2022 PRESIDENTIABLES | Isko Moreno: From basurero in Tondo to Manila mayor

by Mark Angelo Ching
May 3, 2022
Isko Moreno, #PHElections2022, PEPtionary
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno is a self-made man whose humble beginnings trace back to his father being a stevedore and himself being a basurero in Tondo. He is now a presidential candidate facing several controversies that threaten his chances of winning.
PHOTO/S: Isko Moreno Facebook
ILLUSTRATION: Igi Talao

Name: Isko Moreno

Full Name: Francisco Moreno Domagoso

Age: 47

Current Occupation: Mayor of Manila

Spouse: Diana Lynn Ditan

Running Under: Aksyon Demokratiko

Running Mate: Willie Ong

When Isko Moreno began his showbiz career, his only intention was to earn money to have a better life.

In fact, the first thing he bought with his showbiz earnings was surprising but not unexpected: a comfortable set of underwear.

"Binili ko ho ng brip," he told an amused audience in a TV interview in the 1990s.

"Kasi dekolor ho ang brip ko nun. Ngayon puro puti na."

Moreno's approachable personality, a mix of candor and joviality, has endeared him to his fans and would serve him well when he entered politics.

A HUMBLE START

Moreno was born into poverty. His father was a stevedor, and his mother washed other people’s clothes. They lived in the slums of Tondo, Manila.

He knew at an early age, he had to work hard to survive and help his family. His father’s job wasn't stable.

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He related in the interview, "Squatter talaga kami noon, sa Parola. 'Tapos nalipat kami sa Tagumpay, nangungupahan.

"'Tapos paikot-ikot lang kami dun. Pagka wala na kaming pambayad, pinapaalis na kami.

"Kasi yung istabador, paikot-ikot sila, rotation. So, depende ho, kapag maraming barko, nakakapagtrabaho sila.

"Pag isa-dalawa lang barko, halimbawa ang numero niya, malayo pa, wala siyang trabaho ngayon, tapos bukas wala.

"Sa susunod na araw meron na siya. Tapos ang liit-liit pa ng sweldo. Sa bale pa lang ubos na."

He began collecting trash to resell. He would also scrounge for discarded food in garbage cans.

Moreno joked about it in the interview, "Sarap yung ulam namin noon, manok! Araw-araw yun, minsan nga nagsasawa na kami sa manok, e.

"Nung una, ayaw pa ng nanay ko yung batchoy, e. Kasi yung batchoy, sa Jollibee yun, yung mga tira-tira.

"Di ba, yung mga mayayaman, balat lang. Minsan isang kagat lang. Kinukuha namin yun. Kasi nakasupot na itim yun, e, malinis naman yun. Tapos, piprito namin uli."

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ESCAPING POVERTY

Moreno’s funny side was instrumental in his journey out of poverty.

In 1993, he and his friends lampooned someone attending the funeral of a relative of Wowie Roxas, who would become his manager.

Moreno recalled, "May kasama siya nung isang bading na mahaba ang buhok, blonde.

"Niloloko namin. E, naantipatikuhan sa amin, sinumbong ako nun kay Daddy Wowie."

Moreno said instead of chastising him, the talent manager asked would he want to enter showbiz.

"Binigyan ho ako ng card tapos sabi ko, kausapin niyo ang magulang ko. Kinausap naman tapos pumayag naman."

Seeing his chance to earn good money, Moreno dove head-on into the opportunity.

He earned PHP1,000 pesos from his first movie appearance in Dalawang Larawan ng Pag-ibig, the 1993 drama flick starring Anjanette Abayari and Albert Martinez.

Describing the scene he was in, Moreno said, "Isang labas lang ho yun, nag-doorbell lang ho ako.

"E, samantalang yung PHP1,000, isang buwan kong kikitain kapag nagsa-sidecar ako."

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It was followed in the same year by another short appearance in the movie May Minamahal, which starred Aga Muhlach and Aiko Melendez. He played a younger version of Aga.

That was also the time Moreno became a part of the Monday group of the then-popular variety show That’s Entertainment, helmed by the legendary talent manager German Moreno, the late Kuya Germs.

In 1994, Isko Moreno became the lead actor in the movie Muntik Na Kitang Minahal, opposite Claudine Barretto.

He continued to have starring roles in movies over the years, including several sexy films such as Exploitation and Siya’y Nagdadalaga, both in 1997.

In an interview in a morning talk show in June 2020, Moreno said he was grateful that showbiz helped him get his family out of poverty.

He commented, "Kung A to Z, siguro biglang naging A to F. Biglang jump. Walang transition, from basura to glitz and glamor. 'Tapos ang gaan ng pera."

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POLITICAL DREAMS

Moreno’s impoverished background motivated him to join politics. In 1998, he was elected as a councilor for Manila’s first district.

