Erap: Noynoy is my toughest opponent
MANILA, Philippines – Former Philippine president Joseph Estrada on Monday admitted that his toughest opponent in the 2010 presidential race is survey frontrunner and Liberal Party standard bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
“I think Number 1 is harder to beat. I want to be number 1. Siyempre siya yung pinakamahirap talunin. If he is still number 1 (by May), he will be the hardest to beat,” Estrada said in a radio dzMM interview.
Aquino has topped pre-election surveys by Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations since he announced his candidacy last September. SWS president Mahar Mangahas, however, noted that there has been a consistent decline in support for Aquino since December.
Estrada currently ranks third in the race but has been steadily gaining support after ramping up his presidential campaign last February.
In the interview, the former president said the people should vote to bring him back to Malacañang because he is the original opposition candidate compared to other presidential bets who conspired to remove him from office in 2001. If re-elected, he said he would prioritize food security in the country.
Estrada was elected president in 1998 but was removed from office in 2001 after a four-day bloodless revolt, which has been dubbed the EDSA 2 People Power Revolution.
“We celebrate EDSA 1 every year because it signaled the return of democracy to the country. But EDSA 2, we don’t celebrate EDSA 2. The Filipinos are ashamed of it. It was illegal and the way I was removed was unconstitutional,” he said.
In the interview, he said the present group of presidential contenders did nothing when his best friend, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr, ran for the presidency in 2004 and lost to President Arroyo. Arroyo has been accused of rigging the 2004 presidential election with the help of Commission on Elections official Virgilio Garcillano Jr.
The original ‘orange’ candidate
Estrada, meanwhile, chided Nacionalista Party bet Sen. Manuel Villar for “stealing” his campaign colors for the presidential race. Both candidates are using the color orange to distinguish themselves from the other candidates.
Estrada said the color orange in his campaign has a storied history, dating as far back as his successful senatorial campaign in 1987.
At that time, he said there was a lot of tension between the ruling Laban political party of President Corazon Aquino and the remaining members of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan of ousted president Ferdinand Marcos. Laban used the color yellow while KBL used red.
“Since I wanted unity in the country, I mixed the red and the yellow and came up with orange. Orange has been my campaign color since 1986. When I ran for senator, vice-president and president, I used orange as my campaign color. Matagal ko nang kulay ito,” he said.
He added: “Iba na yung original. Mahirap yung nangongopya lang.”
Estrada reiterated his earlier claim that he received feelers from another candidate to withdraw from the race in exchange for the reimbursement of his campaign expenses. Asked if it was Villar who sent the offer, he said: “May mga pahiging lang. I cannot say if it came from them.”
He also admitted that he shares the same dilemma as other candidates when it comes to lack of campaign contributions. He added, however, that unlike other candidates, he is running a much leaner campaign. “First of all, we don’t do ‘hakot’ crowds. We don’t pay artists so matipid na matipid. We also have friends who donate gasoline money or sound systems. These are just small things that I get,” he said.
Estrada said that compared to his competitors, he does not need celebrity endorsers for his campaign.
“The people are my biggest endorser. Si Erap may masang Pilipino. Sila lang ang pinagmamalaki natin,” he said.