Senator Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares waves to her supporters shortly after her speech declaring her candidacy for the presidential election in 2016, at the Bahay Alumni in U.P. Diliman on Wednesday. Poe, running as an independent, finally ended months of speculation on her political plans. Jonathan Cellona for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA (UPDATED) - It's official: Senator Grace Poe is joining the presidential race in the 2016 elections.
"Ako po si Grace Poe. Pilipino. Anak, asawa at ina, at sa tulong ng Mahal na Diyos ay inaalay ko sa inyong lahat ang aking sarili sa mas mataas na paninilbihan bilang inyong Pangulo," Poe declared before hundreds of supporters at the University of the Philippines (UP) Bahay ng Alumni Wednesday evening.
"Sana po ay samahan ninyo ako sa pagpapanday ng maganda at makabuluhang hinaharap ng ating inang bayang Pilipinas," said Poe, who was accompanied by her family, including her mother, veteran actress Susan Roces.
As the senator delivered her 25-minute speech, her supporters repeatedly chanted her name, holding banners in support of Poe.
Written on the banners inside the UP Bahay ng Alumni were: "Sama-sama poe tayo," "Tuloy na poe," "Eto na poe," and "Maasahan, matapang, tapat poe."
With her declaration, Poe will face off against administration standard bearer former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and opposition candidate Vice President Jejomar Binay.
In her speech, Poe stressed that having the heart to serve the people, especially the poor, is much more important than being intelligent.
(RELATED STORY: Poe to Binay: Leader should be honest, not just experienced)
"Nung ako po'y unang kumatok sa inyong mga puso, ang sabi ko gusto kong ipagpatuloy ang mga simulain ni FPJ. Simple lang ang prinsipyo ng aking ama na siya ring naging dahilan ng kanyang pagtakbo. Sinabi niya sa bulwagang ito mahigit 11 taon ang nakalipas: Importante sa isang leader ang katalinuhan pero mas importante na may tapat na pusong manilbihan upang tulungan ang mahihirap, labanan ang pang-aabuso, at pumanday ng isang lipunang masagana at makatarungan," she said.
She said she draws inspiration from ordinary Filipinos -- farmers, fishermen, drivers, teachers, health workers, police, soldiers, those who brave the traffic everyday, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and other people struggling to make their lives better.
"Kayong lahat ang pinaghuhugutan ko ng inspirasyon. Kayo ang nagbibigay sa akin ng lakas na ialay ang aking sarili sa mas mataas na paninilbihan sa bayan," she said.
Poe went on to present her platform, which included pushing for inclusive growth, addressing the backlog in classrooms, creating a Standard Lunch Program in all public schools, crusading against crime and illegal drugs, and respecting the rights of everyone especially those in vulnerable sectors including senior citizens and members of the LGBT community.
Her platform also includes improving health services, pushing for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, and fighting for the West Philippine Sea which is also being claimed by China.
"Walang maiiwang Pilipino at walang maiiwang lugar sa Pilipinas. Sabay-sabay tayong aangat at sama-sama tayong uunlad," Poe said.
The senator also vowed to continue the Aquino administration's fight against corruption, adding that no one man or group holds a monopoly on "Tuwid na Daan."
"Malaki at malayo na ang nagawa ni Pangulong Aquino kaugnay sa pagpapanagot sa mga tiwali, at ako ay personal na nagpapasalamat sa kanya sapagkat nanumbalik muli ang kumpyansa natin sa isang lider na tapat.
"Dapat lang na ituloy at paigtingin ang pagsugpo sa korapsyon. Papanagutin ko ang tiwali, kaibigan man o kaaway, subalit 'di lamang isang tao o partido ang dapat nagsusulong nito kundi ang bawat isang Pilipino," she added.
Poe also said she aims to lower the tax rates and power costs in the country. She also advocates for faster Internet, quipping that "connecting should not take forever."
She also pointed out the need to build more roads and trains, to clean the drainage systems, and to remove colorum and illegally parked vehicles to improve the already worsening traffic situation in the country which she called "OA."
The senator also promised to pursue peace with all groups, particularly the Muslims, saying Filipinos should no longer be fighting fellow Filipinos.
"Sa mga kapatid nating Muslim, naging inspirasyon kayo sa maraming pelikula ni FPJ, ang inyong kultura at kagitingan. Panahon na para mabigyan kayo ng patas na pagkakataon at tunay na tulong," she said.
Poe led the Senate inquiry into the January 25 Mamasapano operation, which resulted in the deaths of 44 troopers of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) following an encounter with Muslim rebels and other private armed groups.
Among those who were present during her announcement at the UP Bahay ng Alumni were San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, Camarines Sur Governor Miguel Villafuerte and his father LRay, former Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez, and Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo and his wife Shalani Soledad.
Celebrities also graced the event, including couple Carmina Villaroel and Zoren Legaspi, Lorna Tolentino, Tirso Cruz III, Albert Martinez, and Boots Anson-Roa.
POE VS BINAY VS ROXAS
Many had been waiting for Poe to finally announce her political plans for 2016, especially after she topped the latest presidential surveys of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia.
In the Pulse Asia survey conducted May 30 to June 5, Poe beat perennial survey frontrunner Binay, with 30% saying they would vote for the senator if the election was held during the survey period; 22% said they would vote for Binay.
(READ: Poe's lead over Binay not that big: Pulse Asia)
Binay placed 2nd in both surveys while Roxas landed 3rd in the SWS poll and in 4th in Pulse Asia.
Poe had been courted by both the Liberal Party (LP) and the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to be their respective candidates' running mate. President Benigno Aquino III even met with Poe at least thrice.
Poe ran as an independent candidate in the 2013 senatorial elections but under the banner of the LP-led administration coalition Team PNoy.
(READ: PNoy not giving up on Poe to be Roxas' VP bet)
Ever since her name was floated as among possible presidential candidates, critics have hit the 47-year-old Poe over her supposed lack of experience in governance.
Poe was chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board from 2010 to 2012 before the she was elected senator in 2013.
She is also facing cases before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) questioning her citizenship and residency.
In her speech, Poe said the same was the case when her father, the late action king Fernando Poe Jr., took a shot at the presidency in 2004.
"Noong tumakbo ang tatay ko, minaliit sya at sinabi na wala siyang karanasan at hindi siya Pilipino. Ngunit buong tapang niyang hinarap ang hamon at 'di niya inurungan ang pagkakataon na tumulong na mapabuti ang buhay ng kapwa-Pilipino. Ang kanyang katapatan, kabaitan at tapang ay naging inspirasyon at gabay sa akin," she said.
She went on to thank her supporters for giving a foundling such as herself the opportunity to serve in public office. Poe was found abandoned as an infant at a church in Iloilo City in September 1968 and was later adopted by FPJ and Roces.
(READ: A foundling named Grace)
"Huwag niyong kalilimutan. Magaling ang Pilipino. Mapagmahal, malikhain at marunong gumawa ng paraan... Dapat sama-sama tayo. Hindi kaya ng iisang tao. Ang nangangako niyan ay nagsisinungaling na," she said.
"Sa ating lahat nakasalalay ang magiging kwento ng Pilipinas sa darating na panahon."