Celebs lineup for candidate casting call

In Manila, politics is entertainment and vice versa.

Having impeached B movie star-turned Phillipine president Joseph “Erap” Estrada on gambling and embezzlement charges in 2001, the country heads to the polls May 10 to elect a successor.

The choices? Estrada’s former VP and current acting prexy Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and Fernando Poe. Jr., another movie star endorsed by Estrada himself.

And the marquee is cluttered even further with showbiz names: Arroyo’s running mate is Noli de Castro, a former TV star, and Poe’s is former TV news anchor Loren Legarda.

If having a battle of the Philippine stars wasn’t enough, the election circus took an even more surreal turn last week when top network ABS-CBN pulled “Home Along Da Airport,” a long-running sitcom about poor folk making ends meet along the fringes of an airport.

The series starred vet comedian Dolphy, a staunch supporter of Poe’s.

Low ratings were the explanation cited for the cancellation, but Dolphy supporters insist the show was pulled because of the comic actor’s support for Poe.

They say ABS-CBN is also supporting incumbent president Arroyo because her government bailed out the net’s beleaguered sister water company Maynilad, which had been losing money since it took over water services in the late ’90s.

Presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye denies any link between the Maynilad bailout and the cancellation of Dolphy’s show.

Dolphy’s profile may actually have risen after the net’s action: Late last week, ABS-CBN was reportedly trying to woo him back with a new show, and rival net ABC was said to be courting the thesp as well.

In the Philippines, of course, if a TV deal doesn’t pan out, he can always run for president.

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