MANILA – If he had his way, San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito could have run for senator in the 2007 elections at the height of sentiments against President Arroyo. Instead, he gave way to the wishes of the opposition and let Benigno Aquino III and Sonia Roco take his place in the Genuine Opposition slate.
Speaking to ANC, Ejercito said he wanted to run for senator in 2007 after ranking high in pre-election surveys.
He said he shelved his senatorial ambition after his father, former President Joseph Estrada, wanted a stronger opposition slate for the 2007 polls.
“I am not saying that they have a debt of gratitude. I just want to remind them that we were together. I was the one who withdrew to give way to the candidates of the LP back them. I stepped aside and I acted as campaign manager,” he told ANC’s Headstart.
He noted that as GO campaign manager, he was in charge of schedules and often had the opportunity to introduce Aquino during the campaign sorties.
Aquino, a candidate of the Liberal Party, won a Senate seat in 2007 while Roco of Aksyon Demokratiko lost.
Ejercito won one more term as mayor of San Juan City in 2007, and then ran successfully for Congress in 2010. He is currently running for senator under the United Nationalist Alliance.
In the interview, the senatorial bet scored the ongoing tug of war between the LP-led coalition and UNA over the 3 common candidates.
He said Vice-President Jejomar Binay, one of the 3 leaders of UNA, is hurt that common bets Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero and Grace Poe are not giving the same attention to UNA but has instead focused on campaigning with Team PNoy.
“I think he feels a little bit hurt that we are continually being ignored but we value more than anything relationships and friendships. These people, the reason why they are included in the lineup, we have a long history of being together in the fight especially during the GMA administration. We were all together in the opposition at that time,” he said.
Using the Estrada name
Ejercito admitted that he is now using the name JV Ejercito-Estrada because his father’s name has more recall.
“People in the coastal areas, in the far-flung areas do not know the Ejercito name. But every time I go around, the people would say ‘Ah, si Estrada yan,’” he said.
He said it was his father who told him to use the Estrada name to ensure his victory in the 2013 polls. He said the additional votes could serve as a buffer in case there is cheating in the elections.
“I am not targeting to be a top 3, a topnotcher. We just want to be sure. Should they try anything, I would be safe with the buffer,” he said.
Asked if he believes there will be cheating under Aquino, he said: “Hindi lahat ng nasa daang matuwid ay matuwid. May baluktot din siguro. I have no problem with the President. We know that he is clean. His intentions are clean but I don’t know what the people are doing behind him.”
He added: “I really feel sad when I hear the President saying that we are impostors. We are not. Nobody has a monopoly on who can say that they are straight, who are matino so to speak.”
Not his father’s son
In the interview, Ejercito also admitted that he is not close to his half-brother, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada.
“I will admit we are not very close right now but at least we are not fighting anymore,” he said.
He said one reason why they have squabbled in the past is because he was always being compared to Jinggoy, whom he succeeded as mayor of San Juan.
He said that the last time they argued, their father called them for a sitdown and forced them to make peace.
“I think we were both struck the last time my father called both of us after the last controversy and squabble and he reminded us: ‘You know, I am already 75. Your lolo died at 78. Your tito died at 77. I am not far. I am already 75.’ Both of us realized that he really is not getting any younger. We both love him so much and we will sacrifice and do anything to make him happy,” he said.
Ejercito said that while he admires his father, he is not keen on following the former president’s example of having different families.
“I don’t want that because it is very hard and very expensive. Time management is a challenge and it will be even tougher if you have so many families. I have friends also who I can see that kind of setup, it will really affect you in your work and in your life,” he said.
He, however, added that he was never given any reason to feel insecure about his father’s love.
“My father’s life is an open book. You know the relationship and the arrangement is not normal but I never felt any insecurity at all given the setup we had. Probably with all his shortcomings with all of us, he always tries to make up for it,” he said.