Mayor Erap cleaning the gates of hell

Tony Lopez

Tony Lopez

In his first week as mayor of Manila, Joseph Ejercito Estrada did a cleanup job—literally and figuratively.

First, his honor (hizzoner) cleaned the Mayor’s Office which his advisers complained had reeked of urine and was infested with cockroaches and rats and other vermin.

A new coat of paint was promptly applied. The old dilapidated carpet was replaced with thick red wool. An executive desk with old- world patina was assembled, with a matching bookcase and cushioned chairs for callers. Leather sofas and a center table were whisked into the inner office for the use of the mayor’s men and his advisers and callers. He also installed a new seal of the Mayor of Manila, complete with backlighting.

The office’s little kitchen is being renovated, along with the toilet which the mayor found too small and smelled of urine and grime.

Second, with a familiar tangerine-colored towerl around his neck, and clad in plaid shirt, ragtag jeans and Converse rubber, Mayor Erap tried to clean some of Manila’s major streets by doing the sweeping and pressure washing himself. Later, he told Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, originally a street boy himself, for help. His glamorous deputy readily pitched in.

Third, the mayor tried to get rid of illegally parked vehicles —private, taxis, buses, and tricycles. As it turns out, parking is a very lucrative business for which little, if any, revenues go to City Hall.

At the Liwasang Bonifacio illegal terminal for provincial buses and jeepneys, for instance, the faceless operator collects up to P150,000 a day. Each vehicle dispatched must pay “kotong” of P100. Mayor Erap has decided to ban provincial buses. They will be allowed up to Vito Cruz Street only and then must drive back to the provinces.

Fourth, Estrada tried to rid Manila’s 4,000-strong police force of absentee policemen (what he calls the “lulubog, lilitaw” or the “now-you-see-them-now-you- don’t” cops).

Three ranking police officers—with the rank of colonel—were instantly sent to the freezer. One is the shadow boss of a parking business on city streets. Another was allegedly running an illegal sidewalk vendor racket.

Vendors are easy prey. They pay up to three times daily in the course of the day—P20 per vendor as “official” City Hall fee and P130 per vendor to the private operator. The city has easily 50,000 vendors so it’s easy to figure out the unreported take—P325,000 a day which loot is divided among people at the Mayor’s Office, police officers and local thugs down the line.

To get an inventory of the city’s active policemen, Estrada ordered every policeman and officer on the city payroll to personally report at the Manila Police District headquarters, update their personnel profile, and submit to biometrics (facial features, fingerprinting and weight compliance).

To clean up City Hall’s bungled finances, Mayor Estrada named a new city treasurer and a new head of the lucrative Business and Building Permits Department.

Next in the mayor’s Wish List —rid the city of criminal elements—bank robbers, kidnappers for ransom, and rapists plus probably even petty thieves.

As Vice President (1992-1998) and President from 1998 to January 2001, Estrada managed to clean Metro Manila and nearby provinces of big-time bank robbers and kidnappers, thanks to then Colonel Panfilo Lacson who treated the criminals with great dispatch and efficiency (they all disappeared from the face of the earth).
Why has Erap instantly become the world’s most glamorized janitor?

“It’s the only thing I can do without incurring expenditures,” he says. “The city has no money. I am not sure if I can even pay the payroll until October.”

According to City Treasurer Liberty Toledo, City Hall collects only P200 million a month—in property revenues, business and building permits and assorted fees and yet expenditures are more than P700 million. That implies an annual deficit of P6 billion. Manila has at least P600 million in unpaid electricity bills to Meralco.

A drain on city finances is City Hall’s bloated bureaucracy. Manila has about 11,000 employees, about 7,000 of whom are casuals, without permanent items. At least 2,000 are NPAs—non-performing asses. City Hall can be lean but mean with only about half its bureaucracy which eats up more than 40% of the budget.

“I have to clean the city, make it free of dirt, traffic and criminality to be able to attract tourists and investors,” he explains.

The mayor laments that all the large domestic corporations and multinationals are gone, having moved out to upscale Makati and now, fast-rising Taguig, the Global City.