He worked hard to be worthy of the position, and having only finished high school, foremost in his mind was to obtain a higher education.

He enrolled at a private school in Makati and earned his business administration degree in 2003. He went on to study public administration at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, then tried to study law at the Arellano University.

In 2007, after finishing three terms as a councilor, Moreno ran to become the vice mayor of Manila as the running mate of then outgoing Vice Mayor Danilo Lacuna.

The campaign was tough, with Moreno at the center of a black propaganda that showed photos taken from his past sexy films.

The black prop proved to be ineffective. Moreno won the vice mayoralty.

Moreno was reelected vice mayor in 2013 in tandem with former President Joseph Estrada.

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In 2015, Moreno tried to expand his horizons and gun for a Senate seat in the slate of then presidential candidate Grace Poe.

He ended up in 16th place, failing to make it to the Magic 12.

Moreno then joined the cabinet of the elected President Rodrigo Duterte in various roles, including as peace consultant, board chairman of the North Luzon Railways Corporation, and undersecretary for the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

BECOMING YORME

In 2018, Moreno decided to run for mayor. He ran against former mayors Alfredo Lim and former running mate Estrada, and prevailed, becoming the city’s 22nd mayor.

It was in this position that Moreno recaptured the attention of the public.

He was tactful in interviews, even as he peppered his statements with his brand of street lingó, which has gone viral. He gained more fans and earned the nickname Yorme.

Many applauded Moreno’s projects. To improve the sector of education in his municipality, he signed an ordinance that gave PHP1,000 monthly allowance to the students of two city-funded universities in the city.

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Then he mandated that senior citizens, PWDs (persons with disabilities), and solo parents who live in Manila would be entitled to a monthly allowance of PHP500.

He also had several infrastructure projects, such as the construction of a 10-storey public hospital, and the redevelopment of both the Manila Zoo and Jones Bridge.

Moreno’s management during the COVID-19 crisis also earned him several accolades. His government has already allocated more than PHP700 million for families severely affected by the pandemic.

He also gave free accommodation and transportation for healthcare workers. He also spearheaded free testing and vaccination facilities for his constituents.

RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT

In September 2021, Moreno announced he wanted to run for President in the 2022 national elections.

He was riding high; the survey results for the month placed him in third place at 13%, only a few points away from other possible presidential candidates—Sara Duterte at 20% and Bongbong Marcos at 15%.

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Even better, he was leading all the possible non-administration candidates on the list.

There were talks of unifying the opposition and fielding only one candidate. If survey results were any indication, the logical choice would be Moreno.

Fast forward to now, less than one week before the elections: Moreno finds himself in dire straits.

The latest survey results have him slipped to fourth place behind Marcos Jr., Robredo, and Pacquiao, with his numbers sinking to 4%.

Plus he is no longer the leading opposition candidate. It's been taken over by Vice President Leni Robredo, who has gained a lot of ground and may have the momentum to win.

Several controversies have also hounded his campaign.

Allegations of plunder during his time as vice mayor resurfaced, as well as a report from the Commission on Audit that his office had 623 ghost employees in 2012 and 2013. The Ombudsman already dismissed both cases.

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Then in January, he admitted pocketing about PHP50.8 million pesos in excess campaign funds from his failed senatorial run. Moreno defended himself by saying that he had done nothing wrong; he could keep the money if he paid taxes on it.

He said in The Jessica Soho presidential interview on GMA-7, "Yun ang sinasabi ng BIR. Kasi hawak mo ang pera. E, limited ang gastusin mo sa kampanya, sumobra ang donation mo… So, kailangan mo magbayad ng buwis at yun ay lumalabas na income mo."

Allegations as well about him being a bogus opposition have further been inflamed when photos of Moreno with Bongbong Marcos, the supposed frontrunner in the presidential election, appeared last week.

The mayor dismissed them as black propaganda and pointed to Robredo supporters as the culprit.

He also accused the Robredo camp of bullying him to withdraw his candidacy.

Moreno said, "I am just stating facts, na bully sila. Sila, matapobre, maliit tingin nila sa atin. Mataas ang pagtingin nila sa sarili nila, kaya sila nanghihingi ng withdrawal noong kanilang kalaban."

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With less than one week before the elections, Moreno maintains he will see this campaign to the end.

He definitely isn’t quitting; the word quit is not in the vocabulary of this man from Tondo.

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Manila Mayor Isko Moreno is a self-made man whose humble beginnings trace back to his father being a stevedore and himself being a basurero in Tondo. He is now a presidential candidate facing several controversies that threaten his chances of winning.
PHOTO/S: Isko Moreno Facebook
ILLUSTRATION: Igi Talao
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