Former Philippine Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Ejercito Estrada said President Duterte “is a sincere leader and is dedicated to eradicate the drug and corruption problems in the country. We need him to lead our country to a better Philippines. I admire what he is doing for our country.”
Estrada made the comment when he spoke at an event held last May 20 at the Hibachi Buffet in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Before he delivered his speech, he thanked the people behind the event – namely, Willie Dechavez (who was the emcee), Brenda San Agustin, Michelle Oh, Jess Concepcion, Resty Teodoro and Josie Sanders.
The event, organized by the Michigan Concerned Citizens, was attended by 124 Filipinos and Filipino Americans.
Addressing the crowd, Estrada said, “Please accept my sincerest gratitude to the invitation you have extended to me to grace this occasion. Please accept too my heart-felt appreciation to the warm welcome you have shown me.”
He recalled that the letter-invitation became a controversial issue and that all kinds of harsh words were thrown at him. “I was even accused of manufacturing lies and falsifying document,” he said.
Due to the controversy, he said, “many people told me not to push through with my trip here. But looking at all of you and the warm welcome and gracious hospitality you have shown me, my coming here is really worth it.”
The 53-year-old former senator said, “Alam po nyo, I am only enjoying a temporary liberty. I was recently granted bail by the Sandiganbayan after more than three years of being detained in Camp Crame. That’s why I cannot do the accusation hurled at me – falsifying document, misrepresentation or lying to the court or inventing an invitation so I can travel – because even a tiny, insignificant mistake can cost me my liberty. And I definitely do not wish that to happen. Why would I? Life in a detention cell is very difficult.”
Describing himself as a politician in the last 30 years, Estrada said, “I can honestly say that “politics in this day and age is more nasty, vicious and cruel. With the advent of social media and the existence of an ‘army of trolls’, you have to be resilient so you can survive all the name-calling thrown at you. It seems that we Filipinos have become highly individualistic. What’s worse is that we tear each other part over a small mistake or weakness.”
He noted that the issues plaguing the Philippines today are so extreme that these will have severe implications on our country. “So obviously there is a need to immediately address these issues,” he said. “So let’s all help. Let us be part of the solution rather than be part of the problem.”
He said he is quite sure that “even you, who are here in the United States, are very much interested in what is happening in the Philippines, and your desire for a better, much improved Philippines is as passionate as your fellow Filipinos in the country.”
“Sa puso at isip, Pinoy pa din kayo, di po ba? Kaya kahit nakatira na kayo dito sa Amerika, at karamihan siguro sa inyo ay American citizen, alam kong inaalala pa din ninyo ang kapakanan ng Pilipinas,” he said.
He appealed, “Let’s stop being individualistic. Let’s rise with sincere heart and determination above our personal and selfish ends, and unite and help rebuild our country. He quoted his father (former President and now incumbent Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada as saying, “Walang tutulong sa Pilipino kundi ang kapawa Filipino.”
During the open forum, community leader Van Ong noted that health clinics are ill-equipped in the Philippines and asked, “Why is it there is no improvement in health care in the Philippines?”
Estrada said that one reason behind the inadequate health care in the Philippines is the so-called “brain drain,” caused by the deployment and immigration of doctors and nurses to foreign countries.
On the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice, Estrada said, “we may not like the Supreme Court decision but we should respect it because it is the highest court of the land.”
After the program, many in the audience were excited to pose with Estrada for souvenir photos.