Meet the City of Manila

Armed with the promise of a comprehensive urban renewal plan for the city, former President and convicted plunderer Joseph Ejercito Estrada was elected city mayor of Manila in the 2013 mid-term elections, beating incumbent mayor Alfredo Lim.

Estrada aims to generate much-needed revenues for what he said is a severely cash-strapped city government.

On June 30, 2013, fifteen years after he took his oath as the 13th President of the Philippines and 12 years after being ousted, Estrada took his oath as the new city mayor of Manila, together with his running mate Vice Mayor Isko Moreno. The oath of office was administered by Estrada’s political ally, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Estrada was a popular movie star who first ventured into politics as Mayor of San Juan in 1969 and held that position until 1986.

He was a member of the Philippine Senate from 1987 to 1992. From the Senate, Estrada was elected as the 11th Vice-President of the Philippines in 1992.

On June 30, 1998, Estrada took his oath as the 13th President of the Philippines in the cradle of the First Philippine Republic, Malolos in the province of Bulacan.  Estrada started his presidential term at the height of the Asian Financial Crisis.

His short-lived presidency saw economic growth sliding from 5.2% in 1997 to -0.6 in 1998, his first year in office.

Allegations of corruption resulted in an impeachment trial in the Philippine Senate. Estrada was ousted by a popular uprising in 2001. He was sentenced by the Sandiganbayan in 2007 to life imprisonment for the crime of plunder.

His successor, President Gloria Arroyo granted him a pardon.

Estrada ran for president again in the 2010 elections but ended up in second place behind Senator Benigno Aquino III who is the incumbent President of the Philippines.

In his inaugural address as the Mayor of Manila, Estrada made jokes about his ouster from the presidency and his subsequent conviction. He joked that Manila for the first time is having an ex-convict as the city mayor. He later turned serious by outlining his agenda of bringing back the glory and beauty of the famous city of Manila.

To show his seriousness in bringing back the old glory of the city, Estrada consulted with his economic team when he was president with the hope that he will get the needed input in drawing up the roadmap to the economic and political recovery of the city.

A Brief History of Manila

The city of Manila, established by the Spaniards in 1571, has a long and colorful history that encompasses Spanish colonial rule, American rule, the Japanese occupation, the post-World War II democracy, Martial Law, and the post-Martial Law years to the present.

Manila suffered the abuses of the Spanish colonial rulers but also saw the development of its cultural heritage that was largely influenced by the Spanish.

An educated middle class, schooled both locally and in Europe, spearheaded the nationalist movement that culminated in the Philippine Revolution of 1896.

The success of the revolution was, however, snatched by the conquering American forces to whom the defeated Spaniards decided to surrender. The Philippine Revolution, instead of resulting in the independence of the Philippines, became an instrument for the hand-over of colonial rule from Spain to the United States.

Manila, as the center of government and all activities in the country, experienced a renewal under the Americans. Democracy was introduced as government institutions were established and Filipinos gradually took control of political administration.

The growth of democratic institutions in Manila and in the country as a whole was interrupted by the Japanese occupation of the country during World War II.

Manila suffered even more when American forces retook the city from Japanese troops. In March 1945 the city was bombarded heavily by the combined Filipino-American forces in an effort to drive away the Japanese Imperial Army that was entrenched in the city. The result was an unimaginable devastation that required great efforts and years to rebuild.

The liberation of Manila and the entire Philippines was followed by the restoration of Philippine independence in 1946. Democracy was restored and the city of Manila experienced its Golden Age that produced a line of city mayors that transformed the city into its current glory.

The Past Mayors of Manila

Arsenio H. Lacson

Prior to 1952, all mayors of Manila were appointed. Arsenio H. Lacson was the first elected mayor of the Manila after the city charter was amended.

Lacson, who was then a member of Congress, successfully ran and unseated Mayor Manuel de la Fuente in the first mayoralty election in Manila. He formally assumed office on January 1, 1952. He was re-elected mayor in the elections of 1955 and 1959.

Lacson was a reformist mayor during his three terms, becoming famous as a model of local governance. When he assumed the mayoralty of the city, Manila was deeply in debt and could not even pay the salaries of the city employees. The city debt was reduced in half in his first three years in office and by the time he was elected for his third term in 1959, Manila boasted a budget surplus and was paying its city employees double other government employees were being paid.

