Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe-Llamanzares

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“I wanted to continue what my father FPJ had started,” is presidential aspirant Grace Poe’s battle cry. Will this avowed aspiration prove enough to help Grace Poe earn the presidency?

The Foundling

The 47-year old first-term senator was reportedly found at a holy water font in Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral. She was adopted by showbiz royalty Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ) and Susan Roces. For better or for worse, this narrative affectively frames Poe’s candidacy this 2016.

A graduate of political science, she earned a degree in the United States, where she eventually worked and became a citizen. She briefly returned to help campaign for her father in the 2004 elections and decided to return permanently after her father’s death. Before her career in government, she was Vice President and Treasurer of her adoptive father’s film outfit.

Her involvement in politics started in earnest when she was appointed by the then newly-elected President Benigno Aquino III to become chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), where she remained until running for a Senate seat in 2012. She garnered the most votes in the midterm elections the following year by running under a platform of electoral reform and poverty alleviation, continuing what she says are her FPJ’s legacy.

Her very strong showing in 2013 and the strong recall of the Poe surname are what many believe to be important incentives to pursue the presidency, despite being only midway into her first senatorial term.

20-point program

Grace Poe entered the campaign trail with a 20-point platform that she announced in September last year. Her points range from the general promise of fighting corruption, to the very specific promises of helping the country win its first Olympic gold medal, of setting up a Standard Lunch Program for all public schools, and allotting 7% of the GDP to infrastructure spending.

All things considered, Poe’s campaign is captured by a simple overarching promise: “that no Filipino and no region should be left behind. We will rise and progress together as one nation”— ‘walang maiiwan’” (no one will be left behind), which is a recurring theme of her TVCs.

Francis “Chiz” Escudero is her vice-presidential running mate under a coalition callled Partido Galing at Puso. A notable aspect of her candidacy is the support of Makabayan, a known coalition of left-leaning party-lists and advocacy groups.

One of the most intriguing statements of Poe about her platform is how she would like to continue the principles of the current administration’s “Daang Matuwid” (Straight Path) while simultaneously believing that “no one man or group holds a monopoly” on it. She drew flak for this particularly from members of the present administration who claimed that she cannot campaign for continuity while promising a “bagong umagang parating” (new morning is coming).

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"With God's Grace, for President"

As with all the other candidates, Grace Poe’s candidacy is not without its issues.

With disqualification cases hounding her candidacy, Poe might as well invoke the grace of God to keep her in the race. These cases — revolving around her citizenship and residency — have fed much of the attempts to derail her campaign so far with mixed results (in terms of her standing in the pre-election surveys, at least).

Pending final settlement by the Supreme Court are the questions of whether Grace Poe has fulfilled the ten-year residencyrequired of would-be presidential candidates, and whether she is a natural-born Filipino.

The second question seems to be the tougher to get through. Whereas the first supposedly requires merely the counting of years (though it might eventually turn out to be not as simple); inherent in the second are other considerations. These include issues such as whether foundlings like Poe are natural-born or naturalized citizens, and whether a person who “reacquired” his or her Filipino citizenship after renouncing it for a time is qualified to run for public office.

The One?

It remains to be seenwhether Poe will be able to hurdle these obstacles. If she does win, her story might be “one for the books”.