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‘Tuloy Poe kayo’

I had been telling friends I’d use that line in a column one of these days. I wouldn’t endorse a specific presidential candidate, I’d just set out “general principles” about the next president I want.

First, she must be a woman, to make up for what Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did in her time. Second, she must show amazing grace, someone who doesn’t make a lot of noise but gets things done. Third, she must be respectful, someone who knows how to say po.

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But with the reports the other day talking directly about the possibility of Grace Poe running—and winning—in the next presidential election, I guess I can dispense with the witticism.

The reports are right: She doesn’t want to run. She isn’t being coy about it, she’s fearful of running. In part because she might not win. She told the media about it herself. Of course she won big as senator, but running for higher office is another thing entirely. Certainly, running for president is so. She has no party, she has no money, she has no long experience as a politician.

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In part because she could win. She didn’t put it exactly the way Dolphy famously did: “Madaling tumakbo. E kung manalo?” (It’s easy to run. But what if you win?) She isn’t being coy about that either, she’s fearful of becoming president. She’s seen how it is to be president, not least in P-Noy’s epic travails. The spectacle is enough to dampen the stoutest of hearts.

I myself am convinced it’s just a question of convincing Grace Poe to run. If she does, she could be the next president of this country.

There are several reasons for it.

Not least is her very reluctance to run. I’ve seen it before in the incumbent, P-Noy. Of course that reluctance can be simulated, too, and has been so. Imelda and Gloria themselves did so, vowing not to run but running anyway after apparently being “forced” to by public clamor. But this melodrama-drenched country is past master at discerning sincerity and can distinguish real from fake, the truly reluctant from the atat-na-atat. P-Noy registered authenticity when he balked at running after his mother died. So does Grace now.

What that conveys when it is real is prodigious respect for the position. The ambitious or covetous will not be awed by it, will not think twice to seek it. He—or she—will crave it, pursue it, grab it. We respond to that reluctance well for good reason. However we grasp it only instinctively—and instinct has often been surer than plodding logic—we know that those who regard the presidency as a daunting burden and responsibility will more likely give it the justice it deserves than those who regard it as a means and opportunity for wealth and power.

Yet another reason for it is that people have gotten jaded with the choice between Jojo Binay and Mar Roxas, which is how the 2016 election has been reduced to. Over the past months, I’ve had a lot of friends and strangers come up to me and ask whom I’ll endorse for the presidential election, the subtext of it being yet another question. Which is the despairing “Do we have a choice other than Binay and Roxas?”

Yes, we do. In fact, the 2016 election can very well shape up into another stark choice, if not between good and evil, at least between old and new, between more of the same and a spark of promise. Between Binay and Roxas on one hand and Poe on the other—if she runs. The contrast driven home by the “if she runs,” both Binay and Roxas looking determined to do everything in their power to bag the presidency. Roxas for one tried to be seen everywhere with P-Noy during the Edsa celebration in Cebu and Bohol though he had nothing to do with Edsa and scoffed at it early on in the 2010 campaign.

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Why Grace Poe and not some other alternative? Because more than the other potential candidates, she has the mythical, symbolic, larger-than-life quality that makes for presidents.

She is right about one thing: The presidential race is a completely different league from the senatorial one. But that is not her decisive disadvantage, that is her decisive advantage. To become president, you don’t just need name recall, resources and a party, you need a persona that resonates with the people, you need a storyline that captures the national imagination.

Grace is the daughter of the one presidential candidate widely perceived to have been cheated by the second most reviled leader in the Philippines. However Gloria and her camp trot out all sorts of figures to show she won the election, her question to Garci—“So, will I still win by one million votes?”—will continue to haunt the nation.

FPJ lost the election and died that same year of a broken heart. The 10th anniversary of that death comes in December, an event that cannot pass without the sad fate that befell him not being recalled in the most moving terms. If Grace were to change her mind and bow to public clamor—and that clamor will be there, real and spontaneous—the other candidates will be hard put to invent a storyline to rival hers. That storyline—fulfillment, vindication, the finishing of unfinished business, the daughter (a variation of the son) picking up where the father left off, redemption, saving grace—themes that resonated in Da King’s own movies, will trample everything in its path.

Needless to say, she shouldn’t even think of running for vice president. As with P-Noy, none of that mythical, larger-than life, element will be there if she does. The vice-presidential quest is not a heroic one. It turns the sublime into the paralytic.

All this is merely to say why I think Grace Poe would win if she runs. None of this is to say why she should win if she does. That’s another story, best told another day. Meanwhile, all I can say is:

Tuloy Poe kayo.

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TAGS: 2016 presidential elections, dolphy, Fernando Poe Jr., Grace Poe, Jojo Binay, Mar Roxas, Philippine politics
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