Department of Health

Erap – friend, actor, politician

Natashya Gutierrez
As part of his 75th birthday celebrations, former President Joseph Estrada is surprised with a tribute book, flanked by friends

BIRTHDAY BOY. Former President Joseph Estrada blows out his candles on his 75th birthday celebration. April 16, 2012. Natashya Gutierrez.

MANILA, Philippines – Every Valentine’s day since her husband died in 2004, Susan Roces Poe, the wife of actor and politician Fernando Poe Jr., receives a bouquet of flowers without fail.

The flowers, every year, have a note attached to it addressed to Poe’s pet name for his partner. It reads: “Dearest Swanie, Happy Valentine’s Day. Love, Ronnie.”

And in parentheses underneath, “(through Erap).”

This is former President Joseph Estrada the friend, according to Grace Poe Llamanzares — the daughter of Poe — as chronicled in the book Ito ang Pilipino: A Tribute to Joseph Ejercito Estrada, which also tells the story of Estrada the actor, the politician, the imprisoned, the vindicated.

On Monday, April 16, or 3 days before his 75th birthday, Estrada was surprised with a tribute book on his life — compiling testimonials from his political allies, former Cabinet members, and closest friends that include Poe Llamanzares, actress Boots Anson Roa and congressman and boxer Manny Pacquiao who has just joined his coalition with Vice President Jejomar Binay, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

The book, entitled Ito ang Pilipino: A Tribute to Joseph Ejercito Estrada, was written, edited and compiled by Estrada’s spokesperson, Margaux Salcedo.

Praise from friends

Sen Panfilo Lacson, who also contributed to the book, wrote that everything he has achieved was from becoming part of Estrada’s team. For a time, they had a falling out over issues related to the Bubby Dacer murder case.

Estrada’s leading lady Anson Roa talked about her perpetual admiration for the ousted president, while former Cabinet Secretary Jose Pardo talked about his people-centered style of governance.

In a show of support, Binay was also in attendance.

'FUTURE PRESIDENT.' Former President Joseph Estrada introduces Vice President Jejomar Binay as "the future president."

The event comes just days after Binay’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) announced its coalition with Estrada’s Partido na Masang Pilipino (PMP) to form UNA, which is expected to go up against President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party (LP).

Aquino’s political adviser Secretary Ronald Llamas and Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco — who has gained notoriety for testifying against the prosecution in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, an impeachment Estrada supports — were present for the celebration as well.

Estrada’s focus, it seemed, was solely on appreciating the presence of his friends as he avoided answers to political questions thrown his way.

He said he was still “50-50” on whether he would run for mayor of Manila but refused to expound on what factors he was still considering.

That he was ousted a decade ago and convicted of plunder seemed like a blurry past to those who came to see him. –

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