Citing what she has learned from her parents, actors Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces, about serving other people, Team PNoy senatorial candidate Grace Poe discusses what she’s going to do in the Senate if she gets elected on May 13. Video by Ryan Leagogo/INQUIRER.net
Not another child of show biz.
Eyebrows were raised when the Liberal Party announced Grace Poe’s inclusion in the Team PNoy coalition slate that also accommodated candidates from the Nacionalista Party and the Nationalist People’s Coalition.
But Poe, daughter of the late action star Fernando Poe Jr., did not mince words when she said she does not expect to win votes on account of her famous surname alone.
But then she also feels the pressure of being the daughter of “The (Action) King.” “Ay, super!” she exclaimed.
“My dad didn’t have a formal government position but (if that entails) service and helping, my father did that in his personal capacity as an actor,” she said.
“Whatever he could afford, he would help people with their educational needs, medicine, even patubig (irrigation),” Poe said at a meeting with Inquirer editors and reporters last week.
Poe nodded her head in agreement at the observation that while her father did not teach justice and equality at university, his films’ simple stories taught that oppression is an evil thing and it is important to protect one’s human rights and uphold one’s dignity.
Fans too giddy to draw the line between cinematic hero and mortal actor approached the elder Poe for their needs. The father was only too happy to oblige.
Poe conceded that one of her father’s weaknesses was that he hardly had time to vet the claims of people who asked for help.
“You also have to be very pragmatic. You cannot just give without seeing if the help is beneficial in the long run or if it would teach them to be independent,” she explained.
“I try to put things in their proper perspective. Nandun ang tradisyon ng pagtulong (It is customary to extend assistance)… If you can do that in any situation—ipagtanggol ang naaapi (defend the oppressed), tulungan ang nangangailangan (help the needy)—I think that’s constant… but anong gagawin natin para makabangon ka naman (what can we do to help you rise again)?” Poe asked.
Poe also wants a more systematic approach to the problem that would involve not just the local government but also the business sector and civil society groups.
If elected to the Senate, Poe immediately wants to resurrect the Marcos-era school feeding program to complement the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or the so-called conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.
The CCT program issues regular cash subsidies to the country’s poorest families so that the parents can send their children to school for 90 percent of the academic calendar.
Poe said the government should also begin drafting a program for families who will eventually “graduate” from the 4Ps program, as the benefit is not perpetual.
“Whenever I go around the country, especially in the areas ravaged by storms, the 4Ps are very much appreciated. But what the government should do is prepare those who are leaving the program [for that eventuality]. Let’s say the program ends for a set of families in 2014; we cannot just pull the rug from under them. There should be a transition period,” she explained.
“Parents could be given livelihood or skills training,” Poe added.
Poe wants kids in public school to be given at least one nutritious meal a day using ingredients sourced locally.
Public schools in Davao, for example, could provide slices of pomelo, a superb source of vitamin C, to schoolchildren in class.
The schools in Ormoc, Leyte, could feed school kids with the town’s famous pinya (pineapple).
Poe also talked about the idea of an oversight body to ensure that all barangays in the country have day-care centers.
“During the time of [President Fidel Ramos], a law was passed saying there should be day-care centers. Is it being implemented? Who checks?” she said.
Poe maintained that her father wanted economic growth that was inclusive. He did not believe that benefits should be exclusive to the rich.
If the trickle down effect of the Philippines’ 6.6-percent economic growth would take time, Poe said poverty alleviation should be immediate so that the poor would also enjoy the statistic.
Children are another priority in the agenda.
Poe’s affinity with the sector is evident in her previous stint with the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
The mother of three would be remembered for introducing the SPG or Strong Parental Guidance (Striktong Patnubay at Gabay) classification for violent or adult-themed television programs.
“The MTRCB tries to balance freedom of expression, creative freedom, protecting the value system of our children and the rights of the parents to protect their children. It’s very precarious. These things have to be weighted properly,” she explained.
“Children spend 21 hours a week watching TV. It’s a very prevalent medium. If the [vision] is for the industry to self-regulate, how can you do that if you’ve never started giving public information on what classification is?” Poe asked.
The candidate fought for a standard advisory system that familiarizes the viewer about the qualities of programs with SPG or PG (parental guidance) classification.
Children need to be taught to discern and parents help by being critical in their choice of viewing if the kids are to be good thinkers.
She gladly reported that netizens in particular are the first to complain when a program is not given an accurate classification before it is aired.
“People see the classification and they recognize what it is. Netizens can recognize or question when a PG program should have been SPG (because) it’s too violent. That’s what’s happening now. A telenovela cannot have the same classification as a live basketball game,” Poe said.
Behind the scene
The candidate said she was surprised when President Aquino offered her to chair the MTRCB after his swearing-in.
“My mom was actually happy [when I told her about the appointment]. Maybe because it’s an industry she’s familiar with and she feels I understand it,” Poe said.
Poe may not have pursued the acting career she had dreamt of as a child but the many hats her father donned as a movie insider gave her the vicarious training that became essential for the MTRCB posting. (It is a little known fact that the younger Poe acted as the daughter of Paquito Diaz in one movie and the neighbor of Max Alvarado in another.)
“I’ve been in the background; I saw the perspective of a producer trying to come up with capital and maintaining employees. I’ve also seen the creative challenges of having a director and an actor in a film. And instead of bedtime stories, my dad would read to me his screenplays,” she recalled.
“I wasn’t really meant for show business. Dad broke it to me gently, hinting that my talents lay somewhere else,” she said.
Her talent scout
As it happened, President Aquino turned out to be a good talent scout. It helped that Poe was also thinking of leveling up in the public-service game.
Mr. Aquino, she said, was hesitant about getting her aboard given the trauma of her father’s own foray, the pressure of a national campaign and the rigors of politics.
“The President has been very up-front. ‘You know what, Grace, you really have to like it, otherwise it is not worth it,’” she recalled him saying.
“He also went through it and given that he is also the son of very famous parents… he said [becoming a senator is] a chance to serve. We talked it over several times,” Poe added.
Her mother had only one thing to say when told of the President’s offer: “Don’t lose yourself or your principles.”
A very early survey conducted mid-2012 on possible Senate candidates for the 2013 elections showed her at No. 28. It did not help that she was listed as “Mary Grace P. Llamanzares.”
Only after Poe was officially announced as part of Team PNoy did the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) decide to adopt her as a candidate.
When Poe and two other adopted Team PNoy candidates—Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero—failed to show up in UNA rallies, they were dropped from the opposition lineup.
Poe admitted that the tension brought about by that period got to her. But she remains thankful to UNA stalwarts Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada and his sons, Senator Jinggoy and San Juan Rep. JV, who promised to support her on a personal capacity.
Poe said President Aquino “did not have any negative pronouncements about the UNA endorsement.”
She and Escudero toured the country to campaign separately from the Team PNoy posse. Recently, the President’s sister, Kris, joined the two in provincial rallies.
Poe said Sen. Sergio Osmeña, who subscribes to the survey firm Pulse Asia, studies the areas where she is “strong” or “weak” and plots her visits to these areas.
She added that Osmeña and Escudero are indispensable to her campaign. To date, Poe is No. 3 in the latest Pulse Asia survey and shares No. 10-11 with reelectionist Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV in the last Social Weather Station report.