FULL TEXT: 'I wanted to continue what FPJ had started' – Grace Poe

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe declared on Wednesday night, September 16, her presidential bid, promising to pursue the mission of her late father to help the poor.

"I wanted to continue what my father FPJ had started," said Poe. Actor Fernando Poe Jr ran for president in 2004, but he was widely believed to have been cheated by President Gloria Arroyo.

Political observers considered it proof of voters' support for FPJ when Grace Poe topped the 2013 senatorial elections. After the public noticed her fearless probe into anomalies in the management of the Metro Rail Transit and the Philippine National Police, Poe started topping presidential preference surveys.

Below is the full text of the speech she delivered at the University of the Philippines Bahay ng Alumni, the same hall where FPJ declared his intention to run for president in 2004.

***

To my mother, my husband and my children, my friends, and everyone gathered here, I thank you for your presence today.

My fellow Filipinos,

When I first asked for your help, I said that I wanted to continue what my father FPJ had started.

His decision to seek the presidency was anchored on a simple principle. 11 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.

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 the measure of a responsive government and society – how it uplifts everyone and leaves no one behind?

Our country is rich--in natural resources, our people's knowledge and skill, and our heroism.

This is where Asia's first republic was founded. This is the country of Rizal and Bonifacio.

Before women were given a voice, Gabriela Silang was already rallying an uprising. 

We have an amazing history from which we can draw inspiration.

We have overcome many hurdles. We’ve been hit many times over by disaster – the strongest typhoons – that seem bent on removing us from the map. And yet, here we are, still standing.

This is why my admiration for our country and our people is ever constant.

How can one not be amazed by the daily triumph over struggles of our countrymen?

By ordinary Filipinos who are awake even before the rooster announces the morning, lugging bags on the way to school or guiding carabaos across the ricefields.  By those those jostling for space in the MRT or running to catch a bus or jeep to work before traffic builds up on EDSA or Fuente Osmena Boulevard in Cebu.

By those who can’t get home ‘til late: BPO agents working graveyard shifts, public transport drivers plying the city's roads, and fishermen out at sea.

By parents who have to be away from their children: those who endure the desert's heat, the perils of the sea, and the pain of loneliness, just to give their children a bright future.

By workers with callused hands and hunched backs from working non-stop.

By ordinary government workers: teachers who traverse mountains to reach eager students; nurses who continue to give care despite their own exhaustion, policemen and soldiers who risk their lives  to ensure our safety and security.

I draw inspiration from each and every one of you. You give me the strength to pursue a higher calling for our country. 

We should push for true reforms that will achieve inclusive growth, global competitiveness and  transparent government. Any progress we achieve as a country should be progress for each one of us, without exception. Any preferential bias should be for the poor and vulnerable.

Tonight, I would like to make known to everyone that it I've made it my dream and my purpose to attain, with your help, the following:

1.   In education, we must attend to the needs of our classrooms. We should maximize digital technology for education, and eliminate backlogs. We shall strive to expand our scholarship programs and strengthen the "Study now, pay later" program. We will also help college students find internships and jobs to gain invaluable experience even before they graduate.

2.   We shall work for the flourishing of the agricultural sector. We will heed their longing  for land to till. Irrigation is still badly needed in half a million hectares of land. We will push for mechanization. We need an effective program to make fishing, farming and livestock propagation profitable for our farmers and the youth.

3.   We will make infrastructure development our priority, whether in terms of streets, trains, airports, seaports or the internet. I will strive to increase the annual infrastructure budget to 7% of the GDP. The government will support the private sector in formulating an industrialization and IT plan. As more products "Made in the Philippines" flourish, more jobs will be created. This should be done while taking care of our environment.

4.   No one man or group holds a monopoly on "Tuwid na Daan".  President Aquino has done much to curb corruption and I am thankful that it has restored the people's faith in an honest leader. 

It is only right to continue the fight against corruption. We will hold the corrupt accountable, whether they be friend or foe. This should be the crusade of every Filipino, not just one person or party.

To strengthen transparency in government, I will push for the passage of the Freedom of Information bill at the soonest possible time.

5.   We have one of the highest tax rates in the world. My aim is to lower these.

People know what their needs are and they have a right to choose how to spend their hard-earned money. But if government lowers taxes, we should reciprocate by paying the right taxes. And this I guarantee: Every peso you pay will be returned to you in fast and quality service.

6.   We need to examine if we are giving our workers and government employees fair wages and benefits. Their work and service will suffer while their own families starve. Every worker needs a decent and legal source of income. 

