People: MACHINE vs CHARM

Independent Grace Poe follows in father's footsteps

PHOTO: THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

One lacks charisma, but has the political machinery to back his run. The other has the charisma, but lacks the machinery. Philippines Correspondent Raul Dancel profiles the front runners in the 2016 presidential race.

MANILA • Senator Grace Poe is on a crusade to right what she believes was a great injustice done to her father. Her dad, movie icon Fernando Poe Jr, ran for president in 2004, but lost to Mrs Gloria Arroyo amid allegations of widespread cheating.

He died the following year, some say of a broken heart. His death uprooted Ms Poe from her quiet life in the United States and plunged her into the thick of Philippine politics.

Now, she has her eyes on the prize that eluded her father.

Ms Poe, 46, has a commanding lead in polls on who voters prefer to succeed President Benigno Aquino when he steps down next year.

 

In the latest survey conducted by polling firm Social Weather Stations, 42 per cent of the respondents said they would vote for her.

Two political parties helmed by billionaires - the Nationalist People's Coalition and the Nacionalista Party - are expected to support her once she begins her run for the presidency.

But as an outsider and part of Mr Aquino's coalition party, Ms Poe may not find solid footing with either side.

Ms Poe's victory, however, is not assured, and pundits say her run is following the same trajectory that her father's did.

If she insists on running as an independent candidate, she will not have the political machinery she needs to secure her votes.

Some are saying that unless she can address the problems that forced her father to beg bowl-in- hand at the tail-end of his 2004 run, she may see the presidency snatched from under her.

Two political parties helmed by billionaires - the Nationalist People's Coalition and the Nacionalista Party - are expected to support her once she begins her run for the presidency. But as an outsider and part of Mr Aquino's coalition party, Ms Poe may not find solid footing with either side.

Her father had suffered from unwieldy political backing. His decision to run split the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) that supported him because a party insider had also wanted to run for president. That split cost Mr Poe precious polling numbers.

He also kept the LDP's kingmakers at a distance, relying instead on his close friends, mostly from the movie business.

When his main contender, Mrs Arroyo, managed to close in, Mr Poe's campaign unravelled.

Most of his money men defected, forcing him to run to his best friend, former president Joseph Estrada, from whom he had wanted to distance himself, for funding. But by then, it was too late.

Ms Poe may turn out to be more pragmatic than her father.

She is reportedly reconsidering her alliance with her mentor, Senator Chiz Escudero, who is pushing her to run for president, although he, on his own, cannot provide her the machinery she needs.

The ruling Liberal Party, meanwhile, has said its doors remain open to her, and Ms Poe may yet decide to bide her time, rather than put everything on the line now.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2015, with the headline 'Independent Poe follows in father's footsteps'. Print Edition | Subscribe