MANILA—Independent presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe lived up to her campaign slogan “Gobyernong May Puso”, showing a soft heart of a mother during the third and final presidential debate held in Phinma University of Pangasinan in Dagupan City.
Poe, a mother of three including Bryan who was present during the debate, was the only presidential aspirant who mentioned the name of Jessa in her closing statement.
The moderators granted every presidential candidate five minutes to give their closing statement based on the story of Jessa, an honor grade school pupil from a very poor family in Bohol.
”Jessa, ikaw ang dahilan kung bakit ako naririto dahil ako may anak na katulad mo rin [Jessa, you are the reason I am here. I have a daughter like you, too],” Poe said while looking to Jessa and her mother who cried upon hearing the name of her daughter from the lady presidential aspirant.
”Bilang isang babae, bilang isang nanay, matitiis mo ba na malaman na milyong-milyong mga bata pa rin ang hindi makakain sa ating bansa? Matitiis mo bang malaman na ang pera na dapat mapunta sa pagpapagaling ng ating mga may sakit ay nabubulsa pa lamang o nasasayang sa hindi tamang paggastos? [As a woman, as a mother, can you bear knowing that millions of children are starving, that the money for health care goes somewhere else?],” Poe added.
During the face-off segment, Poe got all the opportunities to pin down the now leading presidential candidate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for the latter’s infamous “rape joke” on an Australian missionary who was raped and killed in 1989 in Davao City.
Poe, however, opted to ask question in a polite manner and she received soft answers from the popular Davao City mayor.
”Mayor, pasensya ka na, magkaibigan tayo pero kailangan kong tanungin ito para sa mga babae. Meron po kayong interview sa magazine na sinabi niyo that women are the weaker sex. At alam na natin ‘yung bago mong pronouncement na sinasabi dapat nauna ang mayor… At ‘nung may isang nagreklamo ng rape sabi mo ‘drama queen.’ Ano po ang kahihinatnan ng babae sa inyong administrasyon? [We are friends, mayor, but I have to ask this. In an interview, you said women are the weaker sex. And, in a rape case, you said the mayor should’ve come first. You even called your daughter a ‘drama queen’. What would be the role of women in your administration?],” Poe asked.
Poe also asked Duterte on his habit to touch and to kiss women even in public particularly during the campaign sorties.
”Marami talagang na-a-attract sa inyo—sinabi ko na po ‘yon—kaya mas madali sa inyong hawakan sila pero sa publiko parang hindi naman po yata maganda? ,” Poe said.
”That is what I am. You are you, I am I, so ‘yan ang identity ko dito sa boboto. But really, really, ‘yung babaeng na-rape na Australian sa Davao, pinatay ko lahat ‘yung 16. Nagmura ako then I narrated it in a different situation but it was a… It is all true. Nothing is malicious. It was a pure narration of the truth,” the mayor responded.
”I will take your word, mayor. But perhaps, should you become president, perhaps women will appreciate more respect—even a little restraint. I know that you are you and I am I but you’ll take on a different responsibility,” Poe advised Duterte.
During the Fast Talk segment, Poe confirmed that her husband Neil Llamanzares has renounced his American citizenship.
The lady senator was quick to clarify that her husband is a Filipino being born to Filipino parents from Lumban, Laguna.
“Siya ay talagang Pilipino na ipinanganak ng mga magulang na Pilipino. Iyan po ay para lamang mawala ang duda. Siya po ay natural-born (citizen) [Just to erase doubts, my husband is a natural-born Filipino],” Poe said.
During the face-off segment, Vice President Jejomar Binay took a dig at Poe for applying for American citizenship which Poe eventually renounced after the death of her adoptive father, Fernando Poe Jr., in 2004.
