NOTORIOUS kingpins are squaring off in this country’s twisted carnival that comes to town every three years.

Former president and action star Joseph “Erap” Estrada, a convicted plunderer, is taking on “Dirty Harry” Alfredo Lim, incumbent mayor of the nation’s capital. This is some sort of a rematch of the 1998 presidential election that Estrada won by a landslide.

Estrada, a resident (and former mayor) of San Juan who recently bought a house in Manila, surprised analysts by announcing his candidacy for Manila mayor. With his popular appeal, he might just repeat his 1998 victory over Lim and other presidential bets who all ended up biting the dust.

But Lim, who’s also popular for his crime-fighting stance, is not about to hand city hall to Estrada without a fight. The only time Lim left the mayor’s office was when he ran for president in 1998, allowing ally-turned-rival Lito Atienza to take the helm.

As expected, Estrada, known for his silver screen role as Tondo toughie Asiong Salonga, lost no time engaging Manila’s Dirty Harry in mudslinging.

It came as early as the start of the filing of candidacies. Estrada laid his claim as son of Manila, joking that Lim was born in Beijing. Needless to say, the renewed rivalry between the two kingpins has been the most colorful of the electoral season so far.

Lim, a former police general, fought drugs, prostitution and crime. This time, Lim pulled one over Estrada by arresting his own vice mayor, Isko Moreno, for gambling in what was widely seen as a political maneuver. Moreno, also a former movie star, had switched to Estrada’s ticket.

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Estrada may have won the city’s vice mayor, but Lim still holds the city, but it cannot be said on the populace.

With Estrada’s natural charisma to the masses, the people that Lim holds dear may just become Asiong’s next peons.

The two candidates have too distant characteristics of leading that finding a common ground between the two is as far-fetched as turning fire to ice. With Estrada being the laid back chubby guy and Lim who’s as strict as a Western movie sheriff.

Despite the polarity of the two, Estrada and Lim want to lead the city that was formerly considered as one of the most captivating cities of the world.

Both Estrada and Lim promise to bring back Manila’s former glory. But their tough guy images that have captured popular imagination seem to have given way to gutter politics.

In a recent episode of a debate program on one of the early morning TV shows, Estrada and Lim traded barbs and turned what was supposed to be a debate into a pseudo “Yo Momma” battle.

Estrada started showing documents to show that he was born in Manila, and joked about his opponent’s age and white hair. Lim got emotional, and the show got weirder in every succeeding turn.

Manilans have yet to be shown why they should vote for either candidate. Joking about someone’s place of birth and showing birth certificates do not count for an argument. Estrada and Lim have promised to bring change and progress but none of them have proven to be actually capable of doing such.

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If another episode of their childish charades is aired on TV, both Estrada and Lim should be exposed as opportunistic and traditional politicians. Both candidates should prove their worth and stop the mudslinging. They need to show the people why they deserve to occupy such a high public office.

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