"Para sa mahirap [for the poor], indeed."
From womb to tomb. That is how Mayor Joseph Ejercito “Erap” Estrada defines his brand of social welfare governance and legacy as a public servant.
Unprecedented and unequalled anywhere in the Philippines, Estrada’s womb-to-tomb program is dedicated almost exclusively to the poor of Manila, the masses for whom his slogan in 50 years of service to the people, “Erap Para sa Mahirap,” has found ringing resonance and substantial actualization.
In Erap’s mind, the poor deserve more, and for free, because they have the least in life but are entitled to better quality of life, just like everybody else. It is true social justice.
Womb to tomb (or from birth to death free services) program is propelled by two major verities:
One, a study by the University of the Philippines that found the among highest levels of poverty, unemployment, and squatting in Manila.
Two, Estrada’s fighting faith and political compass in dealing with people – “the greater good for the greatest number.”
The mayor, for whom religion is a private practice and a public mantra, cites Matthew 25:40: “Whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did unto me.”
Complementing that is another principle of true faith—forgiveness.
As a leader, politician and public servant of the past 50 years, Erap has been betrayed repeatedly, by friends, his circle of advisers, close political allies, and even by his own relatives.
Through all the deception, duplicity, double-dealing and double-crossing, Estrada has responded with remarkable stoicism and equanimity.
He recites a passage of the Lord’s Prayer—“forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” To receive God’s mercy, treat the treacherous with pity and leniency.
After nearly six years as mayor of the Philippines’ premier city, here are a few examples of Estrada’s Womb to Tomb public service:
• Spent billions for health care
P500 million was spent to modernize six hospitals—Ospital ng Maynila, Ospital ng Sampaloc, Ospital ng Tondo, Justice Jose Abad Santos General Hospital, Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center, and Santa Ana Hospital.
He bought new equipment for the hospitals—55 dialysis machines (to be increased to 77) for the Manila Dialysis Center—the first, largest and only dialysis center of its kind in the Philippines; MRI at Ospital ng Maynila, worth P117 million; CT scans, x-ray, ultrasound, phototherapy, 2D echo, eye testing machines, and ECG.
Under Mayor Estrada all services for indigents are free, from birth to burial—consultation, laboratory, OTC medicines, other supplies. Any official found violating the free everything dictum is fired.
Burial, too, is free for indigents. The city has built a columbarium in the North Cemetery and is building a second one in the South Cemetery.
Twenty-two health centers were rehabilitated. Medical missions regularly tour the city.
• Spent P4.7 billion for the construction, repair and rehab of 100 school buildings.
Erap expanded the city’s scholarship program for poor but deserving students.
P375 million bought new computers, laptops, computer printers, digital labs, and projectors.
Teachers’ allowance increased by P500. Teachers were given computer tablets with instructional materials.
P284 million spent for Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, now one of the Top 4 Philippine universities with topnotchers in the bar and medical exams. PLM grads are much in demand by employers.
The city Manpower Training Center has trained more than 4,000 jobless Manilans to synchronize skills with demand and solve skills mismatch.
Together, free medical care and free quality education will dramatically improve human capital in the city. Free education will enhance and improve the mind. Free medical care will improve and sustain the body. With a sound mind and a sound body, Manilans will have a productive life.
• Improved peace and order
Erap bought mobile cars to improve police visibility. So-called police in the shadows (Police sa Dilim).
The mayor arrested and jailed the city’s most wanted criminals and intensified campaign against illegal drugs.
He paid the police force’s long-delayed allowances. They now regularly receive allowances, which have been increased monthly.
Crime incidence went down, from 17,258 in 2012 to 11,029 by 2016, a dramatic drop of 36 percent. Crime solution efficiency almost doubled, from 36 percent in 2012 to 68.4 percent by 2016.
• Spent billions for infra
P1.8 billion went to construction and or rehab of major roads, streets, and drainage systems. More than 5,217 solar-powered street lamps were installed.
P304 million has been allotted or spent to modernize sports complexes and covered courts in the six districts.
Public markets in each district were rebuilt and or rehabilitated, with little cost to the city because they were a public/private partnership projects. The six markets included the Quinta Market, Santa Ana market, Bambang, Trabajo, Sampaloc, and San Andres markets. They have something unheard of for public markets—airconditioned lounges and toilets, rivaling the amenities of toilets in big private malls.
P101 million was spent to rehabilitate parks and playgrounds.
Over the long term, Mayor Estrada has approved four huge reclamation projects to build districts and indeed, new cities in the middle of the sea—on the fabled Manila Bay, one of the world’s greatest harbors.
Turning sand to land will carve up to 1,400 hectares from the sea, using a tried and tested technology, dredging. When completed, the 1,400 hectares will increase Manila’s total land area, by 33 percent, from 4,288 hectares to 5,688 hectares, starting in two years, or by late 2021.
The four reclamation projects are: Manila Bay International, Manila Waterfront City, Horizon Manila, Solar City. All four have undergone the required vetting by the local and national government agencies. Mayor Estrada says President Duterte himself approved the projects in principle.
The benefits of reclaiming new land from the bay can be awesome—500,000 in new jobs, P17 billion in new tax revenues, and P10 billion in real estate taxes.
With reclamation, over the next two years to six years, Estrada will be able to accomplish five major objectives: 1) increase substantially city revenues, 2) attract businesses and investors, 3) solve unemployment almost overnight, 4) relocate all of the city’s 200,000 squatters, and 5) modernize Manila to enable it to march in cadence with the major metropolitan areas of the world.
Many of the world’s great cities were built with the help of massive reclamation—Shanghai and Shenzhen in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Doha, Mumbai (India), Jakarta (Indonesia), Nagoya (Japan), and Incheon (South Korea).