Presidential wannabe Sen. Grace Poe has declared that she would continue what her adoptive father Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) had started. This is a very vague statement because she didn’t clarify exactly what it was that FPJ had started. I hope she wasn’t referring to the kind of campaign FPJ had waged in 2004. Unique as it was, it wouldn’t augur well for good governance and clarity of program of government.
The Manila Times had assigned me to cover the FPJ campaign in 2004 and I must confess I had seen nothing like it since I started covering elections in 1984. He drew thousands along the streets where his motorcade passed through in his campaign. Sen. Nene Pimentel said the people’s reception of FPJ was reminiscent of that of the late Ramon Magsaysay.
Before the campaign ended, however, I asked our executive editor and CEO Klink Ang to relieve me of my assignment. The main duty of an embedded reporter is to write about a candidate’s program of government and views on various issues besetting the country. In the entire period that I covered the FPJ campaign, he avoided media like the plague. I’d be remiss in fulfilling my duty and it was beyond my professional pride to be writing solely about the size of the audience and campaign sidelights without enlightening readers on what the candidate was all about.
Sen. Vicente “Tito Sen” Sotto, FPJ’s campaign manager, said that FPJ was media shy and had expressed fears that some reporters would use interviews and press conferences to trap him and embarrass him. To avoid this, FPJ thru Tito Sen asked reporters to write a day ahead what questions they would ask before he could agree to a short interview.
Oh yes, FPJ did give two interviews. The first one was in Kidapawan where the interview lasted less than a minute. The second one lasted two minutes, including pauses. The transcript of the second interview, including the questions, filled all of one page.
A third longer meeting of reporters with FPJ, held in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental at the house of then Rep. Jing Paras, wouldn’t classify as an interview because FPJ wanted all of his comments off the record.
It was a testament to the public perception of FPJ that most didn’t find anything wrong in his failure to articulate his “Bagong Umaga” vision. Sotto said that FPJ didn’t have to discuss his program of government in his campaign speeches because all that the people wanted was to see him in person.
Perhaps, a candidate as popular as FPJ need not say anything about his program of government in his campaign speeches but he should at least discuss them with media. As it went, the whole campaign ended with nobody having a clear idea of what he had intended to do should he win. Thankfully, I was not there when the campaign ended.
Now, Sen. Grace Poe wants to continue what FPJ had started. No doubt, based on survey results, she’s high up there in popularity. However, it seems she’s only capitalizing on FPJ’s name unless she details what she knows FPJ he had started that she wants to continue.
Further, with her popularity, there should have been no need for her media handlers to be prompting her followers to shout her name for that removes any spontaneity in their reaction to her presence. I cringed when I saw a video of the scripted welcome for her at UP where she declared her presidential bid.
If and when she starts elucidating on her 20-point program to dispute claims that it’s all motherhood statements, then she’ll be giving more meat to her campaign. And, unlike FPJ and the current Malacañang tenant, she should also be willing to engage her rivals in a debate, and face media, even her critics, in conferences. These will make her campaign worth covering until the end.