Erap at 75: I’m done now

Former President Joseph Estrada turns 75, says he's had all the experiences in life.

ERAP HUMOR. At 75, former President Joseph Estrada's wit is as sharp as ever. Photo by Vicente Roxas

MANILA, Philippines – When former President Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada eyed the presidency again in 2010, he said, “This is the last performance of my life.” Now that he turns 75, is there anything else he still wants?

“Well, I think I’ve gotten all I wished for, all I prayed for,” Estrada said in a dinner in his honor on Monday, April 16.

The former President celebrates his 75th birthday today, Thursday, April 19.

The dinner also served as a forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap). In the dinner, journalist Raissa Robles of Focap asked Estrada his birthday wish, leading the former president to reflect on his colorful life.

Estrada said he faced an uphill battle all throughout his life – from being a college dropout to an actor to San Juan mayor to senator to vice president to president.

Still, he prayed hard and said God gave him all that he asked for and more.

“You know even if I didn’t pray hard…the Lord, I didn’t pray to be a prisoner, but he made me a prisoner. That’s why I have all the experiences in life: actor, mayor, senator, vice president, president and prisoner.”

75 YEARS. Erap gets an early birthday celebration during a testimonial dinner last April 16. Photo by Vicente Roxas

Doña Mary’s words

Then, Estrada turned wistful as he recalled a conversation with his mother, Mary Ejercito, who died in 2009 at the age of 103. Estrada was close to his mother and said to be her favorite son. 

“That is why, you know my mother was so old at that time, she was sick. So we talked in the vernacular and we talked in Tagalog and she said, ‘Ano ba Joseph ang nangyayari sa iyo? Ang pag-aaral mo, ‘di mo tinapos. Tapos nagkaroon ng EDSA 1, tanggal kang mayor, hindi mo rin tinapos ang pagka-mayor mo. Tapos ang pagka-presidente mo, hindi mo rin tinapos. Ngayon nasentensyahan ka ng life [imprisonment], hindi mo rin tinapos. Mamamatay na ako, wala ka pang natatapos.’”

Estrada mused, “So that’s it. Ako, tapos na ngayon.”

(“‘What is happening to you, Joseph? Your studies, you didn’t finish it. EDSA 1 happened, you were removed as mayor, you didn’t finish your term. And then your presidency, you also didn’t finish it. Now, you were sentenced to life imprisonment, you also didn’t finish it. I’m about to die, you haven’t finished anything yet.’ So that’s it. I’m done now.”)

ERAP'S WELL-WISHERS. Actress Boots Anson Roa was among those who paid tribute to her friend, Erap. Photo by Vicente Roxas

Estrada took up an engineering course at the Mapua Institute of Technology but dropped out to pursue acting. He was an award-winning actor, earning a place in the Famas Hall of Fame.

A prosecution walkout in the middle of his impeachment trial in 2001 triggered an uprising that cut short his presidency. It came to be known as Edsa Dos.

In 2007, the Sandiganbayan convicted him of plunder and sentenced him to 40 years imprisonment. His successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, however pardoned him a month later. 

Estrada ran again for president in 2010 and finished second to Benigno Aquino III.

ANSWERING ERAP-STYLE. Journalist Raissa Robles gets a witty response from Erap on when he will finalize his political plans. Photo by Vicente Roxas

Is he really done?

Despite Estrada’s statements, he may still have unfinished business in politics. 

Earlier that night, he told reporters he is considering running for Manila mayor in 2013.

“Well, 50-50 because I was born in Manila, in Tondo. I became famous in Tondo as Asiong Salonga and I met so many people,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

What he is sure about is ruling out a national post. He is content helping Vice President Jejomar Binay field candidates for their newly formed United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). (Read: Erap on Binay: ‘our next president’)

Another certainty is that even at 75, Erap is still ever the comedian.

Asked by Robles if he still plans to run for public office, he said, “Well, not for the moment.”

When will he decide? 

Estrada quipped, “Before the filing of the certificate of candidacy.”  – Rappler.com