After months of speculation, Sen. Grace Poe finally announced her intention to run for president in the 2016 elections. Even before Senator Poe announced her candidacy, she has been topping the polls over erstwhile frontrunner Vice Pres. Jejomar Binay who appeared to have bagged the presidency early on, if surveys would be believed, until Poe came along.
Sen. Grace Poe fits the mold of the unlikely candidate who might again win the presidency. After the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos was ousted from Malacañang, the country has seen a succession of unlikely presidents.
This began with the former housewife of the martyr Benigno Aquino Jr. the late Corazon “Cory” Aquino. She was succeeded by a general who never had any previous experience running for public office Fidel V. Ramos. A movie actor, who portrayed the character of a defender of the oppressed, Joseph Estrada, succeeded Ramos. Estrada was succeeded by an exception to post-Martial Law presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, daughter of a late president, who bagged the presidency because she became the beneficiary of the second edition of a people power uprising that ousted Estrada. After serving Estrada’s remaining term, Arroyo ran and cheated her way to the presidency in 2004.
Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was also an unlikely candidate. He never figured in the early phase of the run-up to the 2010 elections, being an inconsequential congressman and later senator. But as fate would have it, his mother Cory Aquino died at the height of the Filipino people’s struggle against the much-hated, corrupt and oppressive Macapagal-Arroyo administration. This propelled the mediocre senator to the presidency.
And now, after the Filipino people are getting exasperated with the bungling Aquino administration, as exemplified by its handling of the Luneta hostage crisis, President Aquino’s adamant defense of corrupt friends, the worsening inequality and poverty, the pork barrel scam, the Mamasapano fiasco, the hot and cold handling of competing territorial claims with China, the kowtowing to the interests of the US and big business, the reign of impunity and increasing violations and killings, the administration’s seeming inability to solve the problems with the MRT/LRT train systems and the terrible traffic, among others, there rises in the political scene an unlikely candidate for the presidency: Sen. Grace Poe.
Sen. Grace Poe fits the mold perfectly. She is a neophyte senator who, before being elected in 2013, never held public office, except as head of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. Heading it came to her naturally being a scion of two movie stars: the late action star Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces. She has no substantial political track record to prove her mettle. But she is the daughter of an action star who also portrayed the character of defender of the oppressed and who died after losing in his bid for the presidency to Macapagal-Arroyo amid strong allegations of massive election cheating.
Sen. Grace Poe’s political capital surged substantially after she was photographed queuing patiently at the North Edsa station of the MRT to experience what ordinary commuters go through everyday, after the Aquino administration received a lot of flak because of the series of accidents, mechanical failures and terrible congestion plaguing the country’s metro train system. She took up the cudgels for the Freedom of Information Bill when the Aquino administration was being accused of lack of transparency especially with regards the controversial pork barrel funds. And she headed the Senate probe on the Mamasapano fiasco, which cost the lives of 44 Special Action Forces policemen, 17 MILF fighters, and around seven civilians.
In contrast, Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas has always fitted the mold of the trapo or traditional politician from an elite clan. Vice President Jejomar Binay, on the other hand, was initially perceived as a shoo-in for the presidency. His erstwhile politically unknown daughter Nancy Binay was among the senatorial candidates who garnered the most votes in 2013. Vice President Binay must have derived his popularity from the free services for the poor that he implemented when he was mayor of Makati city. Also, although much ridiculed by the upper and middle classes for his short, dark features, this very same look makes the masses identify with him. However, his political capital began to slide when the Aquino administration started exposing and prosecuting him for alleged corruption cases. The people began to perceive Binay as no different from the rest of the trapos.
Among the things the Filipino people developed right before and during Martial Law is hatred for trapos. The late president Ferdinand Marcos capitalized on this when he declared Martial Law. He declared that he was saving the country from demagogues (referring to the massive demonstrations being held against him and the ruling system then) and the rule of oligarchs (referring to his political opponents who were also big businessmen). So Marcos did remove the trapos and confiscated the business and land holdings of Filipino businessmen who were against him, identified with or were supporting his political opponents. In their place he entrenched himself, family, and close friends and allies. Marcos and his wife Imelda engaged in the Mine-ing business, claiming all strategic and major businesses as theirs and demanding a share of the others.
To the eyes of the Filipino people, Sen. Grace Poe represents a change from the rule of the trapos, and is a ray of hope amid the worsening poverty, corruption, ineptness, impunity, and puppetry to foreign and local interests, much like Cory, Ramos, Estrada, and Noynoy during their time. In other words, the Filipino people is in search of a hero who will save the nation from poverty and immiseration, oppression and exploitation, worsening corruption and inequities, impunity, and the economic, political and socio-cultural crisis it is in.
However, no matter what a candidate promises, the Filipino people are in for another big disappointment if we pin all our hopes on her or him. Candidates for office have been promising a lot of things only to renege on these once elected into office and they begin to enjoy the trappings and privileges of being in power, especially since most of them come from the ruling elite and/or the privileged classes. One could count with the fingers of their hands the number of elected and appointed officials who did not enrich themselves while in power: the late Crispin Beltran, who died while fixing the leaking roof of his house, and the other representatives of the Makabayan bloc, and the late Local Government secretary Jesse Robredo are a rare breed in current Philippine politics. But still, they were not able to effect substantial changes.
Genuine change would still be an elusive dream until the Filipino people realizes who the real heroes are, who could save the nation from the ills plaguing it, who are the reliable sources of hope, and who could and would effect genuine pro-people change. It is the Filipino people who shape history; it is the people themselves who could effect genuine change through their collective efforts.