I had been vocal against former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada running for public office again, much less winning as Mayor of Manila, but since the residents chose him over the incumbent Alfredo Lim, then, so be it.
Perhaps Erap will be able to redeem himself competently as Manila’s mayor after his ignominious ouster from Malacañang in 2001 and more so after he was convicted for plunder in 2007, but later pardoned.
Not only that. I hope Erap can also improve and elevate Manila’s image as the capital of the country, making it reputable and worthy of its rich history.
Every now and then we hear foreign visitors coming to Manila and leaving discontented and disturbed with what they have seen and/or experienced.
Mostly, the negative remarks are about uncollected garbage, pollution in the air and in rivers, crime, dirty and stinky airports, beggars on the streets, human trafficking, child prostitution, poverty and a host of other complaints.
The latest of such verbal assault about Manila is found in best-selling author Dan Brown’s latest thriller, “Inferno”, where a female character described her Manila experience as passing through “the gates of hell”.
She was of course referring to the squalid social conditions in Manila, not to mention that she was a victim of rape, too.
While Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino made a big argument about this, Manila mayor-elect Estrada, however, took everything in stride and concurred with the book’s author.
In fact Erap added more of his own observation that must have infuriated Tolentino all the more.
“That is the very reason why I ran for mayor because I was born in Tondo, Manila. Manila has the highest level of poverty incidence,” he said. “Manila has become the car theft and kidnapping capital of the country. Police are involved in criminalities. Vendors are subjected to extortion by bad cops and Manila is suffering from worst traffic and overpopulation.”
Then he added, saying, “I want to rehabilitate Manila. That is a wake-up call for all of us.”
This is how politicians and government officials should react – with an open mind – when what is said or written is true, even if the book is fiction. Citing realistic conditions of places and events help make the story an interesting reading.
One thing good about this latest book controversy is that this will surely energize Estrada’s administration to make good their promise of giving Manila a new, respectable face.
Surely, a lot of rehabilitating to do before Manila can earn the moniker “entry to heaven”, as Tolentino has the delusion of calling it.