By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
(© 2016 Journal GlobaLinks)
MANILA (JGL) – Joseph “Erap” E. Estrada can still run for Manila mayor in 2019 but when he turns 79 Tuesday (April 19), he feels that his 47 years in politics is coming to its end.
In an interview with this reporter, Mr. Estrada said his second stab at the mayoral elections on May 9, 2016 is going to be his last.
“This is my last hurrah,” the mustachioed actor-turned politician said. “I have paid my (political) dues”, meaning he devoted his best years of his life in public service.
Confident of winning his second term as Manila city mayor, Mr. Estrada summed up to Radio Inquirer anchor Atty. Ed Dural why he could easily handle his rivals in the coming elections. “Ang kalaban ko ay isang Bombay, (referring to Kabaka’s Amado Bagatsing), at ang isa naman ay Intsik, (referring to former Manila Mayor Liberal Party’s Alfredo Lim.)” Estrada said he could imagine losing to foreigners.
But the main reasons, he would be returned to City Hall, Estrada said, are his accomplishments.
He took pride in having Manila adjudged as the “First Place 2015 Overall Most Competitive Cities. “Ang karangalang iginawad ng National Competitiveness Council of the Philippines sa ating lungsod bilang Nangungunang Highly Urbanized City (Overall Competitiveness) ay pagkilala sa ating sama-samang Pagkilos tungo sa ikauunlad ng buhay ng mga Manilenyo, “ (The honor bestowed by the National Competitiveness Council of the Philippines on our city as leader of Highly Urbanized City is a testament to our collective effort to develop the way of life of every Manilan.”), Mr. Estrada explained.
Mr. Estrada also thanked term-out Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, who is running for senator, and members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, various department heads, police, teachers, barangay leaders, non-government organizations, civic groups, private sector and all the taxpayers in Manila for making the honor possible.
One of his proudest accomplishments was his ability to balance the budget after City Hall was left bankrupt by Mayor Lim in 2013 due to mismanagement and corruption when Mr. Estrada took over. He said Lim left the city coffers a mere P235-M (US$5.1-M), not even enough to pay the salary of city hall employees. The City Hall was left with a debt of P4.4-B (US$96.6-B) and Manila had unpaid debts of P3.5-B (US$76-M).
SEAL OF GOOD GOVERNANCE
By making Manila clean up the streets of litters and traffic obstructions and esteros and upkeep of City Hall building and with the help of the private sector, Mr. Estrada was awarded the DILG (Department of Local Government and Interior Government) “Seal of Good Governance” after just one year in office for perfect score in good financial housekeeping, disaster preparedness, social protection, peace and order, business friendliness and environmental management.
Mr. Estrada is also sticking on his promise that at the end of his second term, “the city of Manila will be debt-free.”
In his second-year in office, Mr. Estrada was able to generate P9.2-billion (US$200-M) in 2014 or 40% increase and he collected P10.5-B (US$228-M) or 70% in 2015.
The real estate tax collection also jumped to P4.69-B (US$101-M) or 63% between 2014-2015 compared to Mayor Lim’s collection of P3.04-B (US$66-M) between 2012-2013. The collection helps introduce improvements to public services among 896 barangays, which got P1.95-B (US$42.3-M) in 2014-2015 from the pot, while during the time of Mayor Lim, the barangays merely got P0.98-B (US$21.3-M) in 2012-2013.
In terms of business permit fees collection, Estrada’s administration managed to collect P314-M (US$68-M) or an increase of 53% to Lim’s P185-M (US$40-M).
Estrada also takes pride as Manila being one of only two cities with an updated schedule of values and compliant tax rates of real property, which generated P5.05-B (US$109-B) that went to expenses for security, infrastructure projects, education and health. He assured Manilans that every cent collected from their taxes will go to the the Manila treasury.
These services include enhanced healthcare services for free hospitalization and medicines, full operation of Manila Dialysis Center, the biggest such facility in the nation, which is now treating 1,800 patients a month. About 34 more dialysis machines will be added by January 2016. Estrada also allocated P500-M (US$10.8-M) for hospital and health centers modernization program for six city public hospitals.
Mr. Estrada also warned hospital directors from asking payments for hospital services from the patients. He already removed and prosecuted a hospital director for this violation.
He is also happy to report improved peace and order situation in the city with a 29.71% dip in the crime rate for 2014-2015 compared to 2012-2013. There was also 24.55% crime solution efficiency. His administration also caused the arrest of leading crime gangs, among them the Dominguez robbery group and among those most wanted. He also reduced the drug menace in the city, including the arrest of 317 drug pushers. Lim’s son had been arrested in a drug bust in Cebu.