Lacson was a peace and order and good government crusader, firing hundreds of incompetent city employees and corrupt policemen. He led police raids of prostitution houses and ordered the bulldozing of squatter colonies in the city. During his administration, the Manila Police Department acquired sixty police cars that constantly patrolled the city. Lacson patrolled the city at night in a black patrol car.

Lacson attained national prominence while mayor of the city of Manila and he was perceived to be a strong contender for the presidency in 1965 but his untimely death on April 15, 1962 put an end to that possibility.

Antonio J. Villegas

Antonio J. Villegas started his political career at age 31 when he was elected as Vice-Mayor of Manila in 1959. Upon the death of Mayor Lacson, Villegas assumed the position of city mayor, becoming at age 34 the youngest Mayor of Manila.

Villegas worked hard in a project to keep the streets and parks of Manila clean. Towards this end, Villegas established the Women’s Auxiliary Group (WAG), composed of the wives of government officials,  police officers, government employees, movie celebrities, and private citizens. The WAG ladies, wearing red Maria Clara dresses, cleaned city parks and streets in all the four districts of Manila.

“Kay Villegas Kami” movement was also formed in 1962, aimed to support the mayor’s advocacies and government programs. He also established the city university, city hospital, and a city compost plant in Tondo, Manila. He also embarked on programs that will beautify city streets and parks in the city.

Villegas tried to Filipinize the city of Manila by replacing English with Tagalog as the official language in business, law, and education. City Hall was renamed Maharnilad, the title Mayor was changed to Gatpuno, and he changed into Tagalog most of the titles of the different positions in the city government and the names of many city institutions.

Ramon D. Bagatsing

He was the Mayor of Manila who served the longest term, from the time he defeated Antonio Villegas in the elections of 1971 until he voluntarily stepped down to give way to the transition necessitated by the 1986 EDSA revolution.

He served as the Mayor of Manila throughout the Martial Law years mainly because of his clean records as government official.

Bagatsing sponsored programs that were aimed to alleviate poverty in the city. He worked for the award of land titles to the landless families of Manila. He established cooperatives that provided livelihood opportunities to market vendors and other less fortunate Manilans. He also embarked on the improvement of streets, parks, public markets, schools, and hospitals in the city of Manila.

Gemiliano C. Lopez Jr.

Gemiliano Lopez, popularly known as Mel Lopez, was appointed to the post of City Mayor after the EDSA Revolution. He ran and won in the 1988 election.

When Lopez assumed the mayoralty of Manila in 1986, the city was 700 million pesos in debt. Lopez reduced that debt in half after eleven months in office. The city increased its revenues by making profitable most of the city’s commercial ventures.

Lopez opposed gambling which he believed had negative effects on the people of Manila, especially the youth. He stopped illegal gambling and jueteng and padlocked casinos operated by PAGCOR.

Alfredo S. Lim

Lim was a policeman for three decades and also was appointed director of the National Bureau of Investigation before he was elected Mayor of Manila in 1992. He served as mayor from 1992 to 1998 and returned as mayor from 2007 to 2013.

During his first two terms as Mayor of Manila, Lim put emphasis on programs that promoted law and order in the city. He tried to improve the image of the city and also initiated reforms in the city government. His tough stance against criminal elements earned him the moniker “Dirty Harry”.

Jose L. Atienza, Jr


Atienza was the running mate of Alfredo S. Lim during the 1995 and 1998 elections. After serving as Manila’s vice-mayor for two terms, he ran for the position of Mayor of Manila in the 1998 election when Mayor Lim decided to run for the presidency of the Philippines.

Atienza served three terms as Mayor of Manila after he was reelected in 2001 and in 2004. During Atienza’s three terms as mayor, his administration focused on programs that supported and helped children and senior citizens. He worked to alleviate the living conditions of the people of Manila by providing them social facilities and improved government services. He reformed the bureaucracy to make government service accessible to all residents of the City of Manila.

Alfredo S. Lim

Lim returned as Mayor of Manila in 2007. Once again, Lim continued to clean the city of criminal elements and corrupt government officials and employees. He worked to clean the Baywalk by removing the bars and other establishments that were allowed to operate in the area during the administration of Mayor Atienza. He ran and won again during the 2010 election. He tried to serve Manila one more term by running again in the 2013 elections but lost to former President Joseph Estrada.

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