This time Heckle and Jeckle went too far. In fact, what the malignant tandem did to Grace Poe was, at the very least, unchivalrous.
The misadventure started when Heckle, the spokesperson more officially associated with the Vice President, called a press conference to question Grace’s citizenship. He said she was not qualified to run for president, or even vice president, because she lacked the required 10-year residency.
As proof he flourished for all to see, press and television viewers, her certificate of candidacy for the senatorial election of 2010.
By the way he looked, Heckle must have been thinking, gleefully, that he had dropped at Grace’s doorstep the bomb that would stop her decisively, legally, getting anywhere near the nation’s Top 2 leadership positions, one his principal now holds, the other he covets.
Strangely enough, unlike him, she has not declared any interest in any draft for 2016. More strangely, his boss had just asked Grace to be his vice-presidential mate, in an obvious attempt to lock her out of the presidency, for which the polls have shown her a contender.
She rejected him. Heckle now says his boss was only being “polite”—preparatory, it now appears, to an attempt to demolish her.
The other, more malignant, mouthpiece, Jeckle, dutifully followed up with name-calling. He called Grace a foundling, as though it were a dirty word, itself proof of not only statelessness but indeed unworthiness of national leadership.
The bomb went off, all right, but the one to emerge covered with soot wasn’t Grace. And the soot must have proved hard to wash: Neither Heckle nor Jeckle has reappeared.
Anyway, destiny trumps mystery. For reasons only Heaven knows, Grace became legal daughter to Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces (nee Sonora). And where, pray tell, will destiny take her from here?
Grace’s story is, indeed, a writer’s dream. And the press smells it and pursues it where it began—in Jaro, the small town in Iloilo, where presumably there are no secrets. Daughters of the man known to have found Grace have come forward via television, from Canada yet, where they now live, and betray a hint of excitement at the possibility that Grace may be a blood sister.
Grace herself seems about as eager as anyone else to get to the truth. Under fire, she does not buckle; she even welcomes the airing of the issue, she says, but reminds Heckle and Jeckle and their principal of their own moral responsibilities to the nation.
One couldn’t help comparing her with the Vice President, who to this day has refused to answer in an open Senate hearing plunder charges against him, defying promptings by 79 percent of the nation for him to do so, as the polls show. On the other hand, Grace appears to gain from his loss, as evidenced by her rising numbers.
For damage control, the Vice President meets select reporters, who mostly appear to indulge him, as in the last “Kapihan sa Manila Hotel,” a flagrant case in point.
Grace, for her part, hasn’t been more upfront; she’s even willing to take a DNA test, if it came to that. It’s rare, indeed, for a public figure to be so unafraid of the truth, and for that alone, she deserves, if not the nation’s trust, at least mine.
But then it’s easy for me to like Grace, with a mother’s heart like mine, and it goes out not only to her but also to her mom, Susan, whose silence speaks volumes about her character—her sense of propriety as well as her confidence in her daughter and in life, in general.
Grace’s political trials, to be sure, have only just begun, and Susan surely knows that. I can only imagine the emotional toll all this takes on her. But no doubt she no longer has to prove her love for her daughter.
There are all kinds of mothers, I suppose, and to each her own way of loving. Judy, Mar’s mom, shows hers by coming all out for him. It may not have been received well by some, whether they’re for or against Mar. It could take away from a son’s image as his own man— for his uprightness alone, Mar is himself already a rare specimen in our politics—but it’s a mother thing I myself can well identify with.
At a dinner debate at my table, some were betting Grace would postpone her presidential candidacy until after 2016, but we were almost unanimous she would accept a vice-presidential nomination. The point was raised that she might be tempted to have a score settled for Mom, who had suffered the double tragedy of the presidency being stolen from her husband, Fernando Poe Jr., and his death by heartbreak after that.
But, of course, there are larger and more selfless considerations for seeking the presidency, which, I believe, is really more what Grace is about. After all, she could herself be past proving her love for her mom.
All this is mere speculation by a meque-trefe, an interloper. The truth is I don’t know Grace at all. It was my husband, Vergel, who met her when he interviewed candidates in the last senatorial race, from which he came away impressed, if reservedly, by her, something not easy for anyone to do to him.
Anyway, whatever Grace decides, she is definitely the contender to watch.