Opinion

Waning Relevance? The Uncertain Fate of the Ejercito-Estrada Political Dynasty

All things must end, even highly entrenched political dynasties.
IMAGE Wikipedia/Facebook Janella Ejercito Estrada
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In the recent midterm elections, five members of the Ejercito-Estrada clan ran for public office. All five of them lost, marking the end of the 50-year political run of one of the Philippines’ most prominent political families.

The Estradas began their public career when family patriarch Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada became mayor of San Juan in 1969. He held that position until 1986. Then, he made a successful bid for senator, a position he held from 1987 to 1998.

With his ever growing popularity especially among the masses, Estrada sought the two highest positions in the country. He won two of the largest landslide victories ever recorded in Philippine politics when he ran for vice president in 1992, and then for president in 1998. The Estradas remained political fixtures in national and local government: His son Jinggoy Estrada served as San Juan mayor from 1992 to 2001, and then as senator from 2004 to 2016. Another son, JV Ejercito, also served as San Juan mayor from 2001 to 2010, and then as Representative of San Juan from 2010 to 2013. JV then served as senator from 2013 to 2019. Joseph Estrada's nephew ER Ejercito served as mayor of Pagsanjan, Laguna from 2001 to 2010, and then as Laguna governor from 2010 to 2014.

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The 2019 midterm elections proved pivotal for the clan as each of them, for the first time in their political careers, experienced defeat at the polls.

As of this writing, the partial and unofficial election results seem likely to spell the end of the political career of the Ejercito-Estrada family.

In Manila, voters opted for the younger Francisco Moreno Domagaso, more commonly known as Isko Moreno. With 96.87 percent of votes tallied, Domagaso's eclipsed those for Estrada by a wide margin, leading with 345,774 to Estrada’s 202,699 as of 3:20 A.M. on May 14.

In San Juan, Janella Estrada, the granddaughter of former president Joseph Estrada, fell short of clinching the mayoralty race, with 35,060 voters choosing Francis Zamora compared with Janella’s 24,813. The results put an end to what would have been a 50-year rule of the Estradas in San Juan. Outgoing San Juan mayor Guia Gomez is the former partner of Joseph Estrada, and is considered an instrumental ally.

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Meanwhile, the former president’s sons are facing uncertainty with their senatorial bids. With 92.3 percent of votes for senators canvassed, JV Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada find themselves outside the “magic 12” slots for senator, with Ejercito in 13th spot with 13,632,195 and Estrada in 15th spot with 10,818,797 votes.

In the number 12 spot is Nancy Binay who leads Ejercito by roughly 250,000 votes.

Conclusion: Dynasties Also Come to an End

If there is anything we can say about the 2019 midterm elections, it is that political dynasties are also coming to an end.

The political uncertainty that faces the Ejercito-Estrada clan could be attributed to a host of reasons – it could be voters’ disenchantment, poor campaign strategies, or simply because of overconfidence in surveys. In an interview with ABS-CBN, former president Estrada refused to concede: “Why should I concede (defeat)? I was really projected (to win). All the surveys, from the start, indicated me as the winner, and now the results show Isko as the winner,” Estrada said.

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For someone who has never lost an election since 1969 and who has remained in politics for over 50 years, accepting defeat will not be easy. It might not even be an option. But the people have spoken. The 2019 midterm elections proved that even highly entrenched dynasties can collapse in a single night, and despite everything that has happened, it's proof that democracy is still alive.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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