IN GRATEFUL SERVICE OF THE FILIPINO MASSES
Aside from taking pride in being his father’s son, former Senator Jinggoy Estrada is even more than proud to declare and embody that he is an Anak ng Masa.
BY ROSY MINA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROMEO PERALTA JR.
Aside from taking great pride in being his father’s son, former Senator Jinggoy Estrada is even more than proud to declare and embody that he is an Anak ng Masa (Son of the Masses).
The Filipino masses, whom his family has served for decades under the tutelage of former President Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada, are the core and focus of his clan’s leadership.“For me, if not for the Filipino masses, kung hindi sa masang Pilipino, wala naman si Joseph Estrada. Wala naman din po si Jinggoy Estrada. So malaki ang utang na loob namin sa kanila (there won’t be a Joseph Estrada. There also won’t be a Jinggoy Estrada. So we are greatly indebted to them),” he tells LEAGUE Magazine.
Anak ng Masa, the slogan that Estrada goes by, is a homage to his father’s widely popular slogan, Erap Para sa Mahirap (Erap for the Poor).
“If there is what you call a Man of the Masses, and I’m referring to my father, and maybe that’s the brand of leadership that I have,” says Estrada. “He was a first class actor and superstar then mayor, senator, vice president, and president.”
As a little kid, he tagged along with his father to all the barangays in the City of San Juan, where both of them eventually became mayors. “I saw for myself that he really has a big heart for the poor,” he recalls.
“He showed this through his movies. Gumawa siya ng mga pelikulang pangmasa (he made films for the masses). He portrayed a lot of roles like a laborer, jeepney driver, and taxi driver. Then when he became a public servant, he saw that his priority is to help the underprivileged. And that is what I am trying to emulate."
Estrada, born Jose Pimentel Ejercito, Jr., followed his father’s footsteps both in show business and public service. In 1988, he was elected as vice mayor of San Juan City. He rose through the ranks, serving three consecutive terms as mayor from 1992 to 2001 before being elected as senator for two terms from 2004 to 2016.
“Talagang wala na akong ina-idolize [na iba] kung hindi ang tatay ko (I really do not idolize anyone else except for my father) ," he remarks.
For him, it was memorable that he won his first term as mayor of San Juan when his father prevailed as vice president, noting that they were in a better position to help their constituents. “When I was mayor, parang na-turn over niya sa akin ‘yung reins ng government ng San Juan (it was like he turned over to me the reins of government of San Juan City). And I fulfilled all my promises to my constituents here in San Juan and of course, with the guidance of my father, him being the city’s mayor for 17 years.
Whenever he had to make difficult decisions, Estrada consulted his father and sought advice. “But he never meddled when I was mayor of San Juan City. He knew that I could make it on my own.”
It was a whole different arena when Estrada assumed a national position as a member of the Senate, and former President Erap knew that he had to offer some pieces of advice to his son.
“He told me to give more time and to help the poor. He said when I decide, when there’s a tough decision that I have to make, I have to remember that my decisions have to be for the greater majority, with the greatest number. Kailangan ‘yung kung saan masaya ‘yung majority (It has to be where the majority is happy).”
All in the family
Estrada is also guided by his mother, former Senator Dr. Luisa “Loi” Estrada, whom he describes as very religious and doting.
“She always taught me the values. Huwag nang papansinin kung merong bumabatikos sa iyo. Sabi niya, ‘Kung wala ka naman magandang sasabihin, ‘di manahimik ka nalang (Do not mind if there are those who criticize you. She said, ‘If you have nothing good to say, then just keep quiet’).’”
He is aware that he cannot please everybody. “I’m really trying my best to please everybody but siyempre, marami pa rin mga hindi kuntento diyan. So wala naman tayong magagawa (of course, there are still a lot who are not content. We cannot do anything about that). I can only do so much.”
He has heeded his mother’s advice by trying to ignore naysayers. “They have the right naman to express what they don’t want,” he says. “But sometimes you get picked on a lot, you know. Minsan, nakakapikon din pero pinipigilan ko na sarili ko (Sometimes, it gets to me but I just restrain myself).”
Estrada also receives much support and help from his family, especially now that he is again seeking a senatorial post in the May 2022 national elections.
