Grace Poe’s messianic pretensions
CANBERRA—Never in my 65-year career as a journalist have I encountered a more audacious bid for the presidency than that of the junior senator Grace Poe.
In announcing her decision to seek the presidency last Sept. 16 at the University of the Philippines’ alumni house, Poe said it was prompted by her desire to “continue” what her father, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., had started.
“His decision was anchored on the same … principle,” she perorated in Filipino. “Eleven years ago in this very same hall, he declared that he wanted to help the poor, fight oppression and forge a prosperous and just society.” Soaring to the heights of sentimental rhetoric, she rhapsodized on her father’s legacy: “He often told me, Gracia, poverty is not a destiny because each one’s fate is in his/her hands. But to get out of poverty, one’s own hard work is often not enough. Everyone needs a helping hand. Shouldn’t this be a measure of responsive government and society—how it uplifts everyone and leaves no one behind?”
At this juncture, would someone tell this poor lady to stop her homilies and nonsense, and ask her if she realizes that her lectures are beginning to sound like echoes of the administration’s propaganda on fostering inclusive growth that does not leave the poor far behind in the enjoyment of the benefits of high growth? Maybe she is not aware of this due to her limited education, or she has not been reading up on the economic presentations of Neda Director General Arsenio Balisacan.
The totality of Poe’s speech sounded to us like a 21st-century reworking of the absolutist doctrine of European monarchies in the Middle Ages: That kings were mandated to rule in any way they wished according to the divine rights of kings, with no accountability whatsoever to their suffering subjects.
Poe spoke of continuing the legacy of her father. But she failed to tell us just what her father had done 11 years ago to help the poor and to fight oppression. She seemed to claim that her bid for the presidency is built on the mandate of her father’s accomplishments, of which there is no record of any kind having to do with public office or service. What accomplishments is she talking about, on which to anchor her presidential aspirations?
And why should Filipino voters elect her to the presidency on the basis of her being the daughter of FPJ, who had the temerity to stand for president on his fame as a heroic figure in the synthetic world of make believe, far removed from the social reality of Philippine politics?
We have had a number of presidential elections since our country became a democratic republic in 1946. But none of the aspirants had come forward to promote their candidacies mainly on the basis of their hereditary pedigree, until Poe foisted the notion that she has the right to be elected president on the basis of her claim as the heir to FPJ’s legacy (whatever it is). For example, Mar Roxas, standard-bearer of the ruling Liberal Party, is not capitalizing on his pedigree as a grandson of Manuel Roxas, the first president of the postwar republic, to propel his candidacy. And while it is true that President Aquino was swept to his post by the wave of sympathy stemming from the death of his mother, President Cory Aquino, none among the present presidential contenders is more brazen than Poe in pushing her ambitions on the back of her relationship with a dead actor.
Among the three declared contenders, Poe tops the list for messianic pretensions. It’s time to ask what is really fueling her bid.
A review of the records will show that Poe topped the senatorial elections in 2013. From that time onward, she has been topping the surveys on the most preferred contenders. But considering the volatility of the public mood, it is reckless to conclude that the ratings will remain unchanged in the next few months until May 2016. Poe’s record in the Senate in the past two years faces tough public scrutiny. Many of her critics are asking what she has done in the Senate to deserve her front-runner position in the surveys, and to justify her depiction of herself as a messianic leader who can save and transform society from its current malaise, especially endemic corruption.
There are signs that the survey results have gone to her head, distorting her outlook, making her overcomplacent and believing that her election is inevitable. She must beware of hubris. Her camp has shown arrogance and self-delusion.
True, Poe has outlined a 20-point program vowing to “continue FPJ’s dreams” (a dead man’s dreams could be the obituary of her own extravagant dreams). She has scornfully spurned invitations from the administration to run as vice president, as if this were beneath her dignity; she insists that she and Sen. Francis Escudero would run as a team with herself leading the ticket, tackling the established parties’ lineups. Her 20-point program reeks with ambitious claims, making it sound like a State of the Nation Address of a sitting president. It was launched at UP to give it intellectual gravitas, a credential that she has to prove she possesses. In the speech, she said: “We should push for true reforms that will achieve inclusive growth, global competitiveness and transparent government.” Is she up to fulfill these dreams?
We are anxious to know whether we are heading for a boom or the bust of a bubble blown up by self-proclaimed messiahs hearing voices of a mandate from heaven. Let us be aware that these self-serving prophets have insulted the intelligence of our people.