Manila, Philippines – Meet Mali, the elephant that was a gift from the government of Sri Lanka to former Philippine First Lady and Metro Manila Governor Imelda Marcos. That was 35 years ago. Since then, Mali has been held in captivity at the Manila Zoo, alone and uncared for in terms of her medical needs.
Animal rights activists worldwide have been calling on the Philippine government to release her and have her transferred to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand where she could be with other elephants in a natural habitat. Former Beatle Paul McCarthy was among the latest celebrities to advocate for Mali’s release, writing a letter to Philippine President Aquino.
But the fight for Mali’s release seems to hinge on Manila’s local government, not the presidential palace.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has refused to release Mali to the sanctuary. Estrada is a movie actor and former Philippine president who was impeached and convicted for corruption, only to be pardoned and released from prison by another Philippine President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who herself faces corruption charges.
“Since I am now the mayor of Manila which has jurisdiction over the Manila Zoo, I am technically the owner of Mali,” Estrada told a group of international reporters at Manila’s Press Club.
Asked by The Adobo Chronicles during a Skype call last night about his reason for not wanting to release Mali, Estrada said “Mali is the perfect symbol of my career as a politician. My career is a show, a circus. And what better represents my career than an elephant?”
“Besides,” Estrada added, “I believe my politics is more aligned with the Republican Party in the U.S. and I know the elephant is their mascot and symbol.”
Editor’s note: Well, for once, Estrada got something correct.