“My wife, my children, are very, very supportive. Eh sila na humahawak nung aking kampanya. Ako, kung ano nalang sabihin nila, ‘Oh, punta ka doon, punta ka dito.’ Ako na sumusunod sa kanila (They are the ones handling my campaign. Whatever they say, ‘Oh, go there, go here.’ I am the one who is following them),” he says with a chuckle.
Memories in the Senate
As he aims to make a comeback in the Senate, Estrada looked back on his 12 years in the Upper House, where he came a long way from being a quiet neophyte to becoming Senate President Pro Tempore to former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
“I was there trying to observe. Hindi ako nagsasalita. Pinakikinggan ko lang sila. Ang gagaling nila mag-debate. Sabi ko, ‘Ah, parang hindi ako bagay dito (I was not talking. I was listening to them. They were very good at debating. I said, ‘Ah, maybe I do not fit in here).’”
He admits that he was intimidated by “legal luminaries” such as Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Joker Arroyo, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel. He eventually learned a lot from them, adding that Enrile and the late Defensor-Santiago were very accommodating and helpful mentors.
“The veterans, they’re really going to pick on the neophyte senators,” he shares with a wistful laugh. “Titignan nila kung hanggang saan ka (They will see how much you can take).”
This prompted Estrada to study and work hard to fulfill his legislative duties. He introduced 617 bills while clocking in perfect attendance without tardiness.
“All the 617 that I filed, most of them were enacted into law and most of them are pro-poor bills,” he said, citing several implemented labor-related laws, a special program for the employment of students, and the Kasambahay Law for the protection and welfare of around 3 million kasambahays (household helpers) nationwide.
“A lot of people knew that I was already an actor or the son of Erap. But they never knew that I finished my college education. I took up law. So kahit papano, meron naman tayong naintindihan (So somehow, I am able to understand things),” says the University of the Philippines (UP) economics graduate who studied Bachelor of Laws for four years at Lyceum of the Philippines University.
Public service continues
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Estrada has carried on with his work of helping the less fortunate. He even began the JingFlix online show to reach out to more Filipinos.
“Doon ko pinapadaan ‘yung aking mga tulong. Binibigyan ko sila ng konting kasiyahan, konting palaro, at konting papremyo (That is where I course my help. I give them some fun, some games, and some prizes).”
From having around 100 live viewers at the onset, JingFlix now averages about 20,000 live viewers per episode. He said it has become a variety show of sorts that has brought out his public servant and entertainer sides at the same time.
“Maybe because siyempre, artista tayo kahit papaano at pulitiko rin tayo. Kahit papaano, gusto rin natin magbigay ng konting kasiyahan, konting tulong sa ating kababayan lalunglalo na sa panahon ng pandemya (Maybe because of course, I am an actor somehow and also a politician. Somehow, I want to give some fun, some help to our countrymen especially in the time of pandemic),” says the former actor who won the FAMAS Awards, Metro Manila Film Festival, and Golden Screen Awards Best Actor for “Katas ng Saudi.”
With persisting pandemic restrictions, Estrada thinks that social media must be harnessed further during the campaign period. “Ito na siguro ‘yung pinakamagandang paraan para magreach out sa ating mga kababayan (This is probably the best way to reach out to our countrymen).”
In addition, Estrada has distributed food items, including bangus (milkfish) from his mother’s farm in Zambales, to residents in San Juan City and the provinces of Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, and Bulacan.
“During harvest time, walang bibili (no one was going to buy) because of the pandemic so my mom told me to [buy them and] distribute these to the poor people. So that’s what I did.”
He then expressed gratitude for the continued confidence of his family’s supporters. “Hindi pa rin natitinag ang inyong suporta sa amin (Your support for us still has not wavered),” he said.
“Asahan po ninyo kung saka-sakaling palarin tayo na makabalik sa Senado, lahat ng ating mga panukalang batas na ihahanda ay para sa kapakinabangan ng ating mga kababayang masang Pilipino (You can expect that should I be fortunate to return to the Senate, all bills that I will prepare will be for the benefit of our fellow Filipino masses),” Estrada assures as he targets the possible continuation of his pro-poor legislative agenda.