By Jomar Canlas Senior Reporter And Van Santos and Catherine S. Valente Reporters
FORMER president Joseph ‘Erap” Estrada was proclaimed the mayor-elect of Manila on Tuesday after walloping incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim in one of t
he tightest electoral races witnessed in the capital city.
Estrada, who was kicked out of office halfway through his term in 2001, was convicted of plunder in 2007 and jailed. He was later pardoned by his successor, Gloria Arroyo.
During his proclamation, Estrada offered a reconciliatory hand to his “enemies,” asking them not to remove him from office again. He was proclaimed along with his runningmate, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno.
Estrada vowed to reclaim the city’s old pride and glory.
“I am a very forgiving man. I have forgiven those who have removed me illegally [from the presidency], I hope they don’t do it again,” Estrada told a crowd of supporters.
“Thus, starting tomorrow, I am asking my worthy political opponents and the entire 1.6 million people in Manila to finally leave politics behind, and to rally behind me in putting Manila back to the pedestal of being one of the greatest cities of the world, the Paris of Asia,” he said.
“Tomorrow we wake up to the dawning of a new Manila,” he added.
With almost all of the votes counted as of press time, the former president was proclaimed the mayor-elect of the city of Manila after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) decided to lower the threshold needed to proclaim a winner.
According to Manila Chief Prosecutor Ed Togonon, vice chairman of the Manila Board of Canvassers, with 97.16 percent of the total votes cast counted, they decided to proclaim Estrada because his wide margin will not change anymore.
Estrada got 343,993 votes against Lim’s 308,544 votes while Moreno stole victory with 395,156 votes against the 234, 256 votes of Lou Veloso. Estrada arrived at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium at 11 p.m. on Monday believing that he would be proclaimed that night.
He was accompanied by his wife, former senator Loi Ejercito, and children Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Jackie and Jude Ejercito-Estrada.
Also seen inside the stadium was his son with San Juan Mayor-elect Guia Gomez, Joseph Victor (JV) Ejercito, who at press time was also winning in the Senate race.
However, the early proclamation of Estrada was stalled after lawyers of Lim asked for a deferment even as the lead of the former chief executive was insurmountable with 95 percent of the votes already counted.
About 650,000 of the more than 900,000 registered Manila voters cast their votes in Monday’s polls.
Estrada, a struggling actor in the 1960s, became a household name after he portrayed the role of “Asiong Salonga” in a movie about the life of the popular mob kingpin who sowed terror in Manila in the 1950s.
Lim on the other hand, earned the moniker “Dirty Harry” for his no-nonsense police exploits similar to the lead character in a Hollywood movie featuring Clint Eastwood.
Malacañang said President Benigno Aquino 3rd can work with the mayor-elect because both leaders are “good friends.”
“The President and Mayor-elect Joseph Estrada are good friends,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said. “Their families have remained good friends in spite of being affiliated in different political parties.” ”So, on a personal level, the President and Mayor-elect Joseph Estrada are in good terms. They have always been in good terms. I see no reason why Manila City Hall and Malacañang could not work together,” he added
The Manila mayoral race was considered among the tightest this election year, with the two former allies-turned-bitter rivals practically throwing everything in their arsenal against each other.
Since day one of the campaign period, the two had exchanged insults, highlighted by their debate on national television where they swapped more insults.
Estrada thanked the people of Manila for their trust and promised “to work harder than I have ever done in my past loftier political positions. This is because Manila is truly in my heart.”
He said he was willing to extend the hand of reconciliation to Lim, following their bitter fight.
”I thank the great people of Manila for putting a true son of Manila at the helm of the Philippine capital city,” Estrada said.
The former chief executive said the task at hand would prove daunting for him and the new set of officers at City Hall. He promised though that his election into office would be the first step in the rebirth of Manila “as the Queen City of the Pacific, the Pearl of the Orient.”
“This is both a challenge and a full weight of responsibility hanging over all our shoulders, mine especially, and of the set of officials you have elected into office . . . I will not fail you.
I was born in Manila, and I will die working to bring back the glory and pride to Manila,” Estrada said.
He admitted that the challenge to make Manila great again “is not an easy task.”
“The work and resources needed to do that is as stormy as the turbulent waters of historic Manila Bay. But tonight, you have voted to support me and to work with me, and that is the great start of a journey to make Manila deserving of its historic and political importance for the entire Philippine archipelago,” he said.