Like a sea surge

It went according to script, with Grace Poe Llamanzares playing her role to the hilt in the tale of a foundling left abandoned at a church door. With her announcement to run for President in 2016, Grace made clear that she wants her long round-about journey from Jaro, Iloilo to end at Malacanang Palace. 

With the infectious refrain of “May bagong umagang darating” (a new dawn is coming), Grace Poe stepped up to the challenge, brushing aside a citizenship issue barring her from sitting as senator and running for president. Unwittingly, Poe’s detractors like Rizalito David who filed the citizenship case against the senator, the legal experts and all the opinion writers who questioned her being a Filipino citizen, may have contributed  to her political stardom by keeping her in the public consciousness. They may have just been marginalized for now by the announcement of Poe who chose to bring her case to the people even before the Senate Electoral Tribunal decides on the crucial citizenship issue after oral arguments on Sept. 21.

With three Supreme Court justices already sitting in the tribunal headed by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Teresita Leonardo Castro as members, the SET’s ruling cannot be appealed. The other SET members are Senators Pia Cayetano, Paolo “Bam” Aquino, Vicente Sotto, Loren Legarda and Nancy Binay.

How will the vice president’s daughter vote on an issue affecting her father’s presidential bid? Will the Commission on Elections approve Poe’s certificate of candidacy on Oct. 12 if the Senate tribunal has not yet come to a decision? These are vexing questions surrounding the issue of Poe’s citizenship.

 “It is a move that would make moot her citizenship issue if she wins the election by a landslide,” said a political observer citing the legal maxim “Vox populi vox dei”—the voice of the people, is the voice of god.

The following day after Poe declared she’ s seeking the presidency,  Senator Francis Escudero also announced he’s running alongside Grace as her vice president.

The Nationalist People’s Coalition, hoping to be a major player by having the independent senator  run under its banner, said Poe’s citizenship is not an issue with the party. But the Grace-Chiz tandem said they will remain independent and could set political precedent if they win without a party. They could too, considering the party system theoretically does not exist anymore as far as ideology is concerned. But the party machine (nationwide organization down to the barangay level plus its humongous campaign chest) could still spell the election outcome  A citizens group, meanwhile has launched   “Ampunin [adopt] si Grace Poe” movement.

The setting of her announcement to run for president was the University of the Philippines Alumni House where she was warmly received by students and supporters. Compare this to the rowdy and contentious crowd that harangued Vice President Jejomar Binay at UP Los Baños in Laguna on Tuesday. The UP Los Baños students questioned Binay on corruption allegations and Makati’s informal settlers who were trucked to a Laguna relocation site without water and electricity. Some of the houses did not have roofs and walls forcing many of the relocated families to return to Makati angry they were treated like cattle.

Grace Poe’s entry in the 2016 presidential race didn’t appear to faze her rivals, or so it seems. Liberal Party standard-bearer, former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and VP Binay both said they are not worried about Poe joining the race. Yeah right, after the two tried desperately to take out Poe as a potential rival by offering her to be their vice presidential running mate.That both Binay and Roxas still have to find a running mate speaks volumes about their lack of appeal, if not their winnability. Binay, the first to declare his presidential bid as early as four years ago, is slipping in the poll surveys saddled by a slew of corruption charges. Roxas, on the other hand, is constrained to follow the discredited “tuwid na daan” (straight path) of his political patron—the lame duck President Aquino. At this early, political analysts see Binay and Roxas losing votes as their supporters shift to a perceived groundswell for Poe.

Will voters carry Grace Poe like a sea surge and sweep her to power, or will vote-buying and cheating still be the norm in the 2016 presidential elections? The late movie icon Fernando Poe, Grace’s father, who lost the 2004 presidential poll, must be smiling somewhere. 

For a neophyte politician without any experience, Grace Poe showed more political savvy than her rivals. She one-upped them by unveiling a platform of government  (although the specifics of which were not spelled out) that included the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill,  lowering taxes, giving priority to public education , construction of more schools and classrooms , mass transportation to ease traffic, fight against crime, infrastructure projects to decongest air traffic at the country’s three major airports, continue the unwavering  campaign against corruption, and to defend the country’s  sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

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