It was a last minute decision. I voted for Grace Poe after I shaded Teddy Casiño and Ed Hagedorn and Richard Penson, the independents who I thought deserved a vote for even going up against political and showbiz bigwigs. The woman was on top of the last column on that ballot, and as I shaded her name, I found that I could justify that vote with this fact: while she was part of PNoy’s Liberal Party, she was independent minded and rational. That made her different from the rest of that bright yellow(ed) campaign.
It takes chutzpah after all, to even go on those televised debates, and not be ruffled by any one question – or person for that matter. It takes a very clear sense of self to refuse to be changed by the fakery that riddles elections on these shores. Grace did not change the way she looked, or the way she sounded; she was transparent about the PR machinery that was behind her, including that TV biopic that revealed her life as FPJ’s and Susan Roces’ adopted daughter.
She ran of course on her parents’ names, as expected. Analysts assert that her win was the revenge of the masses who had been cheated out in the 2004 elections, when they voted for Grace’s father. I tend to think that FPJ functioned as nothing but mere reflection, if not conscience, the kind that Grace needed in order to create a personal history of public service.
Where FPJ might be criticized for having had nothing but a vague plan for nation, one that he never got to articulate; Vice President Binay might be criticized for a history of public service riddled with graft and corruption charges. Here is the difference between Grace and Nancy.
Grace was running on the good name of her father, and the credibility of her mother. Certainly we have every reason to wonder, too, what else she has going for her other than the fact that she is their daughter.
There is of course her two years as chairperson of the Movie and TV Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), where Grace dealt with the rules of classification (and not censorship) with objectivity and consistency unlike we had seen in recent years. She was one to demand self-regulation of TV shows and movies; she was one to be honest about what work MTRCB could not do: that is, police cyberspace. She was one to take a stand against the libel provisions in the Cybercrime Law.
Grace’s platform makes the promises that every other candidate makes, and there is nothing here that makes her extraordinary. If at all it sounds like every yellow(ed) LP candidate’s platform. Poverty alleviation, check! Strengthening the family, check! Good governance and transparency, check! A platform such as this is sadly expected, symptomatic as it is of the way elections and campaigns happen in this country.
But there is more to Grace than what a party might limit her to, and here is where I will put all my eggs in one basket, and dare say that she is the one hopeful outcome of this senatorial election.
Because her win, no matter her ranking, would’ve meant that someone who is not part of a political family, and is not an artista who we see every day on TV, can win an election. Yes, her personal history as daughter of FPJ has come into play here; but Jack Enrile didn’t win, did he? And neither did Tingting Cojuangco despite Mikee. Yehey! We like to think of her as another “celebrity”, but she is nothing like say, Tito Sotto, or Jinggoy Estrada. Neither did she ride on some big celebrity’s fame – not even PNoy’s cred – though it might be said that having her mother and father are enough.
Also, Grace’s ranking at number one says something of mass following, as analysts are wont to say. Rather, it says a lot about other people out there like me who thought Grace worthy of our support because alongside the different kinds of evil on that list of senatoriables, she was, is, no evil at all.
Because at least she is coming into this clean and credible, no matter that she might not have the best or most unique of platforms. Grace also seems to be the most independent candidate, even through she ran under LP and was endorsed by UNA. She is her mother’s–more than her father’s–daughter.
Susan’s shining political moment was when she called out GMA for cheating her husband in the 2004 elections. Hers was a most powerful display of one woman’s fury. But despite her loss, Susan refused to run for public office herself, something that any other scorned, angry and bereaved wife would’ve done in soap opera Philippines.
This undoubtedly informs our opinion of Grace, as the daughter of Susan. Strong and outspoken, empowered but kind, there is a sense that it is her mother that Grace has been answering to, and it is her mother who will reprimand her, and will make sure Grace does right by us. Those campaign ads worked with this dynamic too, but also as a family; the public persona of the Poes is one that is simple but sharp, and at the very least will look you in the eye and tell you that they have yet to think of how to deal with something, they have yet to find a solution to a problem.
Grace is going into the Senate as tabula rasa as with only her upbringing at the core of the kind of work she might do: “measurable, concrete achievements that can be felt by the poor.”
And there is much that can be done, even more so when she gets out of the box that LP has created for its senatoriables. Grace need not echo the platform of the party that supported her, neither does she need to kowtow to the dominant politics and politicking that we know exists in the Senate. Instead, Grace might actually and truly take a page from the kind of independence her parents lived off, the kind of individuality Susan had the guts to act on when she took on GMA.
Grace has the capacity to walk into the Senate, independent and free of the baggage that politics and politicking brings. She can be in the Senate in the next three years, and remain as clean and as credible as she is now, as she walks into it. Most importantly, Grace can go into the Senate with a very clear sense of a framework that is particularly hers, the kind that can respond to all the issues, tasks, and causes that she wants to engage in, and which are urgent to take on.
Thankfully too, Grace has the calm and collectedness, class and confidence, to stay exactly the way she is, given the way she was brought up by her parents. And you know this because she speaks of leadership as also representative of a kind of lifestyle: she has said that we must “check the lifestyle <of our leaders>” to see if it is “contrary to what they claim or stand for.”
You hear that, Kris Aquino? You’ve got a whole lifestyle to undo. You’re also now going up against a veritable anti-thesis.
There is hope, Pilipinas. And while she’s got a lot of work to do, there is hope in this Grace.