Manila mayor, ex-scavenger and actor, to seek presidency

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) — The popular mayor of the Philippine capital said yesterday he will run for president in next year’s elections, the latest aspirant in what is expected to be a crowded race to succeed the controversial Rodrigo Duterte.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, a child scavenger before becoming an actor then entering politics, told The Associated Press ahead of his public announcement that he would fight still-raging coronavirus outbreaks and long-entrenched poverty and promote democracy if he triumphs in the May 9 elections.

He declared his bid in a speech at a public school in the slum area near where he grew up. With him was his vice presidential running mate, Willie Ong, a cardiologist who provides medical advice to ordinary Filipinos on a Facebook account with more than 16 million followers.

“In all humility, I announce to you my countrymen, this coming May please accept my application as president of the Philippines,” he said to the applause of his supporters.

He said he was pushed to run not by high ambition but by the sorry state of the country, as he criticised the Duterte administration’s pandemic response, including the lack of life-saving medicines to combat COVID-19.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno waves after he declared his bid to run for president at a public school in the slum area near the place where he grew up in Manila. PHOTO: AP

“I have pulled myself out of the gutter with no Daddy Warbucks helping me along,” he said, adding that he believes in hard work and straight talk.

Of the poor, he said, “You give them red carpet treatment, not red tape.”

While the 46-year-old mayor is expected to bank on his rags-to-power life story, movie star looks and widely praised projects in Manila, including cleaning up its filthy main roads and restoring order in its chaotic streets and public markets, Moreno will be up against formidable national politicians and celebrities.

Two senators have declared their intent to run — international boxing star Manny Pacquiao and Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief. At least seven other politicians have said they were considering either a presidential run or lower posts, including Vice President Leni Robredo, who leads the opposition; Duterte’s daughter, who is the mayor of their southern hometown city, and a son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Duterte’s successor stands to inherit enormous problems led by the pandemic, a battered economy, long-entrenched poverty and decades-long communist and extremists insurgencies.