Top spot in Senate derby surprises Grace Poe
Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - May 15, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Grace Poe held on to the top spot in the Senate race yesterday, and among the most surprised by the strong showing was the frontrunner herself.

In an interview with ANC, the daughter of the late action king Fernando Poe Jr. said she had prayed merely for “a comfortable position” and that she would not place 11th or 12th in the race as these spots could leave her open to questions or challenges to her victory.

“I admit that I didn’t think (being the topnotcher) was possible,” said the former chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

Now that she appears headed for the top spot, Poe expressed her gratitude to several officials who helped her.

First on her list is her fellow Team PNoy candidate, re-electionist Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who actively campaigned for her.

She is also thankful to Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, Sen. Franklin Drilon and President Aquino for their support.

Roxas, for his part, has some advice for Poe.

“As a former topnotcher, I know that there will be a huge responsibility because a lot of focus would be on you. My advice to Grace, which I hope I was also able to do for myself, is to keep to yourself, keep your head down, just do your work and don’t go demanding for committees. In the end, it is the quality of your work that people will recognize,” Roxas said in Filipino.

Roxas said he had always recognized the potential of Poe as a candidate, particularly because she is carrying on the legacy of her father.

In 2004 , Fernando Poe Jr. garnered around 11 million votes in his presidential bid, which Roxas said should translate to a similar number of votes for his daughter in her Senate bid.

Roxas noted that Poe handled herself well during the campaign and this likely earned her more votes.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto was also among the first to congratulate Poe.

“I’m so happy for Grace. I’m sure Ronnie is so proud,” said Sotto, referring to Grace’s father. Sotto was part of Fernando Poe Jr.’s team in the 2004 race.

Even Malacañang was surprised by Poe’s showing.

“As far as we are concerned, we are looking forward. We are certainly very happy that Grace Poe did very well. It was, based on the surveys, not expected,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said, adding that Poe must have given the right message during the campaign despite being new in politics.

“She had a very disciplined message, and people responded to her message… She impressed a great majority of Filipino people in the way she showed her sincerity and what her program of government will be as a senator,” Lacierda said.


Her father’s daughter

Political analyst Ramon Casiple, executive director of Consortium on Electoral Reforms, said he was not surprised that Poe is leading the senatorial race, saying she has what it takes to win voters’ hearts.

“She is her father’s daughter. It seems that what happened to her father in 2004 is still fresh in the people’s mind,” Casiple told The STAR. “She seems to have evoked an emotion that made the people support her.”

Casiple was referring to the allegation that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cheated Poe’s father in the 2004 elections.

But Casiple noted that Poe is her own person and she has created an image that endeared herself to the Filipino people.

“She was able to build an image for herself – that she is competent and approachable, just like her father,” he said.

Casiple also said that while Poe is an independent candidate, she benefited from the backing of both Team PNoy and the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

“She is virtually unopposed. It’s like there was a consensus to support her. Unlike her close rivals, there was no controversy raised against her,” Casiple observed.


FPJ’s legacy

Poe also acknowledged the continued support of a significant number of people for her father.

“Filipinos are somewhat romantic. They choose the candidate who can best represent their situations and sentiments, and FPJ for them was someone who valiantly fought for the oppressed,” Poe said.

She observed that the association with her father benefited not only her but also re-electionist Sen. Loren Legarda, who was the running mate of Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004, and Escudero, who served as FPJ’s spokesman at the time.

In the partial tally, Legarda is ranked second, followed by Escudero.

Legarda has a similar opinion on the association with FPJ.

“I wish to congratulate Grace Poe for leading the senatorial count. Her impending victory as the most chosen senator is a vindication for her late father Fernando Poe Jr. and for myself, who were one team in 2004. Nine years later, we are surely elated with Grace’s success,” Legarda noted.

“She is also a highly competent professional and I am certain she will do well in the Senate,” she added.

Legarda also thanked the Filipino people for their trust and renewed mandate given to her.

Legarda also congratulated Escudero, who is in the top four.

“I also wish to congratulate Chiz, my inaanak, whom I look forward to working with again for our second term,” she said.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano is also happy being in the top five amid reports that he hoped to be the topnotcher.

“It is so humbling to have earned the support of so many Filipino voters. To be re-elected is such a blessing. To be re-elected with much more votes than in 2007 is humbling and inspiring,” Cayetano said.

“I thank God and our people for Team PNoy’s great victory. Team PNoy has performed well in this election both because of the administration’s performance and also because the President really worked very hard for the team’s success,” he added.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, who like Poe performed better in the polls than in the pre-election surveys, was also surprised that the initial result saw him in sixth place, saying that it exceeded his expectations.

“We ran between 8-13 based on surveys throughout the 90-day campaign period. It helped that we were always running scared throughout the campaign, it was a blessing since we never relaxed,” Angara said in a text message.

“We thank all those who supported us in what was a very difficult campaign. Special thanks to the President, Senator Drilon, Secretary Roxas, my father (outgoing Sen. Edgardo Angara) and all those who helped us in a big way,” he added.


Victory of the Binays

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay is happy with the results of the electoral bids of his children.

His daughter Nancy, of UNA, is in the top five of the senatorial race. His son Jejomar has been re-elected mayor of Makati and his daughter Abigail re-elected congresswoman of the city.

“As I was saying, it only confirms that our kind of public service is looked up to by our countrymen,” the Vice President said.

Nancy, however, said she expects that her victory will be accompanied by black propaganda against her family.

“I think this is just a preview of what other propaganda they will do against my family,” she said.

Meanwhile, UNA secretary-general and campaign manager Toby Tiangco expressed happiness with Binay’s victory, saying it turned out to be a phenomenon.

In a press conference, Tiangco said he was the one who convinced the UNA leaders, namely former President Joseph Estrada, the Vice President and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, to field Binay as a replacement for businessman Joey de Venecia.

“It was a last minute decision. Nancy Binay is a phenomenon. I am very happy that it turned out to be a phenomenon,” Tiangco said.

Tiangco also said he did not regret that the leadership of UNA, with his prodding, decided to drop Legarda, Escudero and Poe as its guest candidates.

“No regrets. Even before we dropped them, I knew that they were winnables. It was my decision, I took responsibility for it. Why accommodate them if it is for political convenience only?” Tiangco said.


Younger upper chamber

It was observed that the emerging winners of the senatorial race have an average age of 46, making it a younger upper chamber.

Based on initial results of the elections, emerging winners are Poe, 44; Legarda, 53; Escudero, 43; Cayetano, 42; Binay, 40; Angara, 40; Bam Aquino, 36; Aquilino Pimentel III, 49; Antonio Trillanes III, 41; Cynthia Villar, 62; JV Ejercito Estrada, 43; and Gringo Honasan, 65. –  With Aurea Calica, Shiela Crisostomo, Christina Mendez, Celso Amo, Cet Dematera, Delon Porcalla, Jose Rodel Clapano

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