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AT THE DEBATE WITH GRACE

Confident newbie came well-prepared

By: - Reporter / @MAgerINQ
/ 02:14 PM February 28, 2016
poe roxas debate

Senator Grace Poe and former interior secretary Mar Roxas. SCREENGRAB FROM INQUIRER.net VIDEO

INQUIRER.net revisits the first official presidential debate, held a week ago Sunday, with a behind-the-scenes look at each of the five presidential campaigns. This fourth part, out of five, focuses on Senator Grace Poe.—The Editors.

When freshman senator Grace Poe faced her rivals in the first presidential debate held in Cagayan De Oro City last Sunday, she came armed with hard work and prayers.

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Weeks before the debate, the first sanctioned by the Commission on Elections in 24 years, Poe was already meeting regularly with her policy  team.

READ: Poe says she gets help from Habito, Sycip, Bernardo

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“I had several briefings with my policy team once a week regularly. They include, among others, Ciel Habito, Romy Bernardo and Dean Tony La Viña,”  she told INQUIRER.net. Habito, an Inquirer columnist, is a former economic planning secretary; Bernardo and La Viña, of the Ateneo School of Government, are former undersecretaries in finance and the environment.

“Preparations did not happen overnight. Whenever  we go around the country, we meet with LGUs (local government units) and NGOs (non-government organizations) and ask them about the  specific needs of their province, district, city or town. Many of them submit position papers,”  she said.

The day before the debate, Poe said she reviewed her notes especially on the Mindanao Development Goals. She added: “I heard Mass at the Quiapo Church and left the rest up to God.”

On the morning of the debate, Poe took a commercial flight from Manila to Cagayan De Oro City.

A photo posted by one of her companions showed the senator holding and scanning some documents while on the plane.

poe preparations

Senator Grace Poe

She arrived at the airport past 9:00 a.m and went directly to Seda Hotel, which was just minutes away from Capitol University,  the venue of the debate.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, who arrived the day before, was also billeted in the same hotel; but unlike Binay, Poe was not seen greeting supporters and well-wishers at the hotel’s fourth-floor lobby.

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Two hours before the scheduled 5:00 p.m.  start of the debate, a van that will carry her to the venue was already  positioned in front of the  hotel. Some of her staff members and  friends, who travelled all the way from Manila to give her support, came out first and boarded the vehicle.

READ:  Poe brimming with confidence before CDO debate

While waiting for the senator,  her friends said a prayer for her inside the coaster.

A banner that read  “Grace Poe for President”  was attached to the body of the vehicle,  and the  busy  people going in and out of the hotel  were already enough to catch the attention of  some bystanders and  people  who  were outside a mall just beside the hotel.

Their attention shifted to Poe when she emerged from the  hotel in her signature white dress shortly before 4:00 p.m.

As some made their way to get  near the senator and shake her hand, others  took out their cellphones to  get a picture of  her.

Even her friends could not contain their admiration when they first saw the senator—fresh, all smiles and ready for the debate.

“Beautiful!” one of her friends exclaimed  while watching the senator from the coaster mingle with the people.

When Poe  boarded the coaster, she was  welcomed by the  expected cheers from her friends and staff members. She sat beside the window of the vehicle  where she could  easily wave at the people who lined  the streets to  see her.

As soon as she  was seated, Poe chatted with her friends and even  cracked jokes with them. It was then that she mentioned  that she also went to a nearby church to pray after she arrived at the airport.

The trip  to the venue took longer because  of supporters and onlookers who inadvertently blocked the  road just to see her. Even  supporters of her rivals  were seen waving and chanting Poe’s name when the  coaster passed them by.

When she finally arrived at the venue shortly past 4:00 p.m, the senator was immediately escorted to  a holding room where she was joined by  La Viña, lawyer George Garcia, and some staff members.

She took a few bites of the food offered to her, talked with La Viña and Garcia and some  people who entered the room to brief her about the mechanics of the debate.

Poe  did not open any documents or briefers while she was at the holding room.

A few minutes before the debate,  the senator was escorted to the back stage. She was seen drinking  from a tumbler while talking to some reporters there.

“Matagal mo nang iniisip hindi naman sa kinabakabahan ka pero gusto mo na ring matapos di ba? Magkaalaman na,” she told reporters.

A well-prepared  Poe  entered  the stage to face  her rivals.

The senator, whose citizenship  has been put  in question,  spoke in Filipino in her opening  statement and throughout the debate.

She kept her calm even when  she was already  being attacked  by opponents like former Interior Secretary  Mar Roxas  over her alleged lack of experience  to lead the  country.

Most of her  arguments were also  notably  focused on the  concerns of people in Mindanao, such as her proposal to give  30 percent of the national budget  to the region and  pursue “transparent, inclusive, at sustainable” peace talks  with  all groups, and not only with  the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

Asked to  assess her own performance after the debate, Poe started, “I think it was…” and then changed her tack. “Never mind. Just ask other people to rate it.”

Except  for  time constraints,  she said she was satisfied by the  outcome of the first presidential debate.

“Again time is really the constraint. Pero ang maganda doon,  naging very cordial ang lahat,”  she said when asked about the debate during a press conference in  Baguio City the following Tuesday.

“Sa debate hindi naman ako ninenerbiyos sa topic. Ninenerbiyos siguro ang isang tao dahil iyon ang kauna-unahang pagkakataon na magkakasama kaming lahat. Ayun lang naman pero naging maganda naman,” Poe added.

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TAGS: 2016 elections, Cagayan de Oro debate, CDO debate, Elections 2016, elections featured, first presidential debate, GMA-Inquirer debate, Grace Poe, Pilipinas debates, VotePh2016
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