”Totoo po. Pero ‘nung mga pagkakataon na ‘yon, inisip ko rin, sa totoo, kasama ko ang aking pamilya at hindi po sa kakulangan ng pagmamahal sa bansa kundi dahil parang iniisip ko hindi ako mawawalay sa kanila. Marami namang ganoong sitwasyon, bumabalik rin naman dito, hindi naman po nababawasan ang pagmamahal sa bayan [True, but during those times, I wanted to be with my family, and not because of lack of love for my country. There are similar situations, they come back here. Love for my country was never diminished.],” Poe explained.
Poe said a woman like her can also be a good leader of the country despite all the problems such as poverty, criminality, illegal drugs, terrorism and the West Philippine Sea that the next president has to face in the next six years.
On issue of traffic congestion, Poe said she would appoint a “traffic terminator” whose only duty is to solve the traffic chaos confronting Metro Manilans every day, should she win next month’s elections.
Poe said she will make sure her administration’s traffic terminator, who will hold a Cabinet rank, will be competent and should possess technical expertise in traffic management and engineering.
Poe said there’s no easy and quick fix to traffic woes, but steps like clearing the roads of illegally parked vehicles, road widening and instilling discipline among motorists would help decongest the metropolis.
The presidential bets have also been quizzed on how they will address the concerns of the fishermen being harassed by the Chinese coast guards at the disputed West Philippine Sea.
Poe said the West Philippine Sea is not a personal aquarium of the Chinese, saying it belongs to Filipino fishermen at least the 15 kilometers from the Philippine shore line.
The lady senator bared plans to strengthen the Philippine Coast Guard to protect Philippine waters.
She also reiterated her appeal to other claimants and allies in the region to take a stand against China and engage the Chinese government towards a binding code of conduct regarding the West Philippine Sea. This includes honoring the ongoing arbitration case with the United Nations.
On the peace and order problem in Mindanao, Poe vowed all-out war against terror groups particularly Abu Sayyaf Group but promised all-out development and genuine progress for the region.
She said the national government must invest in infrastructure projects, health programs, and livelihood opportunities to benefit Mindanao’s 22 million people.
Poe and her runningmate Sen.Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero promised to allot at least Php1 trillion of the national budget for Mindanao particularly for agriculture sector which comprises 60 percent of the poorest Filipinos.
Poe also promises to end the contractualization of workers without sacrificing the viability of businesses in the country.
She intends to lower the corporate income tax to ensure a win-win solution for companies and their workers in the elimination of “endo,” a colloquial term which means end of contract.
For the overseas Filipino workers, Poe said the OFWs deserved red carpet treatment starting at the time of departure up to expanding their health insurance coverage to repay the OFWs’ big contribution and sacrifices that have kept the Philippine economy strong.
Saying the Philippines should be for every Filipino, Poe promised to build a country that is not just for the rich few but for all members of society who are striving for better lives.
She said she could not bear to think that Filipinos have a government that cannot give food to farmers who do the back-breaking work of providing food for the rest of the country, and that underpaid Filipino teachers choose to work as domestic helpers abroad for better pay.
Poe said the country’s problems were nothing new but they require new perspectives and new initiatives to be addressed.
“Gusto natin ng bagong bayan, bagong pag-asa at bagong Pilipinas, kung saan ang bawat bata sa public elementary school ay pwedeng kumain ng libreng pananghalian; na pwedeng makatapos ang anak ng mahihirap; na ang ating magsasaka ay magkakaroon ng libreng irigasyon; na maraming magkakagustong mamuhunan sa ating bansa sapagkat lalabanan natin ang korapsyon,” the senator said.
Poe said the chance to be the leader who can usher in a new Philippines has kept her going through the tough campaign period.
Poe has vowed to be a unifying leader if she wins.
A day after the final leg of the presidential debates, Poe will return in Pangasinan on Monday to woo the voters of the country’s third province with the largest voting population of 1.3 million.
Poe is scheduled to attend a mini-rally at Malasique before joining a motorcade from Malasique to Bayambang, Bautista, Alcala, Sto. Tomas to Rosales where a separate political rally will be held at 7 p.m.