ILOILO, Philippines – Apology accepted, and thank you as well.
Neophyte Senator Grace Poe, a strong presidential contender, on Friday, June 5, thanked the man who raised the question on whether she is qualified to run for the country’s top post due to her insufficient years of living in the Philippines.
“Para sa akin ito ah, nagpapasalamat pa nga ako kay Congressman Toby Tiangco. Bakit? Kasi inilabas niya ang issue na ito eh. Importante na malaman ng ating mga kababayan kung ano ba talaga ang issue na ito,” Poe told reporters during her visit to Iloilo City, a few minutes’ drive away from Jaro town, where she was abandoned as a baby.
(I thank Congressman Toby Tiangco. Why? Because he brought out this issue. It’s important for our countrymen to understand what this issue is all about.)
Now, she said, the public is starting to realize that the issues hounding her are based merely on “technicalities.”
In a press conference on Tuesday, June 2, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) interim president Tobias Tiangco said Poe would be ineligible to run for president or vice president in the 2016 elections because she has failed to meet the minimum residency requirement of 10 years under the Constitution.
Following Tiangco’s exposé, another UNA official, interim secretary-general JV Bautista, questioned Poe’s citizenship, pointing out that she was a “foundling” or an abandoned child who could possibly have a foreigner for a biological parent.
The accusations from both UNA officials came as a survey revealed that Poe was inching closer and closer to the party’s 2016 standard-bearer, Vice President Jejomar Binay. The same week, Poe signed a Senate panel draft report recommending the filing of plunder raps against Binay.
Issues of character, wrongdoing
“Wala naman akong dapat ikatakot dahil wala akong control sa aking buhay kung ako’y pinanganak at ganoon ang sitwasyon. Mas mahirap kung ang kaso mo nga ang tungkol sa karakter mo, ibig sabihin may ginawa kang mali sa gobyerno,” said Poe, referring to the allegations against Binay.
(There’s no reason for me to be afraid because these are things I cannot control, that I was born in that situation. It’s harder if the case against you concerns your character, meaning you did something wrong against the government.)
For Poe, the issue isn’t just about her eligibility or finding her biological parents. In a lengthy chance interview with reporters, Poe said it’s now about fighting for the equal rights of foundlings.
“I don’t think you should discriminate based on the circumstance of birth. Especially when it’s so ridiculous to assume that the child is a foreigner, born in the province, in Iloilo no less and with physical attributes that are obviously Filipino,” she said.
Apology accepted but…
Tiangco has since apologized for “damaging” the ties of the Binay and Poe families. The Vice President was Fernando Poe Jr’s campaign manager when he made a failed bid for the presidency in 2004.
“Alam mo, kapag may humihingi ng paumanhin, tinatanggap ko naman kung talagang tapat sila eh, kung taos-puso. Wala namang masama,” said Poe, when asked by reporters about Tiangco’s apology.
(You know, when somebody offers an apology, I accept it as long as it's sincere, it comes from the heart. There's nothing wrong with doing that.)
The senator, however, clarified that she had not heard from the Binays or Tiangco himself. “Bukas ang aking telepono, nagkikita naman kami sa Senado. Hindi na kailangang sa media pa,” she added.
(They can reach me via phone, we see each other in the Senate. They don’t need to go through the media to apologize.)
To Poe, signing the draft report against Binay was nothing personal. “I will always put my duty [as senator] first,” she said.
She pointed out that the Binay family should know better than anyone else about the importance of putting one’s duty as an elected official first since “many of them are in government.”
There are 4 Binays holding elected positions in government: the Vice President, only son Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, Jr., Senator Nancy Binay, and Makati Representative Abigail Binay. The Vice President’s wife, Elenita, once served as Makati mayor for one term.
The draft report which Poe signed alleges that the Vice President and his son benefited from the construction of the Makati City Hall Building 2. The Senate blue ribbon subcommittee heading the probe into allegations of corruption against the Binays pocketed money from government.
“Hindi ko naman sila inaatake nang personal. Binabase naman sa mga ebedensiya na pinag-aaralan natin,” said Poe of the Binay family. (I’m not attacking them personally. These are based on evidence which we studied.) – Rappler.com