Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Saving Grace

I might have thought this was an exaggeration if I had not caught that report by Aladdin Bacolodan in the news. Bacolodan had gone to the place where FPJ spent his last moments on earth, the studio where he gasped his last while hosting a party. In a corner of the studio was a huge pile of goods that FPJ had been collecting, which reportedly cost him a pretty penny and which he meant to distribute to the typhoon victims. None of the goods carried a label, least of all FPJ's name, on them. The cartons were unmarked completely. Based on his interviews with people close to FPJ, Bacolodan reported that FPJ was like that: he refused to advertise himself when he gave.

Conrado de Quiros

The ties that bind are strong.

Once, in the brashness of my youth, I did invoke her father's name when I thought of a headline that perfectly fits the breaking news. It was on the day he announced his presidential bid. Elated to know that there is someone who stood against the oppressive incumbent, I asked for my dad's approval (the publisher) when I put in bold and capital letters "The King For President" on the front page of our newspaper. I knew I would break a cardinal rule in Journalism, and even sought the wisdom of a teacher in my university for assurance. With hesitation, I was able to secure his blessing, and from the day we openly supported him through a thinly-veiled banner story, we were the only tabloid to be welcomed with open arms by FPJ in his campaign sorties. 

He lost that election and died while repacking relief goods for the disaster-stricken a few years later. But it didn't stop his adopted daughter in following his footsteps when she ran for senator nearly a decade after his passing. With her father's defeat in the hands of a cheating president still fresh in the nation's collective memory, the daughter gained the highest number of votes in the last election.

The father was at long last, vindicated.

The daughter did quite well as a legislator. She was calm and collected and lead a number of Senate hearings that improved her standing among political observers. There was no doubt the future is bright for the King's daughter, and this was reflected in the surveys a year before the coming election. 

The president even stepped up to broker a power deal that would groom her to become the next leader of the country - in 2022. 

The problem, however, is the unchecked ambition. It blinds people. It makes you believe that your anointment (from certain groups with vested interests or ambivalent gods who have nothing to do with the daily lives of men, whichever comes first in your head) is self-evident that you tend to overlook your limitations that make you undeserving of a promotion. In her case, this promotion is to lead a nation of over 100 million people. A task that may require a lifetime of experience, or a vision that springs from the depths of one's soul.

Personally, I don't find either.

And in spite of her lacking accomplishments, or of years of residence required to become a legitimate President, or of a strong party that will support her candidacy, Grace Poe, decided to repeat what her father did believing that time is ripe to claim what has been theirs all along. It would have been a fitting narrative in a political drama that is the Philippine elections, except that her personal storyline - believable or not - may never have a happy ending once the business of running the government drags her family name down the drain. 

I have heard of her campaign platform - mostly improvements in the programs that are already being applied by the government. Except for the passing of the freedom of information bill, a creation of a separate cabinet for Information and Communications Technology, and acquisition of more trains for a metropolis with serious infrastructure problems, all I heard were motherhood statements: Populist blabber that is good to hear, but lacking substance on paper. So far, I have yet to digest some attainable ideas on job creation, protection of overseas Filipino workers' rights, or even steps to defend our islands in the West Philippine Sea. She has yet to say something on climate change, the promotion of the agricultural sector, or even how to improve the quality of education in the country.

Silly as it may sound but his father was even worse. Not a single chance he graced the media for an interview. He turned down the national debates, and instead appeared on makeshift stages to charm the folks who knew him as the Panday. And even in the absence of experience or ideas on how to govern a nation, He would still have my vote if I had the privilege to cast it in 2004.

Because I knew he would bring decency and honor back in the government.

Given this revelation, and the occasional rage on social media every time I read Grace fumbling in the face of newsmakers, I still keep a soft spot when I look at the lady and recall her good father. Ms. Poe may not have my vote this time, but I can live under her leadership, certain that she would never step over my rights, or hear opponents disappearing into the dead of the night.


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