'I have done my homework,' Poe tells businessmen

Kathlyn dela Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe, who admits to being an "unknown" in the business sector, on Wednesday assured members of the business community that she is capable of managing the Philippine economy.

Speaking before the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), Poe said she has done her homework as she expounded on her economic plans for the country in case she is elected president in this year's elections.

"For those of you who worry that a Grace Poe administration might be more 'puso' (heart) than 'galing,' (skill) rest easy, I have done my homework," she said. "It is clear to me that we cannot win the war against poverty without enlarging the economic pie. So enlarge we will, hopefully at an even faster pace than we experience today."

During her speech, the independent presidential candidate acknowledged the economic reforms the Aquino administration has done. She stressed, however, that many Filipinos remain mired in poverty up to this day, and many still long to migrate to another country or bet a portion of their meager income on jueteng.

"No wonder many also consistently vote the way they do, for politicians who promise doleouts as against more fiscally responsible solutions, even when these politicians are said to be corrupt," Poe said.

Poe did not deny that among the five candidates gunning for the presidency, she has the least experience in politics. But this lack of experience, she said, may even be her advantage.

READ: Grace fires back: Resume lean but no excess baggage

Poe, who is only three years into her first term as senator, boasted of having no political baggage, no party-mates to reward, no subordinates to protect, and no pet projects to tiptoe around.

"I do not deny this (lack of experience). In some ways, I am even proud of this. True, I've not had a chance to serve in the Cabinet under three presidents nor have I nor my immediate family members had the opportunity to run a mayor's office for several decades," she said, apparently alluding to administration standard- bearer Mar Roxas, opposition candidates Vice President Jejomar Binay and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Roxas had served as secretary of the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI), Transportation and Communications (DOTC), and Interior and Local Government (DILG). Binay had served as mayor of Makati City for nearly 20 years. His wife, Elenita, and son, Junjun, were also elected city mayor. Duterte, meanwhile, has also served as Davao City mayor for around two decades.

"But perhaps that is why people still continue to trust me even with all the cases that have been filed against me which have been finally resolved," Poe added.

READ: SC: Poe qualified to run for president


If she wins the presidential race, Poe vowed that she will appoint members of the Cabinet based on integrity, credibility, expertise and their ability to solve problems quickly. She claimed she will not let loyalties and any other political consideration get in the way.

"In my administration, it will be very straightforward. Those who do not meet their targets will be asked to stand down, whether they be friends, classmates, political allies or even running mates," she said, to the applause of the businessmen present in the forum.

This statement was an apparent swipe against President Benigno Aquino III, who has appointed close friends, classmates, and allies to key positions in government during his six-year stint in MalacaƱang.

Poe acknowledged that some of the incumbent Cabinet secretaries have performed well, and so she would not mind retaining them in their positions. But asked who among the Cabinet members she would not want to retain, she said: the secretaries of the Department of Transportation and Communications (Joseph Emilio Abaya), Department of Agriculture (Angel Alcala), and Bureau of Internal Revenue chief (Kim Henares).

Poe also allayed concerns that she will just be a "puppet" of her running mate, Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero, if they both win the race.

She admitted that they do not agree on everything, but stressed that they respect each other's decisions as long as these will be for the good of the country.

READ: Just a 'puppet' of Chiz Escudero? Grace Poe reacts


During the business forum, Poe named some of her economic advisers: Fil-American engineer/entrepreneur Diosdado 'Dado' Banatao, UP economist Raul Fabella, Inquirer columnists Peter Wallace and Cielito Habito, former Finance Undersecretary Romeo Bernardo, former Finance Secretaries Ramon del Rosario Jr. and Roberto 'Bobby' de Ocampo, and Francisco 'Popoy' del Rosario.

Poe said she will push for amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution in her first month in office. The bill of rights and term limits should, however, not be touched, she said.

Poe shared her plans on how the Philippines can achieve further progress and inclusive growth, citing neighbors like Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and China. She said she is in favor of joining free trade blocs and signing bilateral free trade agreements with other countries.

She also stressed the importance of having a one-stop shop for those who want to set up businesses in the country, saying that global best practices show that starting a business should take no more than a few days and no more than a small fee.

"In these places (progressive economies), government is there to help rather than to hinder, to facilitate business rather than throw obstacles in its path," she said. "Those who want to invest in the Philippines should have confidence that the rule of law exists and that rules will not change with each passing administration."

Tax rates, she said, should also be determined by economic planners, and not by the BIR.

"We insist on 30% [tax rate] because the government still thinks it can charge what it wants depending on its ability to collect. Yet our tax bosses limit themselves to hunting in the zoo instead of training their guns on those out in the wild," said Poe.

Poe also laid out her plans on increasing the budget for infrastructure, saying this can turn the country into "a world-class investment destination and tourist haven."

She also reiterated her intention to expand feeding programs in schools, noting that tuition is actually just a small part of the cost of a child's education. Everybody's children should have access to health and education, she said.

"Children, after all, do not choose to be born and cannot choose their parents. I believe they should not be penalized in life because of the conditions they are born into," she added.

"I believe that what I do lack in experience, I can more than make up for by way of genuine desire to serve the country, an openness to non-traditional points of view, and the passion of a person who has consistently believed in doing what is right."