MANILA, Sept 16, 2015:
The adopted daughter of Philippine movie stars was set to launch her presidential campaign on Wednesday, banking on her parents’ celebrity status to catapult her past the nation’s most powerful politicians.
Grace Poe, 46, is a relative political novice, having been a senator for just two years, and faces legal challenges over her citizenship that could rule her out of elections in May next year.
But the independent politician is already the favourite, capitalising on a starstruck electorate who have a colourful history of electing celebrities to all manner of political positions — from village level to the presidency.
Thousands of supporters clad in white shut down a city bloc in Manila on Wednesday afternoon as they waited for Poe to arrive and announce she was running for president.
“She gives me hope. I know she is a good person and will make a good president, ” 69-year-old housewife Remedios Gamboa told AFP as she waited on the auditorium steps with many other long-time fans of Poe’s father, Fernando Poe Jnr.
“Her father is an action man who defended the poor. I believe the daughter will be the same,” she said.
The dainty-looking senator has in public appearances adopted the blue-collar style that nearly got her father elected president in 2004, wearing a crisp white shirt over jeans as she toured the country pressing flesh leading up to Wednesday’s event.
Poe Jnr narrowly lost to former president Gloria Arroyo in 2004 amid allegations of massive fraud that cheated him of victory. He died of a brain stroke seven months later.
Poe’s declaration will set the stage for a three-way race against Vice-President Jejomar Binay and Interior Minister Mar Roxas, who is President Benigno Aquino’s anointed successor.
A recent respected public opinion survey had Poe leading her two rivals, with 30% saying they would vote for her. Binay, whose early lead was eroded amid corruption allegations, got 22%, while Roxas had just 10%.
Aquino, who had publicly courted Poe to run as Roxas’ vice-president had said that he was not worried about her presidential ambitions.
“We are moving away from personality-based politics. So whatever her announcement is, we will still be advocating governance based on a specific platform,” Aquino told reporters on Monday.
– Film-worthy beginnings –
Poe’s rise to frontrunner in the race to lead 100 million people in one of Asia’s most chaotic democracies is as film-worthy as her parents’ biggest hits.
Just several days old, an infant Poe was left in a Spanish-era church in the central Philippines where she was found by a movie fan, according to her official narrative.
The fan then gave her to Poe Jnr and his actress-wife, Susan Roces, who adopted her.
Poe’s opponents have filed legal challenges against her ahead of her planned presidential run, because she has no original birth certificate to prove she was born to Filipino parents.
She also spent time in the US and became a naturalised citizen, though she says she has since renounced this.
Her adoptive father, more popularly known by his initials “FPJ”, had earned legions of fans playing the incorruptible village tough guy who slays monsters and criminals with magical swords and pistols that never run out of bullets.
But for other movie fans, the daughter still has to prove that she is worthy of their vote.
“I came here to hear her speak, to see for myself whether she loves the poor, ” 49-year-old housewife Araceli Gaban told AFP as she watched Poe Jnr’s movie from a giant screen outside the auditorium.
“I believe she is sincere, but she has to prove to me that she’s not some politician who would wash her hands after shaking mine,” said the mother of five from suburban Manila.