Zamora credits victory to Estrada family feud

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 15) — The Ejercito-Estrada clan, which has ruled San Juan City for 50 years, may have caused their own undoing.

The city’s incoming mayor, Francis Zamora, told CNN Philippines’ The Source that the feuding in the political family headed by outgoing Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada helped him take the top post in San Juan City Hall.

READ: Ejercito: Reconciliation with Jinggoy unlikely while in politics

Alam naman ng buong San Juan ‘yun eh na hindi sila united [All of San Juan knows that they are not united] … It came naturally. Automatic. I did not even have to exert any effort for it,” Zamora said Wednesday.

He said there are San Juan residents supportive of outgoing Mayor Guia Gomez and her son, reelectionist Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, who do not back the “faction” of the clan headed by Erap and his son, plunder-accused senatorial candidate Jinggoy Estrada.

Nung naglaban kami ni Mayor Guia nung 2016, may mga pro-Jinggoy, pro-Janella na kumampi sa akin. Ngayon na naglaban kami ni Janella, mayroong mga pro-Mayor Guia, pro-Senator JV na kumampi sa akin,” Zamora said.

[Translation: When Mayor Guia and I ran against each other in 2016, there were people supportive of Jinggoy and Janella who backed me. Now that I am running against Janella, there are Mayor Guia and Senator JV supporters who backed me.]

Zamora ran against Jinggoy’s daughter, outgoing San Juan Vice Mayor Janella Estrada. He won by a margin of over 10,000 votes.

It is the first time since 1969 that an Ejercito or Estrada has not been elected to the mayoral post in the business district. Erap sat as the local chief executive that year and his sons, Jinggoy and JV, along with his former partner, Gomez, have held the seat after him.

The only other time that someone outside of the Ejercito-Estrada family was chief executive of San Juan was in 2001, when basketball star-turned-politician Philip Cezar served as acting mayor while Jinggoy was suspended as he faced plunder charges.

But Zamora said he has sensed the winds of change blowing since 2016, when he lost to Gomez in 2016 by just 1,000 votes despite her having the backing of a rigid political machinery.

“I was able to measure my strength versus theirs and I saw San Juan was really ready for change,” Zamora said.

While Zamora is bound to head San Juan, his father, incumbent Rep. Ronaldo, has also reclaimed the city’s lone congressional seat.

Even with two members of the family elected to key seats of power in the city, Zamora allayed fears that they are building their own dynasty after toppling the Ejercito-Estrada clan.

“My dad is 74 years old. This is now his last term in Congress. Once he finishes in 2022, he will retire by that time. I’m about to start my first term, after my dad retires, I will be alone,” the younger Zamora said.

Zamora promises that he will herald a brand new San Juan in his first three years in office, vowing to erect a high-rise in-city public housing, improve the San Juan Medical Center and turn the business district into a “smart city,” with barangays (villages) equipped with free wifi and an app for residents to communicate and transact with the city government.

The Zamora family was once allied with the Ejercito-Estrada clans until they decided to part ways in 2016 after they accused San Juan’s decades-old rulers of plotting to shut them out of politics.

Fast forward to 2019, incoming Mayor Zamora and the outgoing Mayor Gomez both said lines are open for reconciliation.

Aside from San Juan, the Ejercito-Estrada clan also lost in their bailiwick of Manila, with Erap also being defeated by his former ally, Mayor-elect Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso.

The clan also risks losing a Senate seat, with Jinggoy trailing behind the winner’s circle in the partial and unofficial count, and JV still fighting for the 12th spot.