The People’s Grace

By Perry Diaz

Sen. Grace Poe delivers privilege speech

Sen. Grace Poe delivers privilege speech

It is customary for a lot of people to say grace, a short prayer before eating a meal. The most common grace among Catholics is: “Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.” But to a lot of people in the Philippines, which is predominantly Catholic, saying grace is meaningless because they don’t have food or not enough food on the table. That’s the kind of existence that 43% — 9.3 million families – consider themselves “food-poor” from a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.

The SWS survey was what Sen. Grace Poe referenced when she delivered a privilege speech on the Senate floor last October 27, 2014. She said that out of the 43 million “food-poor” individuals, three million battled severe hunger, a condition she said of being “always” or “often” hungry.

"Food-poor" family.

“Food-poor” family.

She prefaced her speech: “October 16 was World Food Day. But for many Filipinos it was ‘no food day’ as usual. That would be hard to believe in a country getting glowing economic report cards and whose capital is brightened by blinding billboards advertising all kinds of food. But the fact is millions of Filipinos go to bed, go to work, or go to school hungry.”

Sen. Poe also referenced the 8th National Nutrition Survey, which found that 7.36 million children below the age of five are malnourished. However, she said, “The Food and Agriculture Organization or FAO gives a higher estimate — 15 million or bigger than the population of Metro Manila. UNICEF says globally, we rank 9th in the most number of stunted kids.”

Indeed, for a country that boasts of a robust economic growth – highest GDP growth forecast among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-6 (ASEAN-6) members for 2014-2015 — during the presidency of President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III, the hunger rate increased in the past two years. The SWS survey for the fourth quarter of 2013 showed hunger at 18.1% of families. For the same period in 2012, hunger was at 16.3% of families. It’s sad to note that at a time of unprecedented economic growth, poverty went up in large numbers. Where did all that money go? Or could it be that there was really no “economic growth” in spite of the country’s impressive Gross Domestic Product (GDP); thus, defying commonly-accepted economic truism?

Corruption vs. poverty





This reminds me of P-Noy’s campaign slogan, “Walang korap, walang mahirap,” which translates to “No corruption, no poverty.” If that equation were true, could it also be correct to presume that if corruption increased, then poverty would also increase?

In my article, “Rx for Poverty and Corruption” (December 9, 2005), I wrote: “What is the cause of corruption? Some people say that poverty is to blame for the ‘culture of corruption.’ A veteran Philippine Senator once said, ‘Poverty breeds corruption.’ Does it, really? Or is it the other way around, ‘Corruption causes poverty’?

“A study made by Management Systems International in Washington, DC, in 2003, has concluded: ‘Corruption has direct consequences on economic and government factors, intermediaries that in turn produce poverty.’ The study produced two models. On the one hand, the ‘economic model’ postulates that corruption affects poverty by first impacting economic growth factors, which, in turn, impact poverty levels. In other words, ‘Increased corruption reduces economic growth which would increase poverty.’ On the other hand, the ‘government model’ asserts that corruption affects poverty by first influencing governance factors, which, in turn, impact poverty levels. In other words, ‘Increased corruption reduces governance capacity which would increase poverty.’

“Is it then fair to presume that increasing economic growth and increasing government capacity would decrease poverty? If so, in order to eradicate poverty, corruption should be dealt with in a fashion that would deter people — particularly government officials — from practicing corruption. However, the problem is: The Philippines does not have an effective deterrence to stop corruption.”

Strong leadership

Ramon Magsaysay

Ramon Magsaysay

So, what does it take to have an “effective deterrence” to stop corruption? It sounds like a simple question but that requires a complex answer. Or, could it be that the answer is as simple as the question, which is “strong leadership”?

History tells us that a strong leader who is imbued with a fervent desire to change – nay, revolutionize — the way our government is being run, produces the best results. And when I said “strong leader,” I’m not talking about the likes of Ferdinand Marcos but in the mold of Ramon Magsaysay, Lee Kuan Yew, and Nelson Mandela.

