Saturday, September 22, 2018
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At Large

Scarlett, Grace and Leni

All these declarations of intent and search for consent of a lady’s hand in, if not marriage, then of partnership, remind me of the movie “Gone with the Wind.”

The Liberal Party is said to be patiently waiting in the sidelines for the final word from Sen. Grace Poe on whether she will agree to be the running mate of the LP’s designated presidential candidate, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. Though some members of the party have said that “there is no such thing as forever,” most party stalwarts say they are still open to a “Mar-Grace” tandem.

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Meanwhile, the damsel in the limelight has also met with the leaders of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, which has the second-highest number of members in the House of Representatives. After the meeting, the NPC leaders said they were still weighing their options, although they indicated that the choice had been narrowed down to between Roxas and Poe.

Where does this leave the previous front-runner, Vice President Jojo Binay? The latest news is that he, too, is angling for a meeting with the NPC hierarchy, and that an earlier offer to Poe to be his running mate still stands.

We may dismiss the last statement as just so much political balderdash since Binay’s spokespeople and supporters (verified or not) are at the forefront of legal moves to strip Poe not just of her Senate post but even of her newly-reacquired citizenship. If this is successful, it would effectively shunt the lady senator aside, and presumably leave the road to Malacañang wide open for Binay.

So many suitors, so little time: The deadline for the filing of candidacy is in October. Who would blame Grace Poe for feeling like Scarlett O’Hara?

* * *

IF you will recall, early in the movie “Gone with the Wind,” Scarlett makes her appearance at the top of the stairs of the mansion in Tara, the plantation her family owns. The steps leading down to the parlor are lined with young, eager gentlemen from the best families, standing in anticipation of being chosen for special attention and favor from Scarlett, the undisputed belle of Atlanta society.

But we know, from previous scenes, that Scarlett really has her heart set on Ashley Wilkes, who unfortunately is already betrothed to his cousin Melanie Hamilton.

Spurned by her love interest, Scarlett turns to a pair of innocuous suitors to escort her

until her attention turns to a blackguard and maverick, Rhett Butler, who will eventually win her hand and marry her.

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Who is Ashley in this local political scenario, and who will turn out to be Rhett? Sen. Chiz Escudero, who acted as the spokesman of Grace’s father Fernando Poe Jr. in FPJ’s frustrated (and ultimately tragic) run for the presidency, certainly looks and acts the part of an eager courtier—“advising” her, and “connecting” her to political players, including, presumably, the leaders of the NPC, the party Escudero abandoned in a huff in 2010 when leaders proved stingy with their funding support for his own thwarted run for president.

Will Grace, who has been sounding increasingly combative in recent days after a series of attacks aimed at her, turn in frustration to Chiz and launch a bold, if rather risky, run for the top two posts in the land?

* * *

OR will she buck the odds and choose to run with either of the considered front-runners—Roxas or Binay?

Frankly, I cannot see her standing on the entablado arm-in-arm with Binay, who has been conducting a sniping campaign against “inexperienced” aspirants, while not lifting a finger to prevent his

underlings from using the foundling and citizenship issues to undermine Grace’s chances.

But then, so many other unexpected things have happened in the name of political expedience.

The daang matuwid marchers would love nothing more than a Mar-Grace tandem, a political love team that would have public opinion ratings, administration support and ruling-party resources behind it. But I suspect that if Senator Poe was giving this pairing serious thought, she would have indicated her willingness one way or another.

For now, she has kept her opinions or inclinations largely to herself, although she has been sounding increasingly annoyed and snippy as the days go by. She has even been quoted as floating the question of having her suitors “stepping down” to vice president and leaving the presidency to her. She certainly has public favor on her side, but all it takes is one scandal, or a sustained smear campaign, to bring her impressive numbers crashing down.

* * *

IN case Grace proves intransigent, some civil society personalities have slotted in an alternative: Rep. Leni Robredo, who entered politics only after the death of her husband, then Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo.

Leni has already said she would rather run for the Senate or campaign again to keep her congressional seat.

I think one reason Leni is now being touted as an alternative to Grace Poe is that she is also a woman, a mother, and, as if to trump Poe, the widow of a popular political personage. But she needs to be the running mate of a “presidentiable” as much as she needs a hole in her head. Leni has always struck me as someone with a sensible head on her shoulders, and vulnerability to flatterers and courtiers doesn’t seem to be among her qualities.

Indeed, even as they metaphorically walk their way down the winding staircase of the Tara mansion, Grace and Leni would do well to scrutinize each and every face raised in eager anticipation and decide, not just for what is best for themselves or their families, but for the people as well.

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TAGS: 2016 Elections, House of Representatives, Jojo Binay, leni robredo, Nationalist People’s Coalition
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