Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the October 28, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

“You can fool some of the people all of the time and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.” – George W. Bush, Washington, DC, March 31, 2001.

Last week a rheumy-eyed, wheezing, and bulol  Joseph Ejercito “Erap” Estrada swore to his loyalists that he was going to run for president again—for their sake, of course.

“This is the last performance of my life and I will not fail you…Sumusumpa ako, si Joseph Ejercito Estrada, na lalahok ako sa susunod na halalan upang muling maglingkod sa masang Pilipino bilang pangulo ng Pilipinas.” (“I, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, swear to run in the coming elections so I can serve the masses again, as president of the Philippines.”)

Estrada spoke for about forty minutes. Struggled was more like it. He looked weak, weary, and unfocused. I was afraid he would not finish his speech.

But Erap, 72, debunked concerns about his health, claiming he felt like he was only forty. Well, he looks forty going on ninety if you ask me.

Is there no one among his different families, no one among his friends, cohorts, and political advisers who will dare tell him the stress of campaigning could kill him?

Erap played the victim at the Tondo rally.

“I was demonized then unconstitutionally removed.”

He claimed he did not commit any crime.

“If I had sinned against you, I would not have the nerve to stand before you.”

The crowd believed him so I was reminded of a quip by the American social commentator Will Rogers.

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

Erap’s hopes for winning the presidency are riding on those with burnt genitalia.

His loyal followers don’t care that he turned Malacañang into jueteng central, that he earned a commission for arm twisting the GSIS and the SSS into buying stocks in a company owned by his crony, that he opened a dummy bank account for a “friend.” They place more value on his dole-outs.

“He has never forgotten us. Even when he was in jail, his wife and children still sent us canned goods,” said a slum dweller to a reporter from a daily paper.

Erap’s fans won’t accept any suggestion that he screwed up. They won’t admit that if he had only lived up to the promise he made in his inaugural speech—that his presidency would be “the greatest performance” of his life—there would have been no impeachment trial, no Edsa Dos, no Gloria Arroyo, no Garci and everything else that followed.

They don’t realize they have Erap to thank for Gloria Arroyo. And they may be thanking him again in the near future.

If Erap is allowed to run it will be a precedent for Gloria Arroyo to run again in 2016. Maybe that’s why Malacañang strategists said they were not going to file a disqualification case against Erap.

The Palace, like Erap, banks on a public that never learns, that easily forgets what it’s like to pee on an electric fence.