Remixing the brew

Newly-elected Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares, minutes before her proclamation by the National Board of Canvassers at the NBOC canvassing center, Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Pasay City, south of Manila, on 16 May 2013. (Mike Alquinto/NPPA Images)

The 12 new senators have been proclaimed. According to rank, the number one senator in this batch is Grace Poe-Llamanzares, the daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ), the 2004 opposition presidential candidate. FPJ was seen by many Filipinos as the victim of electoral cheating by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) in a closely-fought contest. In 2005, the so-called “Garcillano tapes” surfaced, cementing the suspicion of cheating and embarking the GMA administration on its hugely unpopular administration until 2010.

The surprising lead position of Grace Poe-Llamanzares was at the expense of twice-number one senator, Loren Legarda, whom the former beat, 20.15 million to 18.48 million with only 350,000 votes still to be counted. Poe-Llamanzares’ huge win created ripples throughout the ranks of would-be presidentiables in the coming 2016 presidential elections. It has already been likened to President Aquino’s own dramatic entry into the presidential race in September 2009.

On hindsight, it seems that three factors contributed to catapult her beyond the erstwhile front-runners and, in the process, defying the poll surveys’ predictions. The respected major surveys, Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia had put Poe-Llamanzares at rank 5 (SWS, May 2-3, 2013) and 2-7 (Pulse Asia, May 10-11, 2013).

One, it seems that the Filipino voters who voted for FPJ in 2004 never forgot the cheating crisis of that time. Despite the Garcillano tapes revelations, the resignation of the Hyatt 10 cabinet members, the near-withdrawal of the armed forces, and “I am sorry” speech of President Macapagal-Arroyo, the issue never had closure. The vote for Poe-Llamanzares will be the first time that they would personally avenge that perceived injustice. Theirs was the relatively late realization that FPJ still walks among them, in the person of his daughter.

Two, Poe-Llamanzares had the distinct advantage of being a true common candidate by both Team PNoy and UNA. The late clarification by former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada of his and UNA’s support for her gave her a vote source not enjoyed by other senatorial candidates.

Three, from a relatively unknown personality, she was able to gradually develop a public persona of an “approachable, respectful, and helpful” leader that she inherited straight from her well-loved parents, FPJ and Susan Roces, both considered the “king and queen of Philippine movies” in their times.

Grace Poe-Llamanzares made a powerful entry into the Senate. Depending on her first two years in office, it is not far-fetched to surmise that she is a potential presidential or vice-prsidential candidate in 2016. A remixing of the presidential brew is in order.