Estrada takes over Manila city hall

Posted on July 01, 2013

DISGRACED FORMER president Joseph E. Estrada yesterday returned to public service as the new mayor of Manila on an anti-corruption platform, joining thousands of other local officials and lawmakers nationwide in starting their term of office.

JOSEPH E. ESTRADA waves to his supporters after taking an oath as the new mayor of Manila yesterday, his first elected post since he was ousted as President 12 years ago. -- AFP

"I promise you the fight against corruption will be the centerpiece of my administration. We will clean up our police force to see to it that they will be Manila’s finest, not Manila’s worst," Mr. Estrada said in his speech during ceremonies at Manila city hall.

"Manila’s Finest" has been the longtime title of the Manila police force but this has been tarnished by cases of graft and corruption among its ranks. Mr. Estrada was known for a no-nonsense leader as mayor of the municipality of San Juan, instilling discipline among its law enforcers.

A triumphant Mr. Estrada, ousted from the Palace by a military-backed popular revolt 12 years ago after a failed impeachment trial in the Senate over plunder charges, claimed he is the first ex-convict Mayor of Manila.

"This is a historical milestone for the city of Manila, for the first time in history, Manila will have an ex-convict as your Mayor," he told supporters with his family at his side.

"I am innocent," he added.

Local officials and congressmen elected in the midterm polls last May 13 will have a three-year term while the 12 winning senators will stay in office for six years.

Mr. Estrada, detained at his rest house in Tanay, Rizal after his ouster in January 2001, was convicted by the Sandiganbayan of plunder on Sept. 12, 2007. His successor, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, granted him executive clemency on Oct. 25, 2007 restoring his civil and political rights.

The former leader tried to seek the presidency in the 2010 polls but lost to President Benigno S. C. Aquino III. Attempts to prevent him from joining the recent Manila mayoralty race were thwarted after the Commission on Elections last April dismissed for lack of merit a poll disqualification case filed by Alicia Ricos-Vidal.

Last Tuesday, Mr. Estrada was asked to comment on the petition for intervention filed with the Supreme Court by former Manila mayor Alfredo S. Lim on the disqualification case. He has yet to respond.

Meanwhile, Mr. Estrada during his speech vowed in his first 100 days to "clean the streets from vendors that cause traffic jams."

He also proposed the establishment of a night market, and called for business establishments to install closed-circuit television cameras.

Mr. Estrada claimed that the city has a debt of around ₱3.5 billion according to a report from the Commission on Audit, an accusation denied by his predecessor.

The former president rose from the ranks as mayor, senator and vice-president. Mr. Estrada led the country from 1998 to 2001. -- KMPT