MANILA – Foundling, daughter of showbiz royalty and now frontrunner of the Senate race, Team PNoy candidate Grace Poe is fast becoming the surprise success story in the 2013 senatorial polls.
According to political analyst Malou Tiquia, Poe’s victory was never in question since she was already ensconced in the Senate top 12 in various pre-election surveys.
What private pollsters failed to pick up, however, is Poe topping the Senate race at her first try.
“Grace Poe is the story of 2013 because not a single survey picked her to top Election Day. This is the first time that survey firms failed in No. 1. If one views her survey results, one will feel the ‘dizzy effect’ of traveling through zigzag roads. Indeed, it has been a bumpy ride for the daughter of the King,” Tiquia said in a Facebook message.
Poe, a former Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) chief, announced her candidacy last year, 8 years after her father lost in the presidential election. She accepted an invitation to join the Team PNoy senatorial ticket without joining President Aquino's Liberal Party.
Last February, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) dropped her and 2 other senatorial bets as "common candidates" in the May polls.
Tiquia cited 3 things that Poe did which could account for her trajectory in the Senate race. She said Poe stuck to her message during the campaign, attended all the senatorial debates "to show her mettle and caring nature," and showed to the Filipino electorate that she is the daughter of her famous parents, actors Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces.
Tiquia said Poe’s message during the campaign always linked her to her father.
“Just like [her] father, Grace was very unassuming. She was very ordinary that when she started wearing high heels and dressing up and received negative feedbacks, [she] went back to her jeans and white shirt with ponytails. She was frank and did not mince words with her replies. She giggled like a shy girl and fidgeted with uneasy questions. Being herself gave her the freshness others did not have,” she said.
Tiquia gave plus points to Poe for attending all the debates before the elections, something that her father avoided in the 2004 election. She said Poe’s attendance in the debates showed the public what she was made of.
“Her simple and direct answers were welcome developments. She was petite, seemingly fragile but she looks straight in your eyes when she fields questions and explains positions,” she said.
The political analyst said Poe’s decision to disclose that she was adopted also resonated with the public since they knew her parents.
She said Poe’s last campaign ad, showing her with her mother Susan Roces, “tied the knot of the commitments of her parents becoming hers.”
The portrayal of her life story on ABS-CBN’s drama anthology "Maalaala Mo Kaya" MMK also resulted to more buzz in the campaign.
Tiquia said even the decision of the UNA to drop her as a common candidate did nothing to affect her surge in the Senate race. She said that even after UNA dropped her, former president Joseph Estrada, who is the best friend of her father, and Vice-President Jejomar Binay, the campaign manager of Poe in 2004, still helped her in the campaign.
“She was the candidate who was in both ballots,” she noted.
Grace's victory like an FPJ movie
Team PNoy spokesman Miro Quimbo said Poe’s victory is a "fantastic narrative" similar to the plot of the best movies of her father, the late actor FPJ.
"She has a fantastic narrative. Father is an extremely popular [actor], deprived of a mandate and wanted to do many things. At ibinigay sa kanya ng taumbayan kung ano ang sa tingin nila ay pinagkait sa kanyang ama," he said.
"Tulad ng mga pelikula ni FPJ, it's a fantastic narrative and she was able to carry it out. [She's] extremely sincere, she speaks with depth, she has track record so tagos na tagos yung kanyang mensahe sa publiko," he added.
Quimbo said what pre-election surveys failed to pick up was that awareness of Poe's candidacy had not yet peaked before the polls. He said 2 out of 3 voters who saw her in debates or in sorties became supporters.
UNA campaign manager Toby Tiangco gave credit to Sen. Sergio Osmeña for helping Poe run a disciplined, well-focused campaign in 2013. He denied having regrets about dropping Poe as a common candidate, saying that he is taking responsibility for the decision.
Tiquia praised Poe for having the humility to go back to Cebu after saying that her father lost heavily in Cebu during the 2004 polls due to massive cheating.
She said Poe faced the music and clarified what she said after some Cebuanos got mad at the way they were being painted as "cheaters".
“She faced the music and clarified what she said. Very rare,” Tiquia said.
Tiquia also revealed that political gatekeepers told Grace that she could not use Poe during her campaign and that she has to register using her married name.
“The gatekeepers knew she was a potential No. 1. When she was surveyed as a Llamanzares, that proved to be a way of controlling the Poe in her. When she dropped it, we saw the first bounce of Grace in the surveys. When finally voters knew the daughter of the King was running, endearment became second hand,” she said.
“Even while she is leading the pack, Grace Poe remains elusive and simple,” she added.