Being a political newbie has worked both for Poe’s advantage and disadvantage.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe Llamanzares or most commonly known as Grace Poe, the adopted daughter of well known celebrities, the late Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces, called as inexperienced or a “newbie” in politics, is taking the higher level and is now running for President.
Several disqualification cases were filed against Poe, questioning her citizenship but the Supreme Court ruled that Poe is qualified to run as president for the May 9 elections.
Poe’s slate called “Gobyernong may puso” has a 20-point platform including education, inclusive growth, global competitiveness and open government; improving agriculture, including land reform, irrigation and mechanization; improved infrastructure, including the Internet, government-supported industrialization to induce manufacturing and create more jobs; improved transparency with the enactment of the Freedom of Information Law; reduced taxes and improved wages and benefits; lower power rates while boosting power generation with more attention on renewable energy, among others.
While in the Senate, Poe has filed and co-authored 198 measures comprised of 68 bills and 130 resolutions. She is the principal author in the Senate of the Republic Act 10639, otherwise known as the “Free Mobile Texts During Disasters Act.”
Poe has also pushed for the passage of the Freedom of Information bill that will allow citizens access to government-held information. The consolidated bill was passed in the Senate for third and final reading. However, the Congress did not pass the proposed legislation.
Not involved in any corruption
Poe, a first termer, could have been the cleanest or purest among the presidentiables, not because she wears white most of the time. But since becoming chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MRTCB), Poe has not been involved in corruption.
Poe was the first to sign the committee reports recommending plunder charges against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla for being involved in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam. Poe also ratified the move to file plunder charges against Vice President Jejomar Binay for alleged corruption.
The Sub-Committee on Public Services (on Transport Issues) which Poe also chairs has recently recommended the filing of charges against top officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) led by Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
It will be remembered that Poe, during the subsequent glitches of the MRT in 2014, rode the train during the morning rush hour. She waited through the long line and rode from North Avenue to Taft Station. Poe’s ride was supposedly a preparation before the hearing regarding MRT incidents and to find out for herself what the commuters are going through every day.
Opposed Edca but favors foreign ownership/Charter change
Poe has stood against the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) and criticized the free use of the US Armed Forces of Philippine lands for military exercises, among others. She was also among the Senators who favored Sen. Miriam Santiago’s resolution that Edca is invalid without the Senate’s concurrence.
On the other hand, Poe is in favor of foreign ownership of some utilities and the media.
In a forum with the Makati Business Club and Management Association of the Philippines, Poe said if she wins the Presidency, one of the first things her administration would do is to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
According to a report, Poe said she is willing to relax restrictions on foreign ownership of certain utilities, media, academic institutions and medical facilities.
Poe, however, clarifies that she is not in favor of land ownership by foreigners and would not touch the Bill of Rights and provisions that set term limits for public officials.
The Makabayan Coalition, even if its senatorial candidate Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares is in Poe’s slate, criticized the Presidential aspirant’s position on Charter Change.
Makabayan Coalition President and former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo said that Poe’s statement is “merely an echo of the platforms of all the other presidential bets that encourage foreign investments and promote ‘free trade.’”
Ocampo also said Poe’s vision is comprised of the very same economic programs that were implemented by former presidents, from the late dictator Marcos to the present administration of Aquino that have kept the country underdeveloped and Filipinos poor.
AlterMidya chairperson and former dean of University of the Philippines College of Communication, Prof. Luis Teodoro also warned of the consequences once Philippine media is owned by foreign corporations.
“But the most devastating consequence of foreign ownership would not only be a focus on trivia and entertainment; it would be the dominance of news reports told from the perspective of the mostly Western media oligopolies,” said Teodoro in his article.
Poe’s platform also includes the “strengthening” of the Conditional Cash Transfer, a dole-out program which was implemented by former President Arroyo and continued by Aquino. The program was supposed to alleviate poverty through cash grants for the poorest of the poor. But the latest data of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show there is no significant decrease in poverty incidence among Filipinos.
PSA estimates the poverty incidence in the first semester of 2015 at 26.3 percent from 27.9 percent in the same period in 2012.
Ocampo said if Poe is serious in developing local industries, improving agriculture, creating more jobs and raising incomes, as well as providing better and cheaper utilities and services, she should consider reversing the neoliberal economic policies of the past administrations and pursue a more patriotic and pro-people economic agenda.
Poe has always recognized President Aquino’s supposed accomplishments in “curbing corruption.” In fact, in her declaration of candidacy, Poe said Aquino “has done much to curb corruption.”
Poe had also announced plans of making Aquino an anti-corruption adviser.
But the idea was frowned upon by Aquino’s critics. Progressive umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said “Aquino is in no position to be an anti-corruption adviser.”
Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. cited the reasons why: “He promoted and defended the Disbursement Acceleration Program that was declared illegal by the Supreme Court. He only pretended to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF. He violated the Ombudsman’s suspension order when he made Police Gen. Alan. Purisima in charge of the Mamasapano operation. He refuses to fire DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya. Worse, his administration is using public funds to prop up the candidacy of Poe’s rival, Mar Roxas.”
Labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno also expressed disagreement with Poe’s statement that filing a case against Aquino won’t be easy when the latter steps down as President.
The groups said that aside from the PDAF and DAP, Aquino should also be held accountable for the death of many Filipinos when super typhoon Yolanda struck the country, the death of innocent civilians and for various violations of the law that the Mamasapano military operation entailed; extra-judicial killings of Lumad, illegal arrest and detention of political prisoners, and other human rights violations, among others.
As Poe has projected herself as independent, Reyes urged Poe to draw her own path, “independent of the discredited Aquino government.”
“Distancing herself from the Aquino regime is necessary, not just because of the voters and the upcoming elections, but because it is the principled thing to do,” said Reyes.
Returning coco levy funds
After being criticized for her statement that was perceived as defending businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Poe recently said she will return the coco levy fund to the 3.5 million coconut farmers if she wins the elections.
Poe’s spokesperson, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian said, in a report, that “Poe will ensure that funds which have been the subject of legal battles for four decades will be used for and by the coconut industry.”
Being a political newbie has worked both for Poe’s advantage and disadvantage. Her record is clean, with no allegations of corruption and conflict of interest against her. She is not beholden to anyone nor to any political party. However, she is being criticized by her competitors in the presidential race for her lack of experience in public service. Her track record has not yet been fully established. She has a 20-point platform that is a mix of neoliberal policies, which were implemented by past presidents, with some adjustments such as government-supported industrialization, low taxes and higher wages. However, whatever her program would be, people wonder if she would be able to wield her authority and influence in implementing her vision and program of government.