Viewed in the light of my most memorable quote of President Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada of Manila, his recent endorsement of the presidential candidacy of Grace Liamanzares struck me as simply consistent. He declared to the media back in the 70s, when he was mayor of San Juan, then still part of the province of Rizal: “Hindi ako tuta ni Marcos. Aso ako ni Marcos. (I’m no puppy of Marcos. I’m his dog.”
Famous for his catchy one-liners
(which had been summed up into a book, for that matter, aptly titled “Eraptions”), Erap by those words perfectly pictured the man’s personal yardstick for what principle is all about: it’s about sticking, immaterial whether right or wrong, to what you believe in. He believed in Marcos, and his administration of his municipality was one of complete subservience to the principles the martial law administration stood for.
No need here to elaborate on this issue. What matters now is that from his announcement of his support for Grace days ago, it would seem he was consistently standing by his loyalty to Marcos after all these long, long years. Recall that when, despite the national dominance by yellow power, Erap personally maintained his political clout so that ultimately he became Philippine president in 1998, and he finally ordered the burial of President Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Much pressure from Cory, who threatened to unleash social unrest if he proceeded with the burial, prompted Erap to exercise exquisite restraint. He called off the burial plans.
Where pervading opportunism in Philippine politics would otherwise have cast him into the green pastures promised by the yellow power, he chose persecutions, no matter what.
Already, the administration bet, Secretary Mar Roxas, has expressed indignation at Erap’s choice of Grace. For a period, it looked as though it was he the former president would support, as indicated by the open endorsement made of him by San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez, with Erap sitting quietly in the background, an implied acquiescence to the lady executive’s pronouncement.
One great factor that could have swung Erap’s support to Roxas is the continued detention of son Senator Jinggoy Estrada at Camp Crame for plunder charges. The evident captivity of the Supreme Court by Malacañang can be a guarantee of Jinggoy’s freedom in the event of a Roxas presidency. It could even be a done deal even before the May elections take place. But then, Erap’s loyalty to Marcos is what appears to have taken the better of him by ultimately endorsing Grace.
True, Grace is, as the tale has been told from the very beginning, Erap’s goddaughter, the adopted child of bosom friend Fernando Poe, Jr., who, incidentally, originally coined the monicker “Erap.”
But what cannot be denied as well is the story I got from an incumbent Annex Mayor of Antipolo City who as early as middle of last year was already predicting that the tandem to beat in the May presidential elections is the “Ang magkapatid.” I rather gaped at the information, honestly not knowing what the guy meant. It all dawned on me that night days ago when Erap raised the hand of Bongbong Marcos, for Vice President, and for President, who else but Grace Liamanzares, she of the fairy tale romance, said to be fathered by a virtual emperor in his time.
That virtual emperor was the very man to whom Erap had declared doggedness of subservience.
And yet, what is not known to the public is that Erap’s final choice of Grace was not his personal decision and therefore one in which his loyalty to the strongman should not figure.
Up until the eve of the Erap proclamation rally, his camp was still at a loss as to who he would endorse for President. The mayor’s household and political staff and confidants were sharply divided on who to choose between Senator Liamanzares and Vice President Jejomar C. Binay. A long-time adviser, an influential alderman, and Laarni Enriquez, to name just a few, were diehard Binay supporters. An equal number were rooting for Grace.
Erap himself was ambivalent; Binay is his kumpadre; Grace, a goddaughter. Would FPJ turn in his grave just to return candles with Erap if he did not support her?
What Erap did was reminiscent of how humbly he submitted himself to what appeared to be the popular clamor for him to step down from the presidency in 2001. He could very well have invoked the Constitution and insist in his right to stay in office. He was not incapable of performing the duties of the President, had not resigned and had not died.
But the mob of EDSA II was calling for his ouster and in a display of supreme circumspection, he did not choose to counter the throng.
As quoted by the media hours before his proclamation rally, Erap stated that though his camp has diverse opinions on who to support for president, he as head of the family was expected to be the final authority.
In other words, what he said must be obeyed.
In the final choice of Grace, Erap did not insist on any authority. And this is what’s amazing about what actually took place. What Erap did was call a vote among his inner circle: who to carry, Binay or Grace? By a mere vote of one, Grace prevailed.
Unlike Roxas who took Erap’s endorsement of Grace bitterly, VP Binay manifested high-level statesmanship when he calmly expressed respect for Erap’s decision. He has good reason to stay optimistic. He has kept a good half of Erap’s formidable camp. And it is a no mean half, considering that at the helm of the clique is Laarni Enriquez, the woman closest to Erap’s heart.