7.   A large percentage of a family's earnings goes to paying for electricity. We need to find a way to lower power costs. In many parts of Mindanao, brownouts are a frequent occurence.  We will ensure sufficient power to fuel a growing economy, especially in Mindanao. We shall see to the development of renewable energy.

8.   We will value our OFWs and take care of them. We will provide them with proper legal support overseas and reduce the fees and red tape that they currently put up with just to have their papers processed.

9.   As a mother, I am deeply troubled by the proliferation of crime and drugs. Like every parent, I cannot rest easy until my children are home safe at night. For me, the elimination of drugs and crime is not just a job. It is my personal crusade. I will make sure the police have the required discipline and skills to immediately deal with crime.  Their job is not just to log crimes, but to catch the criminals.

10.      We will pursue peace with all groups. Filipinos should need no longer kill fellow Filipinos. With peace, real progress can touch all corners of the country.

To our Moro brothers, your culture and heroism were the inspiration for many of my father's films.  After a long and hard history, it is time that you are given equal opportunities and genuine assistance.

11.      We should respect human rights. We will not be blind to the conditions of our vulnerable sectors, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, urban poor, women, youth and children, the LGBT sector and senior citizens. To all senior citizens, you will not be ignored. My own mother has asserted that the older one gets, the more he/she should feel government's care.

12.      Everyone's health is important. No family should be driven to bankruptcy by illness or be made to choose between food or medicine for their sick loved ones. Our people should be able to rely on expanded health benefits through Philhealth. I will ensure that each community has a proper hospital, staffed with enough doctors, nurses and midwives, and with all the necessary equipment, medicine and supplies.

13.      The West Philippine Sea is ours. We will protect our right through peaceful means, and according to international law. We will beef up our Coast Guard and armed forces so that we need not be intimidated by other countries.

14.      The traffic situation takes away not just our precious time, it tests our patience. It eats up valuable time that we would otherwise have spent at work or with our loved ones.

15.      We should do the following: We should build more roads and trains not only in Metro Manila but all over the Philippines.  We should ensure that our train project is awarded to a contractor with strong capability and track record in long-term maintenance.  We should clean our drainage systems.  We should provide coats and boots for the people who manage our traffic.  We should remove all colorum and illegally parked vehicles.  We should implement staggered office hours. No roadwork should be left unfinished. We should immediately fire contractors who don't stick to the approved timetable.

16.      The internet is just like a highway. It is a conduit for information. It should be fast. Many jobs will become more productive with faster internet connection. Kids will finish their homework faster and we can more easily talk to our loved ones working overseas without any Skype delays. When it comes to the internet, connecting should not take Forever.

17.      Arts, culture and sports deserve the government’s attention. We are recognized internationally as a creative race of visual artists, writers and performers, but we do not value them ourselves. They bring us honor, so we should support them. Our athletes too need our support. We should never give up on our dream to win an Olympic gold medal.

18.      Let us not forget the reality of climate change.  This is not just a middle class issue; the poor will be hardest hit by its effects.  We should have a separate Emergency Management Department that will focus on national preparedness, climate change and geo-mapping.

19.       Tourism is another sector that needs our attention.  A vibrant tourism industry will create new jobs for Filipinos, even those in far-flung areas.  Our country is filled with beautiful tourist destinations, but the industry will never fully succeed if we don’t provide sufficient infrastructure and build more airports.

20.      Children are the nation's treasure. They are our present and future. And yet, they do not stand a chance if they do not receive proper nutrition. Many children continue to starve and waste away. It is time to create a Standard Lunch Program in all public schools.

There isn't enough time to enumerate each and every one of my hopes and goals. In the next few days, I will release a comprehensive program centered on a simple principle and belief: that no Filipino and no region should be left behind. We will rise and progress together as one nation.

When my father ran for the presidency, he was ridiculed; his inexperience was scoffed at and his citizenship questioned. Yet he bravely faced the challenge and the opportunity to help change the lives of his fellow Filipinos for the better.

His integrity, courage and goodness have become both my guide and inspiration. My mother also gave me sound advice. She said, "My child, amidst the loud noise of politics, never ever lose yourself."

My life is an open book.

Who would've thought that a foundling would ever become senator? I thank you for giving me that opportunity.

Don't ever forget that Filipinos are a very able race. We are loving, creative and resourceful.

We can achieve whatever we want for this nation if we work hard, be vigilant, and make sure we have an honest person to guide us through our journey.

We should stick together, because one person cannot bring about this change.

Anyone who promises he alone can do it is already lying.

The story of our future lies in all our hands.

I hope you will join me in crafting a bright and meaningful future for our motherland, the Philippines. 

I am Grace Poe. A Filipino. A daughter, wife and mother.  And with God's grace, I offer myself for the country's highest calling as your President. – Rappler.com