24 October 2016
Philippine Senator Grace Poe combines a compelling life story with a relatively new political career umblemished by scandal. Photo: Wikipedia
Philippine Senator Grace Poe combines a compelling life story with a relatively new political career umblemished by scandal. Photo: Wikipedia

Daughter of movie star tipped as possible Aquino successor

A first-time Philippine senator who is the adopted daughter of a film star is edging out veteran politicians as the preferred candidate to replace President Benigno Aquino, although she not yet declared her intention to run, Bloomberg News reported.

Grace Poe, 46, was picked by 12 of 23 analysts and bankers in a Bloomberg survey this month as the best choice to steer the Philippine economy after Aquino leaves office next year, the news agency reported.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, 72, got three votes, while four chose Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, 58.

Poe, whose senatorial bid was backed by Aquino, combines a compelling life story with a relatively new political career umblemished by scandal.

Abandoned as a baby at the steps of a church and raised by a film star famous for roles where he fought for the masses, Poe’s perceived honesty resonates in a country whose biggest priorities are fighting corruption and building infrastructure.

Her father, Fernando Poe Jr., ran for president in 2004 but was defeated by then incumbent president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in an election that critics said was marred by massive fraud. He died the same year.

“Aquino gave us a second chance to be a tiger economy,” said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank Inc. in Manila.

“But we aren’t there yet. The next president has to have the will to stop corruption and boost infrastructure. In the case of Grace Poe, people perceive her as honest, somebody who will protect the anti-corruption drive.”

More than half the respondents in the Bloomberg survey predict the Philippine economy will continue to expand by at least 6 percent in the next 10 years.

As for the top priorities of the next government, the respondents picked infrastructure investment and protecting the anti-corruption drive.

During Aquino’s administration, the Philippines attained investment-grade credit ratings, as his government took steps to cut corruption, raise revenue and lure investment, Bloomberg said.

The benchmark Philippine stock index has more than doubled since he took office, with economic growth exceeding 6 percent from 2012 to 2014, it added.

According to the Philippine constitution, the president is only allowed a single six-year term.

Poe also leads the latest survey on preferred presidential candidates for the May 2016 election from Pulse Asia Research Inc.

She was part of Aquino’s coalition when she ran for senator, although she isn’t a member of his party.

If she runs, she will have to battle the vice president who has already said he will seek the presidency. Binay, a former mayor of Makati city, the nation’s financial and business center, last week quit his posts in Aquino’s cabinet.

Aquino’s successor will need to contend with China’s growing assertiveness on disputed territory, joblessness and a surging population, Bloomberg said.

Rodrigo Duterte, Davao city mayor and another potential candidate, said last week fighting graft must be a priority for the country’s next leader to safeguard economic growth.

As senator, Poe has championed bills including freedom of information, salary increases for government doctors and nurses and modernizing the police agency.

On her website, Poe says she “wants government to take a more active role in helping children of poor families”. She is married and has three children.

Poe, a political science graduate from Boston College, has worked as a teacher, a product liaison officer and a product manager in the United States.

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