Grace under fire

Conducted in partnership with TV5’s Bilang Pilipino project, the SWS survey found 26% of the respondents opting for Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte, 18% for Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, and 17% for former Interior Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who was not able to attend the debate, obtained 2%, while 1% of the respondents were undecided. The Philippines was equally divided into four geographical areas, namely: Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

As the front-runner in the race for the presidency, Ms. Poe has come under close scrutiny. During the Holy Week, she got criticized in social media for allowing TV coverage of her visit to Baclaran Church in Paranaque City, where her Partido Galing at Puso conducted a multi-sectoral consultation meeting. But she gave in to Mr. Roxas’ call for a political ceasefire and promised to honor the Comelec ban on campaigning during the Lenten holidays.

At the second debate, Ms. Poe was asked by Mr. Duterte what she would do as President if roused in the middle of the night and told that two Philippine Coast Guard vessels have been sunk by the Chinese Navy. She launched into a rehearsed spiel about modernizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but when the question was rephrased, her answer seemed simplistic due to an over-reliance on parroted sound bites.

When asked about the oath of allegiance she took for her US citizenship, which includes a phrase that the new US citizen abjures — and not merely renounces — his or her former nationality, Ms. Poe clouded the issue by digressing into stories about overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) forced to work abroad. Photos have circulated online of her former house in Virginia which is being described as a $1-million property, casting doubts on her statements that she could relate to the difficult lives of OFWs because of similar hardships she experienced in America. She countered by saying her family built that house with hard-earned money.

Regarding the Senate version of the controversial coconut levy bill which Ms. Poe claimed she did not sign because she wants the funds directly going to the millions of coconut farmers, a fact check revealed she signed the committee report recommending the approval of the consolidated bill to be deliberated upon by senators on the floor. She serves as vice chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, and not only a member as she mentioned during the debate, for which she is also getting flak.

In the UP-Cebu debate, Mr. Binay wanted all the candidates to sign a joint statement allowing their bank accounts to be opened for examination by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). But he was overruled by the Comelec’s decision against bringing of notes to the rostrum, including the sheet of paper containing the bank secrecy waiver. Despite her avowed support for the freedom of information bill, Ms. Poe has so far not expressed consent to have her accounts examined by the AMLC.

Another issue that continues to hound the lady senator is her alleged propensity to fudge the facts in order to suit political contingency. Critics say Ms. Poe has never admitted that she ceased to be an American citizen only in 2012 based on US Treasury Department records. By that time, she had already served in the Philippine government for two years as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

On campaign sorties, she tells the crowd her goal is to continue the work of her adoptive father, National Artist Fernando Poe, Jr. or FPJ. He ran in the 2004 presidential election but lost to then President Gloria M. Arroyo on allegations of electoral cheating as revealed by the “Hello, Garci” scandal. But FPJ had no track record of public service and was dragged into the political fray by his bosom buddy, former President Joseph E. Estrada, who was then under political detention.

More issues will crop up as the May 9 elections draw closer. As I have feared, it’s turning out to be a cliffhanger just like the 1992 polls when President Fidel V. Ramos won by a hairline over Ms. Santiago. The next debate on April 24 bears watching, when ABS-CBN and Manila Bulletin take their turn in co-presenting the Comelec’s PiliPinas Debates 2016.

Source: bworldonlins