Erap campaigns for Grace in Manila

Marvin Sy - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada made a surprise visit to the densely populated Baseco compound in the city to campaign for his goddaughter Sen. Grace Poe.

Speaking before residents of Baseco, Estrada said his choice of Poe for president goes beyond his friendship with her adoptive father, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ).

“My relationship with FPJ was greater than those of brothers. What FPJ and Erap (Estrada’s nickname) have achieved was all due to the poor who supported our films,” Estrada said in Filipino.

“FPJ and I also suffered the same fate, we were both cheated in the elections. Grace Poe must be the one to rewrite the endings of FPJ and me,” he added.

Estrada said he saw in Poe a woman not only intelligent, but also with no hidden motives and a commitment to serve the interests of the masses.

“I can guarantee that she has no hidden motives. Her heart and soul are with the Filipino masses. You know me, I will not endorse someone who will not do any good for the country,” he said.

Poe also told the crowd in Baseco that she understood the clamor of the people for a government that would address their plight.

She said she was aware of the desperation of the poor who would resort to extreme measures in order to make ends meet.

“The poor should not be made to suffer for being desperate. You see what happened in Kidapawan, the farmers are getting hungry but they were shot instead of the government helping them. The solution is not shooting those hungry farmers but giving and providing what is due to them,” she said.

Poe reiterated her vow to create one million jobs a year to help address poverty in the country.

She also promised to provide full scholarships to the children of the poor in state universities and colleges so that they could finish their education and provide for their families.

Poe also brushed aside criticisms from the administration Liberal Party over her statement that she will appoint Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as anti-crime czar if she becomes president.

Poe maintained this does not mean she will tolerate extra-judicial killings, a mark of Duterte-style leadership.

If appointed to the post, Poe said Duterte should play by the rules.

Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II has criticized Poe, saying that she is no better than Duterte.

Poe wanted to appoint someone with a tough character to be the anti-crime czar of her administration.

She mentioned former Marine colonel Ariel Querubin as a probable choice.

Gaining support

Poe got the support of local officials in the Bicol region, but not for her running mate Sen. Francis Escudero.

Camarines Sur Gov. Luis Miguel Villafuerte and his father LRay, from the Nacionalista Party (NP), threw their full support to Poe.

“Here in Camarines Sur, we are supporting Sen. Poe as president,” Villafuerte said.

He said the NP has withheld the announcement of support for a common presidential bet since the political party is faced with the dilemma of having three members running for vice president – Sens. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Cayetano.

“In the end, the majority (of NP) will have to voice out their opinion and I feel that there is a big possibility that the Nacionalista Party will endorse Sen. Poe,” he added.

The split in the local support for the tandem of Poe and Escudero became evident since the Villafuertes are openly supporting Liberal Party vice presidential candidate, Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo. They are not supporting Escudero, who hails from Sorsogon.

Aside from the Villafuertes, local officials belonging to the Liberal Party expressed their support for Poe.

Poe’s spokesman Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian said the senator was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support given to her by the local officials of Camarines Sur.

Four LP mayors – Del Simbulan of Nabua, Ricky Aquino of Ragay, Mel Gaite of Baao and Ernesto Bagasbas of Balatan – gave their support to Poe.

“In the coming days, as more Filipinos hear  Sen. Poe’s platform of governance, we are confident that more incumbent officials will consolidate support behind the bandwagon known as ‘Gobyernong may Puso.’ Clearly politicians from different political parties are crossing party lines to support Sen. Poe’s advocacy,” Gatchalian said. – With Christina Mendez, Edu Punay

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