Binondo to be revived
Binondo, once the proud and old symbol of Manila’s wealth and economic power, is now the shadow of its old self, its dynamism and economic power gone.

Sneers a writer in Yahoo News: “Let’s admit it, Manila will never have an Ayala Avenue, a Global City, or an Eastwood.?The best it can do is just to clean, beautify, sanitize, and keep safe what it once was—Beautiful Manila!”

Binondo had nurtured then rising entrepreneurs like Henry Sy Sr., Lucio Tan, and George Ty, today among the country’s richest individuals. Even San Miguel Corp., the Philippines’ largest conglomerate, began as a brewery in 1890 in a district named after it, San Miguel, by the Pasig River. San Miguel moved to Makati and later to Ortigas Business Center.

Believing that business is location, location and location, Henry Sy moved to Makati and then to his Mall of Asia complex. Lucio Tan moved to Makati but built his Century Park hotel in Malate.

Estrada hopes to clean Binondo of all its unsavory characters and traits and revive it as a business district.

The inner circle
The mayor has recruited top management and political professionals to help him do the job. For legal work and prosecuting grafters, there is Executive Secretary Ed Serapio and City Legal Officer Jay Flaminiano. To cultivate a business friendly environment, there is Business and Building Permits Chief Boy Soriano. To run the office, there is former Congressman Simeon Garcia as city administrator. They are backstopped by Erap’s son, Senate President Protempore Jinggoy Estrada.

In a sense, Manila is lucky to have Estrada. He has unrivalled experience in public service—17 years as mayor of San Juan town, six years as senator, six years as vice president and 30 months as President. He was convicted for plunder, by what looked like a Kangaroo court, imprisoned and kept in isolation for more than six years and later pardoned with full political rights. He recalls many famous ex-convicts—Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Anwar Ibrahim, and our own Ninoy Aquino. “We were imprisoned,” he smiles, “because we were men of conviction.”


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  1. With all due respect, the banning of provincial buses greatly affect the commuting students. Riding busses is more convenient and “safer” than the LRT, jeepneys and FXs. Apart from that, it is cheap as well (with only 10 pesos from Lawton to Buendia).

    This August, the price for the LRT will rise, and it will most definitely inconvenience a lot of students.

    • with all due respect as well my friend, isn’t it nice to get rid of the traffic and be on our way to school or to our home without any hassle. The traffic is serious, the way the jeepneys and the buses stop is a mess and the way our fellow commuters/countrymen discipline themselves I guess it is about time someone take an action. It is now up to us how we discipline ourselves. All of them are complaining to our leaders meanwhile what can we do to help them? I remember taking the bus from Cavite to Lawton just to get to Morayta and most of the time I’m walking from SM Manila to Park and Ride/ Quiapo bridge just to get a jeep to morayta because of the traffic.

  2. We’ve seen what is Manila and hell is all about. The best thing to do here is to make people be wary of their surroundings. Search manila hell on earth in youtube.

    • Frank dela Rosa on

      Would it not be better if we clean ourselves first before we clean our surroundings?

  3. John Rei Manalo on

    Surely, an avid fan of Erap even during his woe days, i always sneak up to what happened to him. We know for sure that you want the best for the country, and now given the opportunity to lead manila into progress. Go for it…make us proud again for Manila the finest city…

  4. Alberto A. Mendoza on

    I spent more than 20 years in the US Navy and travelled around the world. I visited many cities in Southeast Asia and Manila top them all. It is crowded, polluted, stink and dangerous. It is the armpit of Southeast Asia.

  5. MAYOR ERAP should consult Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao how to make Manila a SAFE CITY.First and foremost,GET RID OF CORRUPT POLICEMEN AND WOMEN,and those traffic aides in yellow uniforms.


  7. carlos saunar on

    For Mayor Erap, sir, paki implement ang clean air act. Do not allow smoke belching vehicles in Manila streets. If air pollution is eradicated or minimized, Manilenos and visitors in your city would have healthy air to breath. So far, the clean air act is a dead law. Kayo lang ang may kakayahang ipatupad ang batas na ito na magbabalik sa kagandahan ng Manila. God bless and be assured of our continuing support.