And looking at the current crop of presidential wannabes who call themselves “leaders,” none qualifies for the job. They’ll just be the same as most of those who held – and abused — power before them; that is, corrupt to the core.

What the country needs is a person untainted by corruption and who is committed to eradicating poverty. Does it sound like an impossible dream? Yes, it does. Yet, there is always hope. And sometimes it comes in a strange way… a miracle. But if we lose even a glimmer hope, and stop looking for the right person to lead our nation, then the Philippines would be consigned to perdition.

Amazing Grace

Grace Poe, "Anak ni FPJ"

Grace Poe, “Anak ni FPJ”

What we need is a modern-day Joan of Arc. Who I have in mind is Sen. Grace Poe, who stands out as someone who would galvanize the people waiting for the leader to free them from the clutches of poverty.

Many people believe that Grace’s emergence from relative obscurity and rising to number one position in the 2013 senatorial elections was providentially inspired. Indeed, never in the history of Philippine politics had a neophyte politician — who never held an elected or appointed position in government — attracted the support of 10 million voters, one million votes more than the attractive and experienced politician who placed second.

Grace Poe and image of Fernando Poe Jr.

Grace Poe and image of Fernando Poe Jr.

It is interesting to note that Grace’s father, the late action hero Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ), garnered 11.7 million votes when he ran for president in 2004… and lost. However, many believe that he would have won had his opponent, then incumbent president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, did not cheat. Election experts averred that Arroyo cheated Poe of at least one million votes using dagdag-bawas (vote-padding/vote-shaving system), which would have been enough to offset Arroyo’s lead. It is expected that FPJ’s “command votes” would go to his daughter if she runs.

With the election still a year and half away, Grace is not expected to make known her plans. Not yet. But as the election gets nearer, a groundswell of support is expected to build up, which begs the question: Would there be a movement to draft Grace for President? Personally, I believe that a campaign to draft her would soon materialize and could easily get at least a million signatures. And riding high on the crest of popularity, Grace would be the people’s candidate… the people’s Grace, indeed.


13 Responses. Have your say.

  1. Thanks for writing this Perry. I and others will support Grace Poe.

  2. Fernando Habito says:

    Hunger,Malnutrition,Food Shortage and Food Defecit are man- made socio economic disease and problems by many third world or underdeveloped countries like PHL.The nation got abundance of terrestrial and aquatic resources for FOOD SUPPLIES. The country got the technical know how and also got one of the best research and educational institutions like UP Los Banos and International Research Institute that trained many foreign and international scientist and planners in Food Productions throughout the world.The real issue is lack of “Political Will and Competent Leaders” who will execute correctly and make used of the potential available human and natural resources. With regards to funding and money the nation got abundant supply both from international and local resources. It’s the poor “National Discipline” and the inclusive culture of “corruptions” that plague in all sectors of the government systems.Absolutely we need a good leader and electing Grace Poe as President is not the solution neither a panacea to solve the “Hunger” issue.She is still a neophyte and stiil got many things to learn.The nation should give her time to show her own might and get out of the shadow of her father FPJ…Filipinos should learn how to choose the real leaders based on competency not just from the impulse of emotion or sentimentality.

    • Elfren says:

      Define “neophyte”, “many things to learn,” “might”, “shadow of her father”, “competency” and “impulse of emotion or sentimentality”.

      Maybe you should also look at the definition of “naivete” – yours.

  3. perry says:

    Perry, terrific article. Let’s do it. She’s our best option.

    Ricky Sobrevinas
    (Sent by email)

  4. Elfren says:

    The movement can start in the U.S. I started talking about this possibility when I was in Dumaguete last August. I got mixed reactions – but – never got any negative response. Just start it Perry. Call for a meeting and I’m sure you will get a good number of attendees. I will be there with a few others – if not, many others.

