MANILA, Philippines >> Ousted Philippine President Joseph Estrada filed his candidacy Tuesday for mayor of Manila, joining thousands of candidates in midterm elections that will be dominated by political dynasties, celebrities and the rich and powerful.
The polls scheduled for May 13, 2013, illustrate the most obvious streak of Philippine politics: It’s a family affair.
Among those expected to run again is Imelda Marcos, widow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who is among candidates for 286 congressional seats. Her daughter, Imee, will try to keep her seat as governor of their northern home province of Ilocos Norte. Her son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is already a senator.
Estrada, 75, who is challenging his former ally, incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim, moved into a house in Manila in May to establish residency there. Lim’s supporters have accused Estrada of not understanding the feelings of people in the capital because he lived much of his life elsewhere.
“There is no boundary to serving the people, especially the marginalized,” Estrada replied.
Estrada’s eldest son is also a senator and another wants to join him, along with the sons of two last-term senators.
Among those contesting half of the 24 seats in the Senate is a congresswoman who is the wife of an outgoing senator. Also, a brother of another senator is seeking re-election.
A cousin of President Benigno Aquino III, Paolo Benigno Aquino, is on the administration’s senatorial slate. Their aunt, Margarita Cojuangco, is running for the Senate with the opposition.
Boxing champion and incumbent Representative Manny Pacquiao filed for re-election. A younger brother also filed his candidacy for governor, and Pacquiao’s wife, Jinky, is running for vice governor of their southern home province of Sarangani. Pacquiao is to fly this week to the United States to prepare for a December fight against Juan Manuel Marquez.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said a political free-for-all that followed the end of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 has been replaced by a consolidation of elite rule in which “the old political clans are dividing power among themselves.”
“There is a critical mass of mature voters, but there is no significant mass of reform candidates,” said Casiple, who heads the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform. “To the voters, it’s just a matter of choosing between two evils.”
Members of other prominent families and longtime political rivals are competing for lower positions.
Elections often result in violence in a country awash in weapons and private militias. In 2009, 58 people were massacred, including 32 media workers, in a single ambush blamed on a political rivalry in southern Maguindanao province. Former Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and several of his sons are among nearly 200 defendants facing multiple murder charges in the attack.
Estrada’s successor, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is facing several corruption cases, was elected a congresswoman from her home province in 2010 but hasn’t yet filed for re-election. The deadline is Friday, and she’s widely expected to file.
Estrada, a former actor who also has been vice president, senator and a long-time mayor of suburban San Juan, promised urban renewal, jobs and law and order in the crime-infested Philippine capital.
“I am finished with San Juan. San Juan is already beautiful. This time we will beautify Manila,” he said. “I will declare all-out war against criminals and scalawag policemen.”