2. Erap is an Effective, Patriotic Leader
Contrary to the demonized picture his elitist and hypocritical, unpatriotic enemies paint him out to be, Joseph "Erap" Ejercito Estrada has proved to be an effective, truly patriotic leader that has the heart for the masses. The "Father of the Masses" has carved for himself a rather outstanding track record throughout more than three decades of executive and legislative service.
Outstanding, Nationalist Mayor
In 1971, the Inter-Provincial Information Service voted Erap as Outstanding Mayor and foremost Nationalist. The following year, also for his record as Mayor of San Juan, Manila, he was chosen as Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) in Public Administration by the Philippine Jaycees in 1972. The same year, he also won recognition by the Philippine Princeton Poll as the "Most Outstanding Metro Manila Mayor."
Infrastructure development was a mark of Estrada's administration as mayor--including the construction of the first San Juan Municipal High School and concreting of nearly all of San Juan's alleys and roads; renovation and improvement of other school buildings; and building of artesian wells, among others. Erap was so effective an administrator that, even with his accomplishments in infrastructure developments, he left San Juan with P24 million in savings.
Erap also exhibited vision, even early on. he first mayor to computerize assessment of the Real Estate Tax in the Municipal Assessor's Office. He established several foundations and trust funds aimed at providing scholarship and other assistance to the poor. In the movie industry, he is credited with the establishment of the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation (MOWELFUND), Inc. which has now become a robust organization that provides industry workers with financial and professional assistance.
Outstanding Nationalist Senator
As Senator, he chaired and co-chaired the Committee on Public Works and Committees on Health, Natural Resources and Ecology and Urban Planning, respectively. Among other bills, he was responsible for the passage of the he bills on irrigation project and the protection and propagation of carabaos, the beast of burden in the rural areas. Many farmers continue to benefit today from his so-called Carabao Bill.
He also proved his nationalism once more while in the Senate, being one of the "Magnificent 12" who voted against the extension of the onerous, imperialistic RP-US Military Bases Agreement. Additionally, even before the vote proper, he produced the anti-Bases film "Sa Kuko ng Agila" in his crafty move to stir nationalist sentiments in a people long mired in 'American worship' miseducation. In 1989, Free Press magazine cited him as one of the Three Outstanding Senators of the Year.
Vice-President and Anti-Crime Czar
As Vice-President under the administration of Fidel V. Ramos, concurrently served as Chairman of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC), in which capacity he ran after kidnappers, illegal recruiters, bank robbers, hoodlums both "in uniform" and "in robes." Unfortunately, when Ramos issued Executive Order No. 221 which significantly clipped the PACC'S operational control over is varied task forces, Estrada was forced to later resign as its chairman on June 4, 1997.
As President, Estrada was able to increase the Gross National Product up to 3.6% while raising agricultural growth rate to 6.6% from virtual 0% growth. He was also able to lessen inflation rate, registered at 12% around the time he first occupied Malacanang, by some 3%. All these happened within only 2 1/2 years--and despite the fact that the Ramos administration exited with ZERO savings in the national treasury. AND also despite the fact that Erap took over during the time that the Philippines and practically rest of countries in Asia were still reeling from the Asian crisis.
Another important, but much overlooked, accomplishment of Estrada was his removal of sovereign guarantees on public project contracts, thus freeing the sovereign Filipino people the unjust responsibility of assuming private companies' financial losses while doing business with government. One of the onerous contracts his administration canceled was the $100 million customs contract with the Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS S.A.) contract. Forged under Ramos' term, it involved "pre-shipment inspection" (PSI) which has been described as a "global racket" involving players, some of which have been convicted of bribery of high Third World officials.
Estrada showed commitment to cleaning government by ordering wide-ranging investigations of all government contracts from previous administrations and all suspected big-time tax evaders, as well as ordering the immediate relief of corrupt military and police officials. True to his pro-poor campaign line, the deposed and defamed President also undertook an aggressive nation-wide housing program targeting low-cost homes for the poor.
Kind, Self-Made and with Strength of Character
Estrada, in contrast to his Yellow opponent, is a self-made man who built his name all on his own. He built his name as actor all by himself. He won overwhelmingly as Mayor, Senator, Vice-President, and President without his mother or father campaigning for him.
The EDSA 2 and Plunder charge chapter of his life also undeniably reveals his uncanny strength of mind, will and character. Beyond, he showed a level of kindness and forgiveness that most mortals can hardly give to their neighbors. To borrow Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile's words:
Despite all the betrayal, the public humiliation, the most vicious and meanest attacks upon his person, name and honor, and the long years of confinement and restriction on his freedom, what I saw in Erap was an inexhaustible capacity for kindness and forgiveness.
Many times when I would visit him under detention, I would be surprised by the people who I found there in his company, enjoying his generosity, hospitality, and even seeking his help and support. I just quietly said to myself: "How can this man bring himself up to even feed these people who betrayed his trust and those who were instrumental in his painful and illegal ouster?"
Such a man able to withstand what he went through, still forgive and hold no rancor, and still run for President not only to redeem his name but also to resume his pro-poor projects is a gem hard to find.
I'm not saying Estrada was flawless. He had his share of what ails Philippine politics but overall, he had the guts to implement a pro-Filipino, pro-poor policy that does not tolerate business shenanigans. A media practitioner Facebook friend sums it up: "Estrada went to jail for loose change, sent by a conspiracy of bigger crooks involved in the counterfeiting of bills, drug and human trafficking, dollar salting etc."
Looking back to the elitist, haughty, derisive, bad-mouthed, judgmental, undemocratic, not spontaneous but conspiratorial impostor "People Power" that was EDSA 2, Estrada can perhaps be faulted for caving in to the seditious mob. In his great respect for the lives of the common masa, he sacrificed his position and the vote of the sovereign people. The result is nine years of reign with impunity by Gloria's cabal of thieves, cheaters, and liars. An evil Illegitimate's reign that not only smashed the Filipinos' moral fiber but, as well, led to unparalleled hunger and killings, and death from extrajudicial executions, warlord-perpetrated massacres or negligence by sheer misappropriation of disaster funds. By opting not to confront the EDSA 2 conspirators and mob, Estrada ultimately did not save Filipino lives but perhaps lost more.
During the campaign, Estrada promised that next time he sits in Malacanang, such a power grab won't happen again. From experience, the modern-day champion of Filipino masses has grown wiser. I believe him and I believe his vow to continue with his pro-poor, practically patriotic programs. That's why I have cast my vote for him and his entire PMP slate.
by Jesusa Bernardo
Sobriety for the Philippines