For president: I am Grace Poe, Filipino

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

Grace offers self for highest service

MANILA, Philippines - Before thousands of supporters, including politicians of all shades as well as showbiz personalities, Sen. Grace Poe formally declared last night her bid for the presidency, saying nobody has a monopoly of pursuing the righteous path in government.

Clad in white shirt and jeans, Poe reiterated she is Filipino amid questions raised on her citizenship.

“I am Grace Poe, Filipino, child, wife and mother and with God’s help I’m offering myself to all of you – to be of higher service as president,” the senator declared in Filipino at Bahay ng Alumni at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

“Not one individual or group has the monopoly of the tuwid na daan (straight path),” she said, referring to the Aquino administration’s mantra.

She acknowledged President Aquino’s hard work as well as his vigorous campaign against corruption, but made clear such efforts were not for a single party or group to carry out.

With the tuwid na daan as campaign slogan, President Aquino won the 2010 elections under the Liberal Party (LP).

“It’s just proper that we intensify our battle against corruption. I will make every wrongdoer – friend or foe – accountable. But it’s not just one individual or party that should advance this cause; it should be every Filipino,” she said.

In her speech delivered entirely in Filipino, Poe batted anew for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

Poe declared her intention to run for president before legions of supporters and kibitzers at around 6:30 p.m. Hours before she arrived at the Bahay Alumni, her would-be audience were treated to reruns of films starring her father, the late actor and National Artist Fernando Poe Jr.

Her father ran for president in 2004 but lost to then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in what many acknowledged were rigged elections.

Poe outlined her 20 priority programs as part of her platform of government. These included education, agriculture, infrastructure (railways, train, airport and seaport); taxation; health and traffic management.

On the diplomatic front, Poe promised to take a tougher but peaceful stand on the West Philippine Sea dispute with China. “The West Philippine Sea is ours, and we should not abandon our fight or our claim through peaceful means within the ambit of the law,” she said in Filipino.

Along with resolving the West Philippine Sea dispute through peaceful manner, Poe sees the need to boost the country’s defense capability.

“My father’s principle is simple, the same principle that convinced him to run. It’s important for a leader to have intelligence, but it’s more important for one to have a heart for the poor,” she said.

Poe also underscored the need to protect those who are abused and less privileged. Members of her family, including her mother actress Susan Roces, husband Neil Llamanzares and their children, were present to give support.

Poe also vowed to prioritize progress and development.

She also recalled her father’s words of wisdom, his message of readiness to help uplift the poor.

“He would often tell me: Grace, poverty is not fate because progress depends on man’s efforts. But in achieving progress, man doesn’t rely on himself alone, he needs others to pull him out of poverty,” she said.  “Isn’t that the measure of good government and society – everyone progresses; no one is left behind?”

She also recalled how many people belittled the capability of her father when he ran for the presidency. Like him, Poe said she is ready to face the challenge.

Among the crowd who showed up at the Bahay Alumni were some members of the Nationalist People’s Coalition like Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian, who is said to be running for senator under Poe’s slate. 

San Juan Rep. Ronnie Zamora and his son, Vice Mayor Francis Zamora, former congressmen Bem Noel of An Waray party-list, LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur (Nacionalista Party) and Roilo Golez of Parañaque also witnessed the event.

OPM band True Faith entertained the crowd prior to Poe’s announcement at past 6 p.m, which coincided with primetime news.

At the end of her speech, her campaign theme song titled “Bagong Umaga” was played. It was the same song, sung by Bayang Barrios, that played during the 2004 elections.

Notably absent at last night’s gathering was Sen. Francis Escudero, who is expected to make his own announcement as Poe’s running mate today at Club Filipino in San Juan City.

NGO support

Members of the Filipinos for Peace, Justice and Progress Movement or FPJPM; GP Movement, GO Grace Poe, An Waray, Great People’s Movement for the the Philippines, youth groups, All4GP movement, Ako Bicol party-list group, Mindanao Alliance of Tri-People for Peace and Development Inc. (MATPAD) as well as supporters from nearby cities and municipalities arrived to witness Poe’s declaration.

Abdullatip Sabpel, president of MATPAD, said the organization is an alliance of 175 NGOs in Mindanao alone.

“We are searching for a good leader that can bring massive development and solve the decades-old Mindanao problem,” said Mocthal Sapal, secretary general of MATPAD.

As of now, Sapal said they are still looking at the credentials of all presidential candidates who they think can support their cause for peace and development.

“If they can give an assurance to help Mindanao, we will support that candidate,” Sapal added.

FPJ’s memory

Before the program proper, Poe’s mother actress Susan Roces, in a video presentation, appealed to the fans of the late FPJ –  the late actor’s initials – not to forget the veteran action star as they showed clips of FPJ’s movies on two big screens, including Panday; One Day Isang Araw (with Matet and Dawn Zulueta); Ang Leon at Ang Daga (with Niño Mulach); Pakners (w/ Bata Reyes, 2003); Walang Matigas na Tinapay sa Mainit ba Kape (with Alice Dixson), among others.

The fans remained on FPJ’s mind even at the time of his death, Roces said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ralph Recto called Poe “courageous” for joining the presidential race as the administration senator also wished her luck.

“It is within this context – of how pluralism in politics will do us good – that I welcome Sen. Grace’s courageous move to submit her application letter for the highest office in the land,” Recto said.

Recto expressed hope that Poe’s platform would inspire serious discussion of issues instead of pettiness and gutter politics.

“The more aspirants for the presidency, the better for our country. The bigger the field, the more choices for us. Better to have a surplus of aspirants than a shortage,” Recto said in a statement.

Apart from Poe, Recto also expressed “glad tidings” to Sens. Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Francis Escudero, Sonny Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano, who are also reported to be running for higher office.

“I wish her good luck and Godspeed – the same sincere glad tidings I would convey to my seatmates in the chamber – Bongbong, Chiz, Sonny, Alan – when it is time for them to submit their reported application letter for the vice presidency as well,” he added.

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