Erap: Debt-free Manila by 2015
MANILA, Philippines – It was a speech chock-full of lofty accomplishments and even loftier plans, with wise cracks and quips peppered in between.
But Manila Mayor Joseph "Erap" Estrada was not joking around nor did he stutter when he made a promise before a stadium filled with city and barangay officials: Manila will be free from debt by the 2015, his second year in office.
On Wednesday, July 23, Estrada delivered his first “state of the city address” at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium. “The best days of Manila are yet to come,” Estrada said amid cheers and howling from the crowd.
The biggest applause came at the end of Estrada’s speech: when he said Manila officials would get the 4th tranche of their salary increase by the year’s end.
The Manila he inherited was a nightmare, said the former Philippine president. In Wednesday’s speech, as in speeches of days past, Estrada said the city had a debt of over P4.44 billion ($102.5 million)*, with a standing balance of only P235 million ($5.4 million).
“Hindi ako makatulog…kahit ilang sleeping pills pa inumin ko,” he said. (No amount of sleeping pills could make me sleep.)
The remark was a shot against former friend turned bitter rival Alfredo Lim, whom Estrada defeated in the 2013 elections. This wasn’t the only bad surprise Estrada encountered when he took over city hall, he said.
“Ang city hall ay pinabayaan. Sira, marumi at nangangamoy ang mga tanggapan. Lahat ng toilet ay nakapandidiri. Ang mga daga ay kasing-laki ng mga pusa. Maging ang opisina ng punong lungsod ay kahiya-hiya,” he lamented.
(The city hall was left to rot. The offices were disheveled, toilets unclean. The rats were the same size as cats. Even the office of the mayor looked pitiful.)
Estrada’s focus for the remaining two years of his term remains the same: peace and order. Estrada, who notoriously declared an “all out war” against Muslim insurgents in Mindanao during his almost 3 years in the presidency, said economic growth can only come with peace and order.
The mayor said the city will be purchasing new cars, motorcycles, and electric transporters for the Manila Police District.
Education will also be among his priorities, as Estrada said the city would construct 10 new school buildings, give free physical education uniforms to grade school students, and find a way to make sure all Manila public schools have computers and Internet connection.
“We shall join the fight of our teachers and educators for their right to incentive pays and allowances,” he added.
Bureaucratic cleanup will also be Estrada’s advocacy, including a “strong” campaign against graft and corruption through an Internal Audit Service office. Estrada as president was on trial for impeachment and later ousted in 2001 over accusations of corruption.
Estrada’s goals for Manila for 2015 include:
- update of the city’s comprehensive land use plan
- urban renewal projects with Binondo and Ermita-Malate on the top of the list
- nutribun project where students get vitamin-enriched bread and milk in school
- rehabilitation of the city’s hospitals
- further implementation of free health services though the “orange card system”
- all health centers should be within walking distance of residents
- rehabilitation of the Manila Central market, Quinta market, Pritil market, Obrero market and New Antipolo market
- repair and construction of 10 city roads
- rehabilitation and modernization of the Manila zoo
- improvement of the city’s sports complexes
- improvement of the Manila South Cemetery and construction of a columbarium
- upgrade of barangay halls and offices
- implementation of the solid waste management plan
- reactivation of the Manila council for the protection of children
- installation of 10,000 solar powered lamp posts
- deals with Manila’s sister cities from all over the world
- coordination with the Supreme Court on the construction of the Manila Hall of Justice
2016 and beyond
But Estrada’s first year as mayor is not without its major hiccups. Still pending before the Supreme Court is a disqualification case against him filed by Lim.
Asked about the case, Estrada told reporters: “Okay lang iyon. Hindi ko iniintindi 'yun. Subukan nila.” (It’s okay. I don’t worry about it. They can try to impeach me if they want.)
The first half of 2014 has also be a roller coaster ride for the Estrada clan. The mayor’s son, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center over graft and plunder charges.
“Kaya nating lampasan 'yan sapagkat galing na ako doon. Na-experience ko na 'yun…. Wala naman silang napatunayan na ako’y nagnakaw,” he told reporters. (We’ll get through this because I’ve been through it. But they didn’t prove anything.)
Estrada was convicted by anti-graft court Sandiganbayan for plunder and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2007, but was immediately pardoned by then President Gloria Arroyo.
Still, the Estrada name is anything but tarnished, if surveys are to be believed. Estrada’s name still comes up as a top presidential bet for the 2016 elections. But the mayor said he doesn’t have 2016 plans – at least not yet.
“Sa ngayon wala akong plano at ako ay kasulukuyang sumusuporta sa ating vice president,” he said. (I don’t have plans yet. Right now, I support our vice president.)
Vice President Jejomar Binay was Estrada’s running made during his failed 2010 presidential bid. Estrada came second to President Benigno Aquino III.
Like Estrada’s son Jinggoy, Binay also faces a corruption complaint. On Wednesday, July 23, two former Makati barangay chairmen filed a case against him before the Ombudsman for an allegedly overpriced car park building during his term as mayor of Makati City. – Rappler.com
*US$1 = P43.3