Susan Roces: I pity Gloria

by David Dizon,

Posted at Dec 12 2011 03:35 PM | Updated as of Dec 12 2011 11:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The widow of the late Fernando Poe Jr. on Monday admitted that she felt pity for former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo because she is now suffering the consequences of allegedly committing fraud in the 2004 presidential election.

Susan Roces, who is dubbed the Queen of Philippine Movies, said Arroyo's current situation is pitiful.

"Yes. What she has to go through for what she did. I wouldn't want my grandchildren to achieve power in that manner. Nakakaawa makita ang isang tao who has to go through all of that," she told Mornings@ANC.

However, she also cast doubt on the true state of Arroyo's health, saying she also suffers from the same degenerative spinal ailment Arroyo claimed to have for years.

She said doctors also recommended spinal surgery for her, which she turned down because she could be paralyzed if anything went wrong.

"Hindi siguro tamang sabihin kung ano ang nasa isip ko bilang artista. One thing I can say is I have the same ailment. I've had it for years but my ailment is in the 4th and 5th vertebra. It's a degenerative ailment of the disc. It's rather uncomfortable but I've learned to live with the pain. I just have to wear a brace. However, in due fairness to Arroyo, hers is in the neck portion, which affects the arms," she said.

Roces said she had doubts about Mrs. Arroyo's health because the former president's own doctors would not say that her illness demanded that she fly out of the country for treatment.

"I find it a little over in costuming. The way she was garbed, which sets a doubt: Are you really sick? I was waiting somehow for a health bulletin from the doctors but only representatives of the family or the legal counsel would talk about it. Siguro pati yung doctor, she can't bring herself to say things that is not true. To be honest, there's that doubt. The sight in the airport [on November 15] cast a doubt in my mind," she said.

Asked if she wants Mrs. Arroyo to get well, she said: "Yes. She's very lucky we are towards Christmas, so nobody wants to wish anyone ill."

Erap circumstances different

Roces' daughter, Grace Poe-Llamanzares, also noted that there is a world of difference with how President Aquino handled Mrs. Arroyo's arrest compared with the way former President Joseph Estrada was arrested during President Arroyo's term.

Grace said Arroyo's arrest was more gentle without bordering on coddling. "The situation is different. She's (Arroyo's) a woman and she claims to be sick," she said.

She also said that during Arroyo's time, the government was negotiating to have Estrada leave so he would not have to stand trial. On the other hand, she said Aquino is telling Gloria "stay in the country and we will treat you with utmost fairness."

"I think there is really a world of difference," she said. 

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Widow of the late Fernando Poe Jr., Susan Roces. Photo Grab from TV

Why FPJ ran for president

In the interview, Roces revealed she still feels hurt that her husband, Fernando Poe Jr., is gone.

Poe lost to Mrs. Arroyo in the 2004 presidential election by over a million votes. Many believe Poe lost due to massive cheating done by the Arroyo administration, aided by members of the some members of the armed forces.

In December 14, 2004, Poe died of cerebral thrombosis with multiple organ failure.

After Poe's death and the release of the "Hello, Garci" wiretap tapes, Roces publicly castigated Mrs. Arroyo for allegedly "stealing the presidency, not once but twice."

Roces said that after Poe's death, she kept very busy attending to many responsibilities. "It's only now that I realize he's gone."

Roces said she was initially against Poe's desire to run for public office because they were already nearing their retirement after spending all their lives providing for their families.

However, she changed her mind after Poe revealed why he wanted to run.

"When we talked about his going to public office, what he shared with me was: 'All throughout the years, the Filipino citizens, the masa supported both our careers.  Whatever we are to enjoy in our retirement came out of the fruits of our labors supported by the masses'...He strongly felt that we had to give back," she said.

"I shared that with him. That is the only reason why I was eager for him to run as well after he explained that because we know what we will be looking forward to when we retire. There should be something we could leave behind that's worth it and that was to serve the Filipino people. I am quite disappointed many did not see that," she added.

Greed, lust for power

Roces said one lesson she learned in the 2004 election is that some people would do anything to be in power. She said when she was young, aspiring for public office was considered a heroic act because you wanted to do something good for your fellow Filipinos.

"With my observation with what happened during this, I said it was a greed that I see. A greed for power and material returns. It was a learning experience," she said.

She noted that Poe's presidential bid also meant that the family had to give up one of the most precious possessions of a movie star: their privacy.

