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Published on December 5, 2009 By Mike Macaraig In History

On the surface, one would think that US President Warren Harding and Philippine President Joseph Estrada have nothing in common. Looking into their biographies, however, one would be able to notice similarities with these two men. The most obvious similarity is that their terms were cut short. Both served less than three years of their terms. The only difference was that Harding died in office while Estrada was removed from office by a revolt.

A closer look into their biographies would show more similarities between the two. Before entering politics, both men were media people. Harding was a newspaper publisher while Estrada was a movie actor. Both men became senators through the popular image they projected. Harding was described by Malcolm Gladwell as looking like a president. He had a charisma that made people regard him so highly. Meanwhile, Estrada was very popular with the masses. The masses believed that he was one of them though he was part of a well-off family. He was regarded as the champion of the poor. Through their charisma, both men ascended to the presidency in convincing fashion. Harding set an unprecendented margin of victory at the time of his election. Estrada set a record for number of votes for a Philippine president.

Harding and Estrada had both been described as inept and lacking in intelligence. While Harding was a powerful speaker, literary critics described his English as horrible. The poet E.E. Cummings described him as the only person who can write a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors. While Estrada had a reasonable command of English, he allowed himself to be regarded as inept in English. In fact, a joke book portraying him as inept in English was written by a friend of his. This only added to his celebrity.

Harding's and Estrada's administrations were both rocked by scandals. Both were known to have had "midnight cabinets." Harding and Estrada were both known for extra-marital affairs. The difference is that Estrada's fathering of children from different women is public knowledge. Meanwhile, there has been no conclusive evidence to show if Harding had children from his extra-marital relations. In fact, Harding and his wife had no children together. Harding was said to have played poker in the White House with his buddies to the point that he used the china in the White House to pay off losses. Estrada, on the other hand, was into casinos even before the presidency. During his administration, jai-alai and bingo were added to the repertoire of legalized gambling.

In response to the scandals of their administrations, neither Harding nor Estrada was able to do much. Estrada put the blame on his critics whenever a scandal erupted. Meanwhile, Harding was uncritical of his critics. He said that he had no problems with his enemies but with his own friends.

Harding was succeeded by Coolidge while Estrada was succeeded by Arroyo. A look into their successors would show a contrast. Coolidge belonged to his predecessor's party while Arroyo belonged to the opposition party. Coolidge was known to be a man of integrity till the end but his policies are said to have contributed to the Great Depression, which occurred in his successor's term. Meanwhile, Arroyo has demonstrated a reasonably sound grasp of economics but her integrity has been regarded as very questionable.

It can therefore be said that the Philippines is somewhat mirroring its former colonial master, the United States. Whatever controversies the Philippines is experiencing, it is also likely to have similarities with the United States.


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