Friday, November 20, 2015

Grace Poe’s amazing ascent, despite many obstacles, in the Philippine presidential race

IN CALAMBA, a town just south of Manila, the Philippine capital, Grace Poe is talking about her father, Fernando Poe Junior, or FPJ. Wielding a microphone in the morning sunlight in front of a fruit-stall in the market, she tells an enthusiastic crowd several-hundred strong that many of his films were shot near here; and when the famous actor ran for president in 2004, the province voted for him. She also talks of her origins before she was adopted by Philippine movie royalty: as a baby abandoned in a church, whose parents have never been identified.

Yet in 2013, aged 44, she was elected to the Senate, with a record number of votes.

Lump in the throat and tears in the eyes, she remembers being told at the time that she could not win. In a day of radio interviews, school visits (where her team are greeted like rock stars) and a press conference, her personal story keeps coming up. Clearly, it appeals to many Filipinos; it has helped make her the favourite in the presidential election to be held next May.

The race to succeed Benigno Aquino, who must stand down after the one six-year term the constitution allows, will be hard-fought. Most of the 130 registered candidates are unknown, frivolous no-hopers. One wants the Philippines to become part of America. Two, however, are serious rivals, and Miss Poe has had a good week against them. An opinion poll showed her with a solid lead, on 39%, compared with 21% for Mar Roxas, of Mr Aquino’s Liberal Party, and 24% for the vice-president, Jejomar Binay (who is actually the main opposition candidate—vice-presidents are elected separately).

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