CEBU CITY, Philippines – She is coy about her political plans in 2016, but her words and actions paint a different story.
Senator Grace Poe on Monday, August 24, laid down some of her would-be campaign platform before 21,000 students of the University of San Carlos (USC) in vote-rich Cebu City.
Poe told students she is pushing for affordable quality education, paid government internship, and fast Internet speed. The latter, as in her past speeches, received the warmest response from the audience.
“Siguro nothing political, but I would like to tell you I sympathize with all of your needs, particularly to be able to continue to afford quality education, so that we are pushing for the continued 'study now pay later.' We should have paid internship program in the government, and, third, aside from the traffic congestion in Cebu or Metro Manila, I’m talking about Internet congestion,” Poe said in her speech during USC’s intramurals week.
Poe was firm in her speech, similar to how she was when she campaigned in 2013.
“Kayo ang kasalukuyan, ang kinabukasan ng bayang ito, at ipaglalaban ko ang pangangailangan ninyo,” Poe said. (You are the present and the future of this country, and I will fight for your needs.)
Poe admitted she met with local government officials to discuss their needs. She, however, refused to divulge their names, saying she has not declared her candidacy yet.
Cebu is a known bailiwick of the Liberal Party. In 2013, 10 candidates from the administration slate – including Poe, who was a guest candidate – won in the province and in its chartered cities.
But Poe is confident this would not affect her possible bid.
While she acknowledged the "added factor" of a presidential endorsement in 2013, she said she won in Cebu because she was "viewed as an independent."
Bittersweet past in Cebu
Cebu is believed to be the place where massive cheating happened in 2004, stealing the presidency from Poe’s father, the late Fernando Poe Jr, in 2004.
In 2013, Poe became emotional as she recalled the painful event for her family.
"'Pag nakikita ko ang mga Cebuano, naaalala namin ang 2004, pero alam namin na hindi 'nyo kasalanan," she said at a rally in Talisay City on February 19, 2013. (Whenever we see Cebuanos, we remember 2004, but we know it's not your fault.)
Now, the senator has moved on from it and said her victory in the city in 2013 inspired her for her possible bid.
Poe ranked second in Cebu City and 4th in Cebu province in 2013. She said Cebuano voters are “intelligent” and that they do not just select candidates based on “personality” and “popularity,” the very issues thrown at her now.
“Sa mga kababayan dito sa Cebu, maraming salamat po sa tiwala noon na nagiging inspirasyon ko ngayon na kung ako man ay nagkukunsidira sa anumang posisyon, mahalaga malaman ko pangangailangan dito at itaguyod ang mga hinaing din,” Poe said in an interview.
(To our fellowmen here in Cebu, thank you for your trust in the past, which is now my inspiration if I run for whatever post. It is important that I know your needs here so we can fight for them.)
Poe-Escudero senatorial slate?
While Poe denied reports that she and Senator Francis Escudero already formed a senatorial lineup in 2016, she admitted having informal talks with some of the names floated, such as re-electionist senators Vicente Sotto III and Ralph Recto.
“It would be nice to have a re-electionist in our team. One thing is we’ve worked with them already. We know their track record and expertise already. Senator Ralph Recto is [an expert in] finance, budget...different core competence that can add to the value of the slate,” Poe said.
Other names reportedly considered are Las Piñas Representative Mark Villar of the Nacionalist Party, Valenzuela Representative Sherwin Gatchalian, and TESDA chief Joel Villanueva.
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org