  5. Paddy Padilla says:

    Yes, why not? Grace that we don’t deserve but need.

  6. Paddy Padilla says:

    Yes, why not? Grace that we don’t deserve but we need.

  7. pat talens says:

    I now sense the Philippines is about to experience an unusual political event that can bring about true hope and better life for its suffering people. This unusual political experience that is in the offing is the soon emergence of Grace Poe (and my goodness not Binay) as the next President of the Land.
    I attach “unusual” to the event because Grace Poe is a de facto anomaly to the Philippine presidential politics, given this is only her initial entry in politics and yet she becomes the President so soon.

    Grace Poe’s unbeatable credentials to run for President is her (and family’s) untainted political reputation and down-to-earth affinity to find solutions to problems and crises to truly serve the people. Remember her when she bravely blended with the people, even at great peril of being killed or abducted as a national figure, just so she could find out firsthand the persistent, scandalous transportation problems with the MRT/train system? For me that was classic. For anyone, that is very telling of her as she is way apart from the norm of shrewd, arrogant, corrupt politicians. I believe if placed in higher position, she will more than oblige to the calling as well—such as leading the Nation and truly serving the people with conviction, with idealism, and from the heart. Grace Poe is indeed a welcome anomaly in the political scene. Not only Filipinos in the country, but people of Filipino blood (like me) in diaspora abroad will rejoice in her Presidential run.

    Her entry in Presidential politics will become even more exciting if she invites Senator Trillanes as her running mate. It becomes more exciting because Trillanes is himself a no-ordinary Senator politician. He is a departure from the norm of regular politicians. His unusual credentials include such being that bold and brave junior military leader who led a military rebellion on behalf of the country, and subsequently elected as Senator even while in detention on account of this military uprising against the government. This single event alone brings Trillanes ways apart from the likes of Binay, Revilla, Estrada etc—in that here he put life his life, reputation, career and family for the higher goal and calling of serving his country.

    So—Grace Poe and Antonio Trillanes are truly no ordinary Filipino politicians, but welcome political anomalies, who could be the graces, the magic, and the awaited miracles from above. And they are the awaited ones in lieu of an awaited revolution by the suffering people.

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      Pat, yesterday was a historic day for America and the American people, let’s give ourselves a pat in the back. Something similar need to happen to our country back home, I think it’s time for the Filipino people to get off their lazy asses and do something right for once, get rid of all the deadbeats and crooked politicians.

      • pat talens says:

        Bobby, indeed comparison between the Philippines and the USA— in the context of electing political officials—is glaringly stunning.

        Here in USA, the land of “milk and honey” so they say, voters are full to their stomachs, and mostly are experiencing the freedom from want and hunger. Their votes are cast based on their true politics and political persuasions. In the Philippines, not that Filipinos are lazy, but they are mostly with empty stomachs. Afflicted by hunger their votes always tend to go the way of politicians who can best lie to them and who can buy them with the least favor and pesos. Their hungry stomachs make them easy prey to corrupt politicians, and that these crook politicians always win in elections.

        I do not subscribe that Filipinos are lazy, but on the contrary. Even corrupt Filipinos are not lazy, for they don’t tire working on how to steal more money. For even while asleep, they make their minds work how to steal even more.

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      Heck, even Bill and Hillary Clinton must be losing their charms, they couldn’t even talk the dead to vote for their Democratic candidates yesterday.

  8. Rex Garcia ME / CPE / PE says:

    I go for that idea by Pat Talens Grace Poe and Trillanes would be a good team to improve the living of the Pinoys and for sure will continue Pres. Aquino programs to put all corrupt politicians to jail ( Revilla, Estrada and Enrile ) and for sure JesusMariosept Binary be in in line to go to jail once Trillanes is elected the Vice President of the Amazing Grace. Perry with the power of your pen start the movement here in the USA for POE / TRILLANES for 2016 and I bet you every one will be behind you all the way.

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