The political milieu of an entire generation was molded around the contempt of the people against Former President Joseph Estrada. He is, after all, a very good example of what we don’t want from a President, whether it’s superficial or something that runs deep into our political consciousness. Countless times, Estrada has proven himself to be a man without remorse: whether it’s for womanizing, drinking, his lack of education compared to his peers, plunder. Pardoned after what passes for a prison sentence, Erap is back in the game: seemingly running for the Presidency for the sole purpose of vindicating himself.
In any other society – even within this one – where shame and dishonor is carried through entire lifetimes and generations, Erap seems to be the exemption, as he was years ago when he governed without regard for it. Yet from a certain perspective, Erap deserves to run, if only to take back the Presidency which, in yet another brazen note, he thinks of a trophy rather than a mandate. After EDSA II, with the massive discontent that followed the administration that replaced him, Erap sees his bid for the Presidency as vindication. As vendetta upon those who have taken him out. To vindicate himself in the eyes of the populace that once gave him the most support in a single election year.
The desire to vindicate himself frames Erap’s Presidential bid. The shame, like many things, has already been forgotten: Erap is just your friendly neighborhood ex-convict trying to set things right, to restore himself to the Presidency and maybe get down to the business of being a President: something he was not particularly good at. Through his political career he has painted a caricature of himself of being the champion of the poor and the oppressed, capitalizing on every event and circumstance to project himself as such.
If the poor get poorer today, it’s only because poor Erap was booted out of Malacañang. If there are persistent blackouts and rotating power interruptions today, it’s only because this didn’t happen during Erap’s time. If there’s rampant corruption, graft, and theft in Government today, it’s only because Erap’s government – while corrupt on so many levels – was not as corrupt as we think and suppose it is. There’s the candidacy and the campaign of Erap Estrada: the Philippines his stage, the Palace his studio, with every single aspect of the political life merely players. A vote for Erap is a vote back to “the way we were,” even if they weren’t so different… exactly the same.
To vote him into office simply means a path back to the day where we looked back at a President with so much contempt, with so much distrust, because he just doesn’t suit the expectations and because he isn’t doing a good job at being the steward of Government. To vote for him into office simply means to aid him in the journey to his political FAMAS. To vote for him into office is to fall for the caricature he so perfectly painted for himself. The silver-screen larger-than-life figure of a savior, a hero, a superstar, a great man who, at one point in a boat to Pasig and a morass of trials and public vilification afterward, is just that: a caricature.
Yet he continues to be supported. He continues to be lionized. He continues to have a showing at the surveys in a society where shame is easily forgiven and forgotten. If it’s any indictment to the current administration, it’s simply that we’re going through that phase of nostalgia and reminiscence: that Erap could very well do a better job at being President than Gloria Arroyo.
Sickening, but not for a guy running under a platform of vendetta, going strong at third place.