mayor? Just order them to clear the streets. That will be done quickly, but you have to consider the damage... the poor who rely on that for their food will suffer)

Now just an ordinary—except he is wealthy— citizen, Estrada, said he salutes Moreno but stressed that “a hungry stomach knows no law.”

'I also did clearing operations during my time'

Estrada said he also conducted clearing operations while he was mayor.

“’Di na ako magpakita pa pero may ginagawa ako, (I don’t publicize the things I am doing),” Estrada said.

In July 2017, Estrada drew flak from online users after an ABS-CBN report showed that a scene of him joining the Manila Bay cleanup drive was staged.

The video showed a woman intentionally throwing garbage into the bay and two divers ensuring that the trash floated near the boat Estrada was on so he could pose for pictures while "cleaning" the bay.

READ: Manila gov’t, Erap, criticized for ‘publicity’ clean-up drive in Manila Bay

Estrada, however, said that what happened was “sabotage.”

Meanwhile, Moreno, who was Estrada's vice mayor during his first term as local chief executive, has been reaping praise as well as criticism for his aggressive move to clean up the Philippines’ capital.

He recently removed the vendors from known shopping areas and busy streets such as Divisoria, Quiapo, Blumentritt, Lagusnilad Underpass and the areas near Bonifacio monument.

Some lauded him for decongesting these areas while others worry about the clearing operations' effect on the livelihood of the vendors.

'Vendors in clearing ops are not poor'

Moreno, however, defended his move saying it is not anti-poor because most of the vendors removed from the street can afford rent.

“Let's be honest, 95 % sa kanila hindi mahirap (Let’s be honest, 95% of them are not poor),” Moreno said in a separate interview with "Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho", which aired Sunday.

The new Manila mayor said these vendors can afford to pay up to P30,000 for a table and for rights to sell. He also claimed they can afford to pay P350 and P500 a day to “Eddie and Patty.”

Asked who Eddie and Patty are, Moreno replied “Eh ‘di siya…Pati mga kasama niya,” referring to corrupt syndicates collecting money. Moreno explained these syndicates are now called “organizers.”

Estrada said he also heard of the so-called organizers during his term. He added that there were even barangay officials involved in the bribery system but he said they already stopped the illegal acts.

“Nawala naman dun…nu’ng panahon ko, ewan ko wala (They are now gone. During my term, they disappeared),” he said.

For his part, Moreno said his administration has a plan for the Manila vendors removed from the sidewalks.

“Paghahanda naman ng Maynila which is mangyayari… hindi madali, hindi agad na meron naman kaming lugar base sa infrastructure projects namin na kung saan namin sila ilalagak,” he said.

(Manila has a preparation plan which will happen, not easy, not fast, but there are areas based on our infrastructures where they [vendors] will be placed.)

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