Grace Poe: No beef with Cebuano voters despite 2004 FPJ loss

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Independent presidential candidate Grace Poe said during a press conference in Cebu City on Friday, January 22, that she does not have any beef with Cebuano voters, despite her father's controversial loss in the province 12 years ago.

It was in Cebu that her father, then-presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr, claimed he was cheated by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 elections. Arroyo won the election in the province and nationally.

When asked if she feels any bitterness toward Cebuano voters, Poe said she had no hard feelings and is confident that Cebuanos would "vote wisely" in the upcoming elections. She mentioned that in 2013, when she ran for senator, she placed 4th in Cebu Province and 2nd in Cebu City.

Poe was in the city for a quick visit with her running mate Senator Chiz Escudero, and senatorial candidates Susan "Toots" Ople and Bayan Muna partylist representative Neri Colmenares.

The 4 candidates were in town to speak with students at Southwestern University in Cebu.

"Sa tuwing pupunta kami dito sa Cebu namangha kami, sa dami ng pagbabago at development," Poe told reporters. (Every time we come here to Cebu, we are surprised at all the new changes and developments.)

Courting Cebuanos

This is the senator's second visit to Cebu after announcing her candidacy for president last September.

Despite leading in the national surveys over the past months, Poe's ratings in the Visayas are lower at 15%, compared to her 20% rating nationally, as of December 2015.

In October 2015, she went to Danao City, Cebu, to meet with the Durano family and the local Bakud Party. Poe said that while she is not seeking an official endorsement from Bakud, she "welcomes" their support. 

Former tourism secretary and Cebu 5th District Representative Ace Durano is currently Poe's campaign manager despite being a relative of another presidential candidate, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

According to the latest data from the Commission on Elections, Cebu is still the most vote-rich province in the country with about 2.5 million registered voters.

In Cebu City, suspended mayor Michael Rama is supporting United Nationalist Alliance candidate Vice President Jejomar Binay, while Bandok Osmeña Pundok Kausuwgan (BOPK), the local alliance of the prominent Osmeña family, are supporting Liberal Party candidate Mar Roxas.

Train line in Cebu

Traffic, public transportation, and water supply are the top issues that the next administration needs to address in Cebu, Poe told reporters. (READ: The Leader I Want: Grace Poe's to-fix list for 2016)

Poe said that rapid development should be a signal for local and national leaders to plan ahead.

"Ngayon parang Metro Manila ang dating, sapagkat napaka-traffic kahit saan ka pumunta (sa Cebu," she said. (Now, it's like Metro Manila here, the traffic is bad everywhere.)

Poe added, "Kaya nga minsan, pag nangangarap tayo, magplano tayo, isipin natin kung anong pwede nating gawin sa kinabukasan." (When we dream, we should plan. We should think about what to do for the future.)

Poe told reporters that a train line should be planned, and it should be connected to the resort airport in Mactan.

"Importante rin kung magkakaroon ng tren mula airport, hanggang sa city center," she added. (It's important to have the train run from the airport to the city center.)

Disqualified or not?

In Cebu, there is still some confusion among voters on whether or not she is disqualified. But her latest commercial, which is also aired frequently on local television, clarifies that.

"Pero pati commercial ko gusto nilang i-DQ (They even want to disqualify my commercial)," Poe quipped on the recent motion by lawyer Kit Tatad to stop her political advertisement

According to latest media reports, her name will be included on the 2016 ballot as the Supreme Court has not issued a decision on petitions to disqualify her as a candidate due to citizenship and residency issues.

Lawyer Estrella Elamparo, the petitioner seeking to disqualify Poe, is also seeking to disqualify Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen for sympathizing with Poe. The presidential candidate reacted to this at the press conference. (READ: Justice Leonen: Should SC let people decide first on Poe?)

"Why only disqualify Leonon? Why not also disqualify those biased against me?" Poe said in Filipino.

Oral arguments on Poe's petition are scheduled to resume in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, January 26. –

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.