Thesps, personalities vie for prexy, Senate

MANILA — More and more celebrities are stepping up to the political plate in the Philippines in the run-up to the May 10 elections for the presidency and Senate.

In a country where voters seem more impressed by TV and film credits than political points, the candidates read like a movie cast list.

The choices for president are already particularly star-studded (Variety, March 15-21, March 29-April 4).

The incumbent, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, took over when B-movie thesp-turned-president Joseph “Erap” Estrada was impeached on gambling and embezzlement charges in 2001. She is standing again — and has chosen former TV star Noli de Castro as her running mate.

They are up against movie star Fernando Poe. Jr. — endorsed by Estrada himself — who in turn has opted for former TV news anchor Loren Legarda as his running mate.

Eddie Villanueva, a born-again Christian TV evangelist known as Brother Eddie, is the third celeb candidate.

The two “ordinary” pols in the race — just for the record — are former education secretary Raul Roco, standing as an independent candidate, and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former head of the national police.

Now five movie stars, three media celebrities and two sports icons have thrown in their bids for the Senate. This list includes Jinggoy Estrada, son of the ex-president, who maintained a movie career while mayor of his home city, San Juan in metro Manila, prior to his father’s ouster.

Thesp Maria Elisa “Boots” Anson-Roa, whom Estrada Sr. appointed to head government-controlled TV network IBC-13 during his term, is also running against Macapagal-Arroyo’s party.

On the administration side, two box office kings — former Video Regulatory Board chairman and antipiracy czar Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Manuel “Lito” Lapid, a former action star who has served two terms as governor of the northern province of Pampanga — aspire to be senators.

Sultry actress Pilar Pilapil wants to be senator on Villanueva’s ticket.

Media celeb candidates are Orly Mercado, a former senator and defense secretary during the Estrada era who has his own TV program; popular TV host Jay Sonza; and vet TV-radio personality Eddie Ilarde.

Former basketball icon Robert Jaworski is an incumbent senator seeking re-election in the administration ticket. His sporting rival is international bowling champ Olivia “Bong” Coo.

Central Casting, take note.

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