CITY OF SAN JUAN — Mayor Guia Gomez, one of the women partners of former President Joseph Estrada, has come out in the open for administration and Liberal Party presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.
Gomez made the announcement during the weekly flag-raising ceremony in San Juan attended by some 700 officials and employees, citing the former Cabinet member of Estrada for what she claimed as selfless service to the people of San Juan.
This as Gomez and Estrada’s son, Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, stood firm on his support for the presidential bid of Sen. Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares.
Meanwhile, Estrada, one of the founders of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) with Vice President Jejomar Binay and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, may yet continue his support for Binay’s candidacy although a politician as he is he had announced he was weighing in on possibly supporting Roxas or Poe, adopted daughter of his former best friend, the late Fernando Poe Jr.
Estrada is increasingly under fire in Manila for increasing real estate taxes, imposing fees in the city’s public hospitals and clinics which for decades had not been collecting any charges from patients, commercialization of the city’s public markets by giving them to private groups, dismantling of a historic wing of the building of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, imposing P1,000 parking fee at the PLM even to university officials, faculty members, deans and employees, illegal takeover by PLM management of the President Ramon Magsaysay Enterprise Center which was built thru funds solicited by alumni, and alleged mismanagement at the city university, among others.
Estrada is also under fire from plans to place the Manila Zoo under a private group on the pretext of modernization. Already, Estrada has awarded the historic Army and Navy Club building which is owned by the city government to a private group which destroyed the more than 100 years old building while undergoing repair.
Estrada is now training in the surveys his main challenger, Rep. Amado Bagatsing, who gave Estrada the biggest votes together with the group of former Mayor and now Rep. Lito Atienza, who both have abandoned Estrada.
Rep. Rosenda Ann Ocampo of the sixth district of Manila has also joined Bagatsing and Atienza in frustrating Estrada’s reelection bid.
Observers said Estrada, Ejercito and Gomez could be playing politics to ensure their hold on power whoever will win in the 2016 presidential elections.
Roxas readily thanked the city mayor for her support.
“Nakikita natin dito sa San Juan ang pamumuno, pamunuan ni Mayora Guia, sampu ang mga kasamahan niya sa konsehal, kasama ang buong sambayanan ng San Juan na kung saan nagtatagpo yung development at yung peace and order, ‘yung kaayusan, ‘yung katahimikan sa komunidad, kaya mabilis ang paglago ng San Juan. Maraming salamat sa inyo, sa inyong serbisyo,” Roxas said.
Senator Ejercito said he is still inclined to support independent presidential aspirant Senator Poe despite the decision of his mother, Mayor Guia Gomez, to back the candidacy of Roxas in the May 9 elections.
”Nothing is final yet but as of this time, I’m still inclined to support Senator Poe,” Ejercito, son of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada to Gomez, said in a media interview.
Ejercito said he is supporting Poe because “we have stood by and fought issues together,” particularly on the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill, Mamasapano incident and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) issue.
Ejercito said that initially, their family members “agreed to disagree” in terms of supporting presidential candidates.
He said while his mother threw her support to Roxas, his father, who is seeking reelection as Manila mayor, has narrowed down his choices between Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Poe is the daughter of Estrada’s best friend, the late action movie king Fernando Poe Jr., and Estrada’s goddaughter, while Binay is the former President’s close ally in the opposition.
”Nothing is final yet. Hopefully, all the right legal issues would be settled very soon because, as of this time, the big question mark is the legal question,” Ejercito said, referring to the disqualification cases Poe is facing right now.
Members of Pink Ladies National Foundation, a support organization for women empowerment, witnessed the endorsement of Roxas by their Mayor.
In December last year, Roxas was warmly welcomed in San Juan during the inauguration of the completed housing project in St. Josephville that gave new homes to hundreds of informal settler families living in danger zones.
In her message, Gomez acknowledged Roxas for initiating the program Oplan Likas during his term as Secretary of Interior and Local Government, through which thousands of San Juaneños living in flood-prone areas were relocated to safer communities.
“Secretary Mar, thank you for your concern, not only for me, but for the people of San Juan. We owe it to you that we were able to bring thousands of San Juaneños previously living in danger zone areas to a better life with our Oplan Likas,” she said.
Gomez also expressed her gratitude to Roxas, who has always shown his concern for her and her constituents despite coming from different political parties.
While the San Juan mayor clarified that her support for Roxas may not necessarily translate to the support of the rest of the Estrada clan, she still pledged the support of the people of San Juan, saying that the positive impact of the housing projects in her city as well as the expedient responses of Roxas on the issues San Juan faced are only a couple of reasons for the endorsement.
“Lately, I have had sleepless nights thinking of how we can repay you for all your love and care for us, until it came to my mind that maybe it is now my turn to cross party lines. Thank you, thank you for that, for the betterment of our dear city,” she told Roxas.
“I have come to a decision that to express my personal gratitude to all of these. You will have my full support,” she said.
In an interview, Gomez elaborated on her reasons for supporting Roxas.
“Our dearest secretary and our senator Mar has always been a constant friend of San Juan. He has always been there for us. Siguro, sa lahat ng mga national officials, siya lang ‘yung talagang, unang-una siya sa lahat na magtanong sa amin kung ano na ang kondisyon namin kung may floods, kung may typhoons, may fire, everything else. That is, hindi ko po makakalimutan ang kanyang deep concern sa aming mga kababayan dito sa aming lungsod,” she explained
In return, Roxas praised Gomez’s leadership, noting that she embodies the values prized by Daang Matuwid.
“Malaking karangalan po, touched na touched ako, hinding-hindi ko po makakalimutan, na ang isa na tulad po ninyo na maaari naman na nasa sidelines na lang, na maaari naman pong tumahimik na lang, na maaari naman po na naiwan na lang dito tutal okay naman po ang San Juan na, ay tumatayo, naninindigan at ipaglalaban ang kapakanan ng San Juan, ng buong Pilipinas sa pamamagitan ng pagsulong ng Daang Matuwid. Maraming-maraming salamat po sa inyo,” he told Gomez in his speech.
Roxas also expressed his gratitude not only for her support, but also for being an excellent public servant.