  8. Kintanario Abunggo on

    Mayor Joseph Estrada is always been regarded as one of the great Filipinos in modern times. Filipinos know this, which is why he was almost our president again, coming second to Pnoy. As expected, he’s gonna clean up Manila, eliminating the robbers, and the usual kotong gang, dressed in police uniforms. As a Filipino living abroad for the last 38 years, I now feel safer coming home for visits, knowing the likes of Erap being there for my safety. Heck, I might even consider retiring there! Thanks Erap, we love and respect you here in the USA too….I want you to know that.

  9. Manuel C. Cabugao on

    I wish the best for Erap and I hope and pray that, with his stewardship, Manila will be back with its glorious days and regain its status as the Philippines.

  10. chris villanueva on

    Good luck, and congratulation Manila for having a concern Mayor on pursuing development in Manila. I just hope its not that late, let’s all be supportive and avoid complaining and we must obey first for the good sake of our beloved capital city :D Kudos ERAP!!

  11. Julio M. Domingo on

    If Mayor Erap can keep up the good work of cleaning Manila and its criminal elements until the end of his 3-year term, it is not farfetched that he will be a strong contender for the 2016 presidential elections. I’m sure some presidential pretenders do not relish Erap succeeding in his job as mayor of Manila.

  12. Arnel Crisostomo on

    Keep it up Mayor Erap! May I suggest you also give attention to Vito Cruz St between Roxas Blvd and Estrada St. Taxis, PUJs and pedicabs mess up traffic flow everyday.

  13. Tagas Sariaya on

    “The mayor has recruited top management and political professionals to help him do the job. ”

    Let me get this straight. If the City has no money, where will it get to pay these top management and political professionals? I’d assume they’d work for free??

    Also, when Mayor Lim was interviewed on TV5’s Wasak!, he made a very good impression of a clean and honest leader. Mr Estrada is showing the exact same thing. I just wonder what happens when the next guy comes in down the road– what would he find in Erap’s old office after his term is over??

    And not being negative or anything, I think the poor Manilenos will continue to be poor.

  14. Abraham Concepcion on

    marami kang msasagasaan, marami uling magagalit sa iyo, gawin mo ang tama at nararapat para sa manga taong nagtiwala at aasa sa iyo. Manindigan ka sa kalagitnaan
    ng iyong mga kaaway at hayaan mong ang Diyos ang lalaban para sa iyo.

    Sana magkaroon ka pa ng mahabang buhay ng paglilingkod sa ating mga kababayan, mayor erap.

  15. Abraham Concepcion on

    marami kang msasagasaan, marami uling magagalit sa iyo, gawin mo ang tama at nararapat para sa maga taong nagtiwala at aasa sa iyo. Manindigan ka sa kalagitnaan
    ng iyong mga kaaway at hayaan mong ang Diyos ang lalaban para sa iyo.

    Sana magkaroon ka pa ng mahabang buhay ng paglilingkod sa ating mga kababayan, mayor erap.

  16. Gintong Lahi on

    Mator ERAP has all the goodies to improve the status of a forgotten Manila. I hope he shall continue his effort to cleanse Manila and to convert this city – the Pride of Metro Manila.

  17. Tom De Leon on

    Good luck to Mayor Estrada for his new vision of Manila. Hope he will succeed. I wonder how did former mayor Lim lived in a dilapidated city hall and toilets. and how can Lim allow all this illegal activities around the city including the ghost cops. I had high respect for Lim but it seems he meltdown with the crooks. If Mayor Estrada can clean up the city, tourism will be one of the major revenues for his city. He should also renovate some of the historical areas not yet tapped. He should also reduce or slim down his NPAs (non performing personnel)

  18. What Erap is doing is good, very good. However let us all hope that this will last for the next three years. What will be the problem is if is only good for starters. We know too well how he performed when he was President and that was a very bad experience for the Filipino people.