Grace & the Poe factor
Grace & the Poe factor
Marra PL. Lanot (The Philippine Star) - April 15, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Senatorial bet Grace Poe Llamanzares rose in survey polls from No. 14 to No. 4 to 10 when she dropped the name Llamanzares. Well, whichever way she turns, the shortened name is easier to remember, and she has always been known, anyway, as the daughter of Ronnie Poe, or Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ).

“When I studied in the United States,” recalls Grace Poe, “it was a respite from being just the daughter of Susan Roces and FPJ. In Boston College, I decided I wanted to get married (to classmate Neil Llamanzares). Then, I taught preschool children and did housework.” She was an ordinary homemaker without househelp. She cooked, washed the dishes, served her husband, and reared her children.

“All these changed when my dad died in 2004. My Mom was the designated spokesperson of the family. But Mom didn’t want to go on doing political speeches. She’s not a very political person. She would not compromise or be very diplomatic. She can’t mince words… I decided to join politics in early 2012 when President Noynoy Aquino invited me to a meeting and asked if I was interested to run.”

In 2010, she already wanted to run, Grace confessed. Her Mom, however, thought it wasn’t the right time. Mom Susan suggested her daughter should first take on a government position. So, when Grace was offered to be chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), she accepted. “I worked on administrative policy, budget, etc. I don’t think my training there can be discounted. People thought I just watched movies and television programs.”

Her life as a student also helped her prepare for politics. At Assumption College in San Lorenzo, Makati, where she finished high school in 1986, she pretty much led a public life. She was extemporaneous speech champion as well as debate champion in inter-high school competitions. She was debate champion at the Rotary Club of the Philippines Oratory Competition, and became organizational head of the Forensics Club of the Assumption.

At the University of the Philippines Manila, where she took up B.A. in Development Studies in 1988, she was sophomore batch representative to the Student Council and chair of the College Freshman Assembly. She obtained her B.A. in Political Science in 1991 at Boston College in the U.S. She focused on government and political theory as well as co-founded the Filipino Cultural Club of Boston College.

If Grace wins as senator, what will be her priorities as a lawmaker? “My dream as a lawmaker is to add a provision to the K-12 bill.” (K-12 bill seeks to strengthen the school curriculum and add two more years to the secondary education. In the ratified Senate Bill 3286, or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2012, Grade 11 will be introduced in SY 2016-2017, while Grade 12 will begin in SY 2017-2018. Further, the vernacular language will be used as a medium of instruction in the primary grades.)

“The government must support a standard lunch program in the elementary school,” Grace expounds. “A filling and nutritious food like Nutri-bun (introduced during the Marcos regime) instead of, say, noodles, must be served. With the help of various agencies like the DepEd, we should view the state as taking an active role in regulating the curriculum and in promoting kids’ physical and physiological well-being… For the out-of-school children below 17, there must be a designated agency or department just for children.”

Grace thinks that “state universities and colleges should not depend only on tuition fees. The government should also support them by providing loans to students. Students may get a loan for them to be able to study and then pay the loan within two years after they graduate.”

She enthusiastically explains: “I’m also concerned with the poorest sector of the country — the farmers. There are about five million farmers, but only 2,000 are beneficiaries of the Philippine Crop Insurance. I believe that with the proper irrigation system, our land can yield three to five harvests in a year. For example, we import hybrid seeds and use fertilizers that will yield more than one or two harvests, and then, farmers will earn more, and we can even export rice. But the hybrid seeds are useful for only one harvest, and the land tilled can be used only for planting rice and not for any other agricultural product.” (This method of planting rice, if this author remembers right, was introduced during martial law, initially experimented on in Los Baños.)

Now, what Grace finds the most difficult to deal with during the campaign are “personal and emotional issues. My Mom always tells me: ‘Pulitika lang ‘yan, huwag mong walain ang pagkatao mo.’

“People say that I have no qualifications, that I only represent my parents. But I prepared for this. I have a solid academic background. And I’ve had a discipline and training which enabled me to accomplish tasks… They say MTRCB is only a minor agency. But they don’t realize that an average child spends 21 hours a week watching television. Imagine the impact or the effect of that on children. Film and television are mass media. At MTRCB, we even have to balance the different freedoms of expression while protecting the cultural and moral values of children.”

She then thinks of another plan: “I would like to encourage government to support exporting TV shows, which is now only a network’s individual initiative. ABS-CBN or GMA 7 exports TV shows, but if there’s a Philippine booth abroad, that will also help independent filmmakers promote their films overseas” exporting can be more organized and systematic and bigger in scope and wider in reach.

Winning might not be a mere fuzz of hope, considering the magic of the popular name “Poe.” She, of the slim figure, average height, fair complexion, and almost shy but charming smile, and 45 summers, has the prim-and-proper image of Mom Susan Roces, who can be blunt at times, and the koboy, action character of Dad FPJ. Grace can’t step out of the shadow of the once royal couple of local filmdom, Their Majesty, the Box-office King and Queen. At least, not yet.

Has Grace adjusted to politics? “I don’t think you can ever be adjusted to politics. You just try to enjoy the moment.”


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