"I have been a witness to first families in the past. Mrs. Marcos was very active in the movie industry during her term. It's the kind of situation where people like us who value privacy wouldn't want to be in. Being in the limelight as celebrities in the  movie industry, we are more comfortable in the movie industry because we are not answerable (for) all of the money we can spend. We can buy anything without having to explain to the public what's the source so hindi ko pinangarap yan. Hindi rin pinangarap ni FPJ," she said.

Roces said one of of the hurtful lessons she learned came after the 2004 elections when the Poe camp filed an election protest against Mrs. Arroyo's victory. She said she filed the protest not because she wanted to sit as president but to prove there was cheating.

In March 2005, the Supreme Court, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, voted unanimously to dismiss Roces' protest because she was not the "real party in interest" in the case.

After the SC decision, Roces said many senators including those whom Poe supported urged her to move on.

"[These were] People who my husband supported in their campaigns, and they were in a hurry to move on...Siguro parang kalsada na may nakabara diyan. Yung nakabara ay yung complaints that we filed. Maybe they really did need to move on. Mata-traffic kung hindi aalisin so move on. But in my heart of hearts, it was painful," she said.

Roces said a favorable Supreme Court decision to open 25 statements of votes would have proved there was cheating in the 2004 polls.

'Part of my life is gone'

In the interview, Roces said losing her husband was made doubly painful because it stopped all their plans for retirement.

She revealed that December is an important month for her because December 16 was the date when she and Poe eloped, while December 25 is their wedding date. December 14 is Poe's death anniversary.

"I've been married more than 30 years. You ask any married couple. When your partner dies, part of you dies. We've lived our lives for others. Ronnie and me provided for our families. Ronnie was orphaned by his dad at 11. We were five in my side of the family. I wanted to help better our lives. Our career was for our families. First, it was to provide, next was to secure," she said.

Roces said her husband was responsible enough to ensure that their children and grandchildren would live comfortably even after they were gone.

"We were looking forward to our retirement for ourselves. And we were robbed of it. So part of my life is gone," she said.

She said that during the first year of Poe's death, she could not even go to the grocery because she did not want to be reminded of her late husband.

"One time, I found myself in the grocery near Grace's home. I was excited. I went to the chef and I wanted to get some things. I ended up crying because it was meant for Ronnie and he is no longer there," she said.

"Last year, Grace and I after coaxing me for several years [said], 'Ma. let's travel,' and I would say I've been to those places, but we [still] went. We went shopping and I said I am not interested in buying anything. I got some cosmetics. As I looked around, there were show windows that reminded me, whenever I traveled, I would pick the jackets, the shoes, the shirts for my husband. Now, there's nobody I would shop for. My nephews have a different taste, and that is what I mean. It gives you an insight to what I mean: that part of my life is gone," she said.

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Grace Poe-Llamanzares. Photo Grab from TV

Proclaim FPJ

Grace said what excites her about President Aquino's administration is its transparency. "Our family feels now we have this opportune moment to be able to uncover the truth more freely because it is allowed in this environment," she said.

Roces said there are many things that need to be corrected in the country particularly in the conduct of its elections.

“My personal feelings, I put aside. I don’t want to bad mouth anyone. Masama pa, masama ang pakiramdam. Hindi masama ang loob. Masama ang pakiramdam. I am full of doubts how we can trust the next elections. Mahalaga ang boto…What I hope to achieve with all of this they are doing is an assurance to those who are voting in the next elections that our votes will be counted,” he said.

She also admitted that she still wants Congress to proclaim Poe as the winner of the 2004 presidential election. Sen. Francis Escudero earlier said an investigation into the 2004 poll cheating could lead to Poe’s proclamation posthumously.

“Well, I will not deny it. It’s something that has to be said right. I don’t know how they are going to do it if ever pero ipokrita ako kung sasabihin kong hindi. I wish it for those who have supported him wholeheartedly. Remember, these are not moneyed people. They gave their personal efforts and their hopes and beliefs. Kaya nga sabi ni FPJ, ‘Wag niyo sila aalisan ng pag-asa. Baka yun na lang ang natitira,’” she said.

Poe’s daughter said proclaiming her father as president would be a chance to correct history. She said that even in sporting events, those caught cheating automatically lose.

“That's what we really would hope for. Iwasto ang kasaysayan. Yan ang talagang pinapangarap namin na mangyari,” she said.