If popularity surveys are to be believed, it is going to be a close race between Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Grace Poe for the Presidency. Some people’s prediction that Poe’s popularity would surge after the Supreme Court decided to allow her to run did not come true. While she still maintains the lead against her rivals, Duterte’s popularity stats are closing in on her.
It probably has something to do with the fact that the Supreme Court’s supposed majority decision to reverse the Commission on Election’s disqualification cases against Poe is still in doubt. Some claim that there was no majority decision on the question of whether Poe is a natural-born citizen or not in the first place. To get a majority vote, eight justices out of 15 should rule in favour of Poe but only seven justices voted in her favour. However, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno overruled that claim by insisting that the seven justices already constitute a “majority”. Likewise, some say that Sereno ignored the fact that out of the 15 justices, only 12 participated in that particular question.
It’s either Sereno is not good in math or she’s just good at dismissing dissenting opinions. Either way, the Supreme Court’s decision has not resulted in the boost in numbers Poe and her supporters were hoping for. If we were to be honest, the only reason she is popular is because of her father, the late actor Fernando Poe, Jr. Unfortunately, using her father’s popularity is also turning a lot of voters off. Her use of Poe alone instead of her married name Llamanzares is already an insult to the voters. As a writer, I still get confused about which of her names I should use. I just stick to the shorter one anyway. But it is still annoying because I am conscious of the fact that that’s not the name she uses in official documents anymore and it makes one realise that she is being dishonest in using a popular name just to get an edge over her rivals.
During the second Presidential debates, Poe and Duterte were also the audience favourite. Poe came across as articulate and expressive at first but if one were to listen to what she said again very carefully after all the excitement had subsided, one would realise that her words did not have any substance. They were mostly motherhood statements. One example was when she was asked what she would do if she was woken at four in the morning with the news that the Chinese have sunk two of the country’s navy ships. She replied by saying that she would rise up and not complain about the earliness of the hour. The audience probably gave her brownie points for being confident in providing a quick rebuttal even when her answer was not really a valid one.
Poe also showed her feisty side in her responses to her rivals Vice President Jejomar Binay and Liberal Party bet Mar Roxas who are both part of the current administration. Binay was even said to have been “hurt” by her bluntness considering Binay and Poe’s late father were close chums when FPJ was still alive. It is a good sign that she is not one to back down when it comes to criticising other public servants. However, it also highlights the fact that she still refuses to criticize President Benigno Simeon Aquino even when she openly blames some of the President’s cabinet members for their incompetence.
A lot of people have noticed that she has been very careful not speak ill of BS Aquino even when he is very protective of his staff and cabinet members including those who are useless at their jobs. They see this as a sign that Poe is already into patronage politics even before she wins the Presidency. This is the reason why some conspiracy theorists are saying Poe is BS Aquino’s spare tire. Meaning, if Poe wins over the President’s bet Roxas, BS Aquino is still safe from prosecution. That theory is on the assumption that the President has control over the justice system including the Supreme Court justices. In the Philippines, that theory is not too far-fetched considering some justices were handpicked by the President and may have to return some “favours”. Some of them are also a bit star-struck and could be beholden to popular names like Aquino and Poe. Why else would some of them declare Poe qualified to run and disqualify others in the past who did not meet the residency criteria like she did? Maybe it’s because they are not as telegenic as she is.
If the race comes down to a toss-up between Duterte and Poe, it will be like choosing between a suitor and a single mother. Duterte is like a suitor who can sweep his love interest off her feet by promising the moon and the stars without bothering to say how he will do it. It sounds romantic but the love interest also needs to be practical. People should be careful in falling for sweet nothings. Having said that, Duterte’s confident demeanour, especially in the way he says he can solve criminality within three to six months, probably turns a lot of people on – those who are sick of escalating crime rates in the country. But still, there are people who are really interested in the details of how he is going to do it though.
I suppose Duterte doesn’t want to reveal his secret plan so the crooks won’t get a chance to pre-empt his strike. It’s up to the people if they will allow themselves to fall head over heels for Duterte just like what that old romantic line says “come what may”. It is always tempting to let yourself go and trust in the man who looks like he can take care of you. You just have to be prepared for the consequences just in case he fails to deliver on his promise.
Poe, like a single mother, would have to rely on doing anything to survive even if it means selling her principles to the highest bidder. That’s what some people are saying of her when she accepted campaign funds from one of the Philippines’ most powerful businessman. She insist that she is not a puppet but as the old mafia saying goes “I do a favour for you, you do a favour for me”. That’s just how it works. In other words, only the gullible crowd would fall for her motherhood statements.
One thing is for sure, while Duterte promises radical changes like the introduction of a federalized government, which could see the end of Imperial Manila dictating the terms for the different regions in the country, Poe will continue the status quo – with the ruling class comprising of few elites calling the shots in the country’s economy. No wonder Duterte is starting to become appealing to more voters.