Judging by media reports, it’s almost a done deal: Grace Poe will be the presidential candidate backed by President Aquino, and she has just about declared that Chiz Escudero will be her running mate.
Meanwhile Binay, battened down by corruption charges, is desperately fighting for his political life. There’s even a possibility that he might not be able to run for President. This could then leave Grace Poe unchallenged in her bid for the presidency.
To a large degree, Grace Poe’s popularity, based on her father’s legacy, stems from her being seen to be a candidate untainted by trapo and dynasty politics, even relatively independent of the President, with her declaration that he has to bear ultimate responsibility for the Mamasapano tragedy. And it can certainly be reasonably argued that she is a “lesser evil” to Binay and Mar Roxas.
The main criticism against Grace Poe is that she lacks sufficient experience. Her inexperience, however, should not be the key issue. Focussing on this tends to fall into the trap of trapo ‘personality’ politics. In any case, who wants the kind of “experience” of a Binay. The key issues should be her independence from trapo politics and her program for government.
Any semblance of Grace Poe being untainted by trapo politics will disappear if she runs as the presidential candidate of the Liberal Party. If she succumbs to the control of the Liberal Party she will be coopted — chewed up and spat out, metamorphosed into a trapo.
She has argued, however, that what differentiates her and Escudero is that they are independent of any political party. And she has appealed to President Aquino for his endorsement, even to continue his legacy.
Running as an independent does not protect you from the vested interests that control the political system. The ‘trapo’ system is code for a political system that represents the interests of Philippine capitalism, skewed by the dominance of the landed oligarchy. This severely curtails any ‘free will’ that Grace Poe might have to be a candidate ‘independent’ of the dictates of those who run the system.
President Aquino, after all, in faithfully implementing a neoliberal economic program, represents the interest of the Filipino capitalist class.
Therefore, a key question is, whose interests will Grace Poe serve? Those of the capitalist class or the masa? For example, what will be the economic program of a Grace Poe-led Presidency? Will it continue the neoliberal economic policies of privatization, deregulation and subcontractualization? Will the “export labor” policy of the previous regimes continue? What will a Grace Poe government do about the repayment of the country’s onerous debt?
Will a Grace Poe Presidency finally end the pork barrel system in the allocation of resources for the president and Congress?
Will a Grace Poe government put an end to the Visiting Forces Agreement and other treaties that revive the military bases and presence of the United States in the Philippines?
What will be the social welfare program of a Grace Poe government? Will it continue the band-aid, dole-out projects supposedly aimed at the ‘poorest of the poor’ ala CCT, or will it put in place a universal program of welfare benefits for health, education and other public services?
Will a Grace Poe government stand by working class women and against the Catholic Church in the implementation of the RH law?
Grace Poe has not made her position clear, on many these basic programatic issues, during her term as senator. And her claiming that she wants to continue the Aquino legacy does not bode well for the masa.
Even with the best of intentions, she cannot survive the system as an individual. The only chance that she will have of surviving the system is if she runs as a truly independent presidential candidate, that is independent of elite ruling class interests, mobilizing the masa who support her, on the basis of a radical, pro-masa platform.