These days, in case you have not noticed yet, Senator Grace Poe is sounding more and more like President Aquino. Every other minute, she invokes the most dreaded and the phoniest of all words in our political context – integrity. And she has adopted the stern, dour-like personality of the incumbent. I often ask this question. What in the world make politicians with higher ambitions look and sound like Kremlin apparatchiks?
And like Mr. Aquino, she talks as if her mission in life were to purge every real and imagined corruption in Philippine politics. Can’t a leader just say he or she will do what Isaiah says, which is feed the hungry and give shelter to the homeless? And make the country a better place for the less fortunate? Leaders, if Ms. Poe does not know it yet, can find more purity with such basic but amazingly noble quests.
The freshman senator many used to admire – leery of the limelight, mindful of her serious Senate work and deferential to her senate elders – seems to be like another creature nowadays. Was she transformed by power? And the adulation that comes her way from the slavish pundits?
Regardless of the transformation in Ms. Poe, we should all defend her right to run for president should she decide so. The so-called “ legal grounds” that have been raised to bar her from seeking the presidency are just as imaginary as the LP’s dream that one of its home-grown talents can win the presidency. They are dubious grounds, at the very least, and should be viewed as useless thoughts that are hosted in the ever-fertile minds of Mr. Tiancgo and Mr. Bautista. (Who, naturally, have to have fertile minds and fresh spins so they can earn their keeps.)
The lack of a ten-year residency has been clarified by election lawyers and the former head of the Commission on Elections. It does not depend on a single filing, rather on the actual date she settled for good in the country.
And travel records are easy to check nowadays, what with the full digitization of movement between the US and the Philippines. Ms. Poe’s claim that she returned home for good in 2005 can be vetted via a simple computer check. If she indeed returned to the Philippines in 2005 as she claimed she did, then all allegations of failing to meet the residency requirement will collapse in the face of overwhelming evidence.
Even if she erred on her senate filing, no court of law would disqualify her for running for president if she indeed returned home for good in 2005.
More ridiculous is the statement that she is a “ foundling” and, therefore, “ stateless.” Barring her from a presidential run on this wacko reasoning will be enough to fill a thousand episodes on Comedy Central – with the whiplash on the proponents of that comic allegation.
“Foundling” has never been part of election jurisprudence and it will never be. And Ms. Poe is better at Tagalog, than, say, Lito Lapid. No faux English accent for her despite her long years in the US.
The genesis of Ms. Poe’s decision to return home, then the follow-through decision to stay in the country for good, was not an arbitrary, whimsical move. Or, a return done to take advantage of better opportunities here. Or, to start a new business, or to take on a lucrative consulting gig. It was done for the most valid of reasons – to bury a dead father.
Whether politics was on her plans when she returned, we do not know. But we have to admit that it was a family tragedy that led to Ms. Poe’s return.
With a Philippine Constitution that nurtures a multi-party system, it goes without saying that this encourages a broad pool of candidates, not the constrained two-party system of the pre-martial law elections which essentially treated third parties as spoilers. A multiple field, with as many advocacies and platforms, is the political scenario envisioned by the framers of the constitution. The more candidates, the better. A Candidate Poe, preferably running outside of the UNA or the LP, is what the constitution encourages.
For Juan’s sake, let us stop all these noise about her legal incapacity to run. And let her run if she wishes so.
Ms. Poe should now respond to the current political context and decide on who she wants to be – a Hillary Clinton or an Elizabeth Warren. If she wants to run, she, like Hillary, should be straightforward about it. If she does not, she should say so. And like Warren, she would place an exclamation point at the end of the No, just to make an emphatic point.
But she cannot play coy. Politics, as history shows, is not for the “teka-teka” types.
Ms. Poe, should she decide to run for higher office, should not be tempted by the sweet enticements for her to run for VP. Hands down, she would win. All the polls say she would be unbeatable as a VP candidate. But that is a lonely, useless post, described as a “spare tire” or as a “ pitcher of warm spit.”
She should go for the jugular.