CEBU CITY -- Former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada said he is keeping his “fingers crossed” as he admitted that he is “not that optimistic” about the Cebuano's support in the coming May elections.

Estrada, in an ambush interview at the Malacañang sa Sugbu during the wake of the late Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, said he hopes to do well in the polls.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

In the 1998 elections, he said he did well in the presidential elections but majority of the Cebuanos still supported their fellow Cebuano Lito Osmena, which he said he understood.

He added that he did not blame Cebuanos for voting for their kababayan.

But Estrada expects a strong support from the marginalized sector in Cebu, which he believes are smarter and had learned well from their experience in 1998 and 2004 where they were swayed into supporting the choice of their local leaders.

“The marginalized people in Cebu, that's where I get my votes. They're very learned now, pretty much they cannot be dictated anymore by their leaders. You know everybody knows this country the so-called civil society can't dictate anymore to the people whom they want to be president,” he said.

He further said the backbone of the country is the poor or marginalized sector including the overseas Filipino workers who remits $17 billion to $18 billion a year.

Estrada is confident that the presidential pardon extended to him by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would not be an issue since his “civil and political” rites have all be reinstated when he was given the pardon.

“The pardon was given to me because the one who gave me that pardon believes that there was a miscarriage of justice against me, I did not ask for it...I want to explain to you this portion, restoring all civil and political rights which means to say if I can vote, I can also be voted upon,” he said.

The former President also believes in destiny and that it is his destiny to regain the presidency.

He assured as well that he is fit enough to conduct a presidential campaign and eventually run the country if he wins.

He stressed that he has no plans of withdrawing from the presidential race, which is a mere black propaganda circulated by his rivals.

Asked whom he think is his closest rival or the strongest among the presidential contenders, Estrada said all his opponents are qualified for the post. “Let the people decide. They are all good. I have respect for all of them,”

Estrada was in Cebu Saturday afternoon for a presidential debate at the Cebu International Convention Center. Others present were fellow presdiential candidates Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Richard Gordon, Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Eduardo Villanueva, and Manuel Villar.

The former President before midnight visited the wake of Remonde to pay his respects to the late press secretary noting that his death was a "big loss to the administration and media industry.” (JMR/Sunnex)