MANILA // Deposed Philippine president Joseph Estrada yesterday filed his candidacy for mayor of Manila, joining thousands of candidates in midterm elections that will be dominated by political dynasties, celebrities and the rich and powerful.
The polls, scheduled for May 13 next year, illustrate the most obvious streak of Philippine politics - it's a family affair.
Among those expected to run again are Imelda Marcos, widow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who will be among candidates for 286 congressional seats.
Her daughter, Imee, will try to keep her seat as governor of their northern home province of Ilocos Norte. Her son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, is already a senator.
Explaining his motives for standing, Mr Estrada, 75, said: "There is no boundary to serving the people, especially the marginalised. I will not stop until my last breath."
His eldest son is a senator and another wants to join him, along with the sons of two last-term senators.
The upper chamber has 24 senators, with half of the seats up for election, and could have its first husband-wife tandem if a congresswoman wins her senatorial bid.
A brother of another senator is also seeking re-election, while a cousin of president Benigno Aquino III, Paolo Benigno Aquino, is on the administration's senatorial slate.
The boxing champion and incumbent representative, Manny Pacquiao, is also expected to file his candidacy before leaving for the United States to prepare for a fight scheduled in December.
A political analyst, Ramon Casiple, said the political free-for-all after the end of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 had been replaced by the consolidation of elite rule where "the old political clans are dividing power among themselves".
"There is a critical mass of mature voters, but there is no significant mass of reform candidates," said Mr Casiple, who heads the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform. "To the voters, it's just a matter of choosing between two evils."
Members of other prominent families and long-time political rivals are competing for lower positions.
Elections often result in violence in a country awash with weapons and private militias.
In 2009, 58 people were massacred, including 32 media workers, in a single ambush blamed on political rivalry in southern Maguindanao province. The former governor, Andal Ampatuan Sr, and several of his sons are among nearly 200 defendants facing murder charges.
Mr Estrada's main opponent will be Alfredo Lim, 82, the incumbent mayor who is also very popular with the masses.
Mr Lim, a former policeman, earned the nickname "Dirty Harry" in the 1990s during an initial stint as mayor for closing down Manila's strip bars and marking the homes of suspected drug pushers with spray paint.
Mr Estrada's successor, former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is facing several corruption cases, was elected a representative of her home province in 2010 but has not yet filed for re-election. The deadline is Friday, and she is widely expected to file.
Mr Estrada, a former actor who has also been vice president, senator and a long-time mayor of suburban San Juan, promised urban renewal, jobs and law and order in the crime-infested Philippine capital.
"I am finished with San Juan. San Juan is already beautiful. This time we will beautify Manila," he said. "I will declare all-out war against criminals and scallywag policemen."
Mr Estrada was mobbed by fans as he filed his election documents, nearly 12 years after a military-backed revolution deposed him.
"Manila needs a change. There is urban decay, people are without jobs, the government is in deficit," he said.
Mr Estrada was convicted in 2007 of corruption for plunder and taking kickbacks worth tens of millions of dollars while president. His successor, Ms Arroyo, quickly pardoned him.
Some of the estimated 500 supporters who crowded around Mr Estrada as he registered at the election office said he had been framed for corruption.
"I don't believe he was involved. That was just propaganda," said April Medina, 28, an unemployed mother of a baby boy.
Many of Manila's 1.6 million people live in slums, and large parts of the city where the country's former colonial Spanish rulers were based are dilapidated.
* With additional reports by Agence France-Presse