The ‘last hurrah’
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - June 26, 2019 - 12:00am

At exactly noon of June 30, this Sunday, outgoing Mayor and former president Joseph Ejercito Estrada will step down from his office at the Manila City Hall. Mayor Estrada winds down his second term at City Hall following his sorry defeat in the hands of his former vice mayor Francisco Domagoso, a.k.a. “Isko” Moreno.

Like his immediate predecessor, the newly elected Mayor prefers to be called by his former showbiz screen name, Isko Moreno. And like Mayor Estrada, Moreno started as a showbiz actor before he turned politician. He was first elected as councilor for Manila’s first district in Tondo in 1998 and got reelected in 2001 and in 2004. It was the 2007 elections that made him vice mayor of the city.

So being Mayor is nothing new for the 44-year-old Moreno since he served as “acting” Mayor whenever erstwhile Mayor Alfredo Lim would be out of the country. Subsequently, he won as running mate of Mayor Estrada and served his third and last term from 2013 to 2016.  

Since the formal transition in office took place already last week, there is no more formal turnover ceremony. At the regular flag-raising rites at the Manila City Hall on Monday, the newly elected Mayor Moreno will lead it henceforth as he starts his first day in office. So it’s business as usual at City Hall from then on.

But not for Mayor Estrada who quietly fades away from the scene.

Although he has gracefully conceded his defeat, Mayor Estrada could not hide his sadness of losing his third and last run for City Hall. However, he has no plans to contest the results of the last May 13 mayoral contest or sees a reason to warrant the filing of an election protest. Naturally, he is sad for his loss but more so because this deprives him to complete his “legacy” vision for the country’s premier capital city in what would have been his third and last term as Mayor of Manila.

In somber rites, Mayor Estrada presided the celebration of Araw ng Maynila last Monday, June 24 – one of his final acts before officially bowing out of office. He also led the pre-anniversary activities for Araw ng Maynila that included the awarding of outstanding educators and top taxpayers of the city in ceremonies held at The Tent of the Manila Hotel last Friday night.

In his speech, Mayor Estrada was profuse in thanking the top 10 business taxpayers – that included The STAR – for revitalizing Manila during his six years as the city’s chief executive. He lauded the business firms for paying the right property and business taxes. Citing his efforts at taking good care of the funds of the Manila city government, Mayor Estrada has fully paid P4.5 billion of city government debts and will leave behind as much as P12 billion in the city’s coffers. He hopes the new City Hall administration will continue the infrastructure projects he already started and those that are still underway.

Mayor Estrada turned nostalgic in his speech when he expressed his gratitude to the so many years he has been in the public eye, starting as a movie bit actor at 16 years old, to later becoming a movie producer himself. Saying in life and in death, he can never repay the poor Filipino masses. First, for making him a very popular actor, then elected as Mayor of San Juan for 17 years; later as Senator for six years; then rose to become vice president; and then President of the Republic, though cut short by the so-called EDSA-3 in January 2001.

He almost made a successful comeback bid at Malacañang after he got an executive clemency from his plunder conviction. He run but lost the May 2010 presidential race when the country had its maiden automated election system. His near-win led him to vie instead to become the Mayor of Manila and won the May 2013 local elections.

And as he ends his six years in office, a freak accident nearly cut again Mayor Estrada’s last few days at Manila City Hall.

After handing out the special recognition to Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones, the emcee called back Mayor Estrada to go up again at the stage. On his way back up to the makeshift stage, the Mayor missed the slat of the three-step stairs. It caught his legs in between the slats of the stairs while the left side of his waist hit the platform stage when he lost his balance.

Loud shrieks erupted from the audience who saw the Mayor slipped. His aides who were close by rushed to assist him. But the Mayor shoved them away.

The actor in him tried to show off to the audience he was okay by walking briskly back to the center of the stage as if nothing happened. Mr. Estrada walks with his usual limp even after he underwent surgery that replaced his kneecaps with titanium plates. 

After the event, he later proceeded to hospital to undergo MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and X-ray to determine if any bone fracture or injury occurred. Fortunately, the doctors found no serious injury but gave their patient painkiller. More than the initial shock and pain, it was more of his bruised machismo that apparently hurt Mayor Estrada.

In an afterthought about the accident, Mayor Estrada quipped that he would have become another “Eddie Garcia” whose decades long movie career was unceremoniously cut by a freak accident. The 90-year-old Garcia died several days after he slipped and fell head  first at the pavement in Tondo, Manila while taping a new TV drama show at GMA-7. Garcia suffered neck fracture when his foot got entangled in a TV cable while he was taping a scene with fellow actors.

Garcia was not just a former movie colleague but a close friend, too, of the Mayor. Both Garcia and the Mayor are award-winning actors and did several movies together. Garcia stood as baptism godfather of his daughter Jackie Ejercito.

Come July 1 when he is no longer in office, Mayor Estrada vows to keep himself active, not just in politics maybe, but more so physically up and about. “They say life begins at 40 (years old). I am now 82 years old. So this is now my second 40,” he mused and guffawed at his own joke.

Levity aside, Mayor Estrada will deliver his “last hurrah” in a valedictory address and state of the city report at the grand Ballroom of the Sofitel Philippines today.

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