What’s in a name? It can make you win or lose an election, said two senatorial candidates at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday.
Senatorial candidates JV Estrada and Grace Poe admitted that they are now in the winning column in the senatorial race according to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey because they are carrying the names of their famous fathers. Grace Poe catapulted from 20th place to the winning circle, 11th place, in just one month. She attributed the spectacular jump to the change of her name from Grace P. Llamanzares to Grace Poe. As Llamanzares, nobody knew who she was, she said, but as a Poe, people quickly recognized her pedigreed name. Grace is the daughter of the late movie action king Fernando Poe Jr. who ran for president and lost—“cheated,” according to his wife, actress Susan Roces.
Rep. JV Ejercito has been hovering between fifth and fourth place in the rankings since he changed his name from Ejercito to Estrada, the screen name of his father, former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada. Also an action star, Erap is the bosom friend of FPJ.
JV would probably rank even higher if he had used his real first name, Joseph, he said, “but JV Estrada is good enough.” JV, however, drew the line against using the name Erap. “That belongs only to my father,” he said.
Other candidates are capitalizing on the names of their famous fathers. Rep. Sonny Angara, whose real name is Juan Edgardo Angara, junked the Juan to become plain Edgardo Angara, which voters can mistake for that of longtime Sen. Edgardo Angara.
Still another candidate, Rep. Jack Enrile, is using his real name, Juan Ponce Enrile Jr., which the voters will naturally mistake for JPE, the Senate President.
And still another not only uses the well-loved name of his martyred uncle Ninoy Aquino but tries very hard to look like him. He imitates the former’s hairdo, wears the same heavy, horn-rimmed glasses that Ninoy used to wear, and dresses like him. He even tries to talk like him. You would think he is Willie Nepomuceno in one of his impersonation roles. And he registers his name as Paolo (his real name) Benigno Aquino IV, nicknamed “Bam” which critics misspell as “Bum.” Which makes you wonder if he has no other qualification except his name and physical resemblance to Ninoy. If people were to vote on a candidate’s physical appearance, then Willie Nep can run for any position he wants.
The third guest at the Kapihan, by the way, Ernesto Maceda, is lagging far behind in the rankings because he has no pedigreed name. Yet, after 54 years in government service and being a former Senate President, he is the most experienced among the senatorial bets.
Manong Ernie is not fazed. “It is still too early, the official campaign period has not even begun yet,” he said. “There are many instances in past elections when those behind in the surveys won in the elections.” He is hopeful that he will be able to repeat the same feat.
Maceda is among the poorest of the senatorial candidates. He laments that unlike some of the other candidates, he cannot afford TV commercials. That is why while others are already saturating the airwaves with their commercials before the campaign period, he does not yet have any.
Meanwhile, other candidates lucky enough to have famous parents are capitalizing on that advantage. Grace Poe’s tarps has her picture with the great FPJ. Her name appears with the name Poe in big, bold capital letters. It boasts that she is “Anak ni (child of) FPJ”. And a blurb promises: “Ipagpapatuloy ko ang inumpisahan ng aking ama (I will finish what my father started).”
What did FPJ start? He wanted to help the poor, and she will continue doing that, Grace said.
Apparently, it is not only the dead FPJ who is helping Grace but also her very much alive mother. Grace’s folder has her picture on the front cover and that of her parents, FPJ and Susan, smiling from ear to ear on the back cover. The two were labeled “Team Grace POE.”
Grace, former chair of the movie and TV review board, is also being helped by TV giant ABS-CBN. Last Saturday, the network ran an hour-long biography of Grace in “Maalaala Mo Kaya,” which prompted many viewers to ask the Commission on Elections if it was not premature campaigning. In true lapdog fashion, the Comelec said: “It is not.” The campaign period has not begun yet, so there is no premature campaigning, Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes said. Duh? Once the campaign period begins, there will no longer be any premature campaigning. So what was the prohibition on premature campaigning for?
The three guests were asked what they would advocate if they become senators. JV said his advocacy would be job generation. He wants to improve education so that Filipinos won’t have to go abroad to look for jobs. We are losing our manpower to other countries, and training them to benefit other countries, he said, adding that our economy has become dependent on the remittances of overseas Filipino workers.
Grace wants to focus on poverty alleviation, while Maceda wants to improve peace and order by expanding the Philippine National Police. He wants to immediately hire 50,000 new policemen to comply with the law that prescribes a ratio of one policeman for every 500 people. He wants early retirement for aging policemen to have new blood in the police force. And he wants to give cash awards of up to P1 million each for 17 outstanding policemen for every region, and P500,000 to outstanding policemen from every province and Metro Manila city.