Laguna's star-studded politics
LAGUNA, Philippines – Rogelio dela Rosa made history in 1957 by becoming the first actor to have been elected Philippine senator. He proved that celebrities could smoothly transition from showbiz to politics.
Since then, many celebrities followed the same path by taking advantage of their stardom to get a government position.
One of the most successful examples is former President Joseph (Ejercito) Estrada who won by a landslide in 1998 and came in at close second in the 2010 presidential race. Today, he is gunning to become the next mayor of Manila.
In Laguna, where the Ejercito clan traces its roots, 9 celebrities are vying for various government positions spreading across 3 out of 4 districts of the 5th biggest vote-rich province in the Philippines.
Six of these celebrity candidates are allied with Governor Emilio Ramon (ER) Ejercito Estregan of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) while the remaining two are from the ruling Liberal Party (LP).
Ejercitos: A celebrity political dynasty
Four Ejercitos are running in Laguna for the 2013 midterm election: Governor ER, his wife, and two brothers.
Known by his screen name as George Estregan Jr, ER Ejercito is the son of the late action star George Estregan Sr who is the brother of former President Estrada.
He became popular for his villain roles in movies, either as a crazy drug addict or a notorious serial killer.
It was only recently that he played protagonist roles first in the remake of the Asiong Salonga story and second as Emilio Aguinaldo in the biopic film El Presidente. He personally produced both of these films.
In 2001, he first ran for mayor of Pagsanjan where he served 3 terms before becoming the youngest elected governor of Laguna.
Among his major accomplishments as mayor was transforming Pagsanjan from being a 5th class municipality to a 3rd class town.
He banked on this success story and used it as his major campaign message to sway voters in Laguna for his 2010 gubernatorial bid.
He also endorsed his wife Girlie ‘Maita’ Javier-Ejercito for the mayoral post in Pagsanjan. She is now running for a second term. Prior to her political career, Maita used to play sexy roles in movies and was even paired with Fernando Poe Jr in the 90s.
Two other siblings of Governor ER are also political neophytes in Laguna seeking seats in the provincial board, former PBA basketball player Gherome Eric Ejercito (1st district) and George Gerald Ejercito (4th district).
Gherome used to reside in San Juan and served as assistant manager of ARENA San Juan before transferring to Sta Rosa, Laguna in 2011.
Gerald served as baragay kagawad of San Juan for two terms before transferring his residency to Pagsanjan, Laguna.
Similar to Governor ER, Gerald also played villain roles in movies.
“Ako po ay madalas na kontrabida’t mang-gagahasa sa pelikula pero sa totoong buhay, ako po ang magiging tagapagtanggol niyo sa Sangguniang Panglalawigan,” Gerald said in the final caucus of UNA in Pagsanjan on Friday, May 10.
(I may be an antagonist or a rapist in movies, but in real life, I will be your defender in the provincial council.)
All-star provincial board
Joining the two Ejercitos for a bid in the provincial board are 3 other celebrities, namely: Angelica Jones, Dennis Padilla, and Emilio Garcia.
Jones is seeking her re-election in the 3rd district of Laguna. Her first political attempt as board member was in 2007 but for the 2nd district of Laguna, her home district. She transferred her residence a year later to San Pablo City in the 3rd district.
Before entering politics, she gained fame as a sexy actress who popularized the song "Miss Flawless" in a now-defunct noontime show of ABS-CBN.
Dennis Padilla, whose real name is Dennis Esteban Baldivia, is running for the same position in the 3rd district. He is the estranged husband of actress Marjorie Barretto. Their marriage was annulled in 2008.
Padilla is well remembered as a sidekick in several action films, including the remake of the Asiong Salonga story.
Before running in Laguna, he previously served as councilor of Caloocan City from 2001 to 2007.
In an interview with the Philippine Entertainment Portal (PEP) on February 26, Padilla admitted that he was initially convinced by Governor ER to transfer to the hometown of his father in Nagcarlan, Laguna so that he could run as board member of the province.
Completing the roster of stars for the provincial board is Emilio Garcia running in the 1st district under the LP. Godofredo Garcia in real life, he is a political neophyte endorsed by incumbent Congressman Dan Fernandez, another television personality.
Garcia played sexy actor roles in movies and at the same time assumed roles of antagonist characters in a number of television soap operas.
More TV personalities for congress
A Congressional seat is considered as one of the most sought-after offices by celebrities.
In Laguna alone, two television personalities are presently vying for a congressional seat, namely: Fernandez and former ABS-CBN news reporter Marisol ‘Sol’ Aragones.
Fernandez will run for the 3rd and final time. He started his political career in Laguna as provincial board member in 1998 then as vice governor in 2001 but lost in 2004 for the gubernatorial race.
A political neophyte, Aragones is challenging the incumbent who belongs to a strong political clan in San Pablo City.
For her, leaving the broadcast industry was a tough choice but she said she felt obligated to respond to the growing call for a change in leadership in the 3rd district.
ER inspired celebrities to run
Dr Wilfredo B. Carada, a development management and rural governance expert from UP Los Baños (UPLB), believes that the growing number of celebrities entering Laguna politics is inspired by the election into office of Governor ER.
“I think celebrities were inspired by the election into office of Governor ER and Board Member Angelica Jones, among others, that in the coming 2013 election, several celebrities are testing their luck and aspiring to build political engagement in Laguna.”
The UPLB professor also factored in Laguna’s proximity to Manila as an enticing aspect that persuades celebrities to run in office within the province.
Dr Carada thinks, that in general, the political landscape in Laguna is rapidly changing. In the past, he recalled, not all celebrities who run for a position in Laguna succeeded in their first attempt.
“From relatively more professional politicians in the past, public or elective offices have been opened to everyone. The powers and resources provided by the Local Government Code promoted more attractions and incentives for people from different walks of life to aspire for elective office,” Carada said. - Rappler.com
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