Grace Poe woos OFWs in Hong Kong amid disqualification

MANILA, Philippines – Despite the ruling of the Commission on Elections en banc disqualifying her, presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe took the chance to court overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

Poe, who was in Hong Kong with family to spend Christmas, supposedly chanced upon migrant workers in Central district on Friday, December 25, while walking with her daughter Hanna. 

Alam ko naririnig ninyo ang mga kwento-kwento, kung na-disqualify na ba si Senator Poe, pero may proseso tayo sa Supreme Court. Sabi nila ako’y hindi Pilipino dahil ako’y batang nadampot lamang at hindi kilala ang aking mga magulang. Hindi naman yata makatarungan yun. Ang pinaglalaban natin ay tunay na pagbabago para sa ating bayan,” Poe was quoted as saying in a statement from her office Saturday, December 26.

(I know you've been hearing stories and wondering if Senator Poe is already disqualified. But we still have a process in the Supreme Court. They say I am not a Filipino because I am a foundling and I do not know my real parents. But that is not fair. What we're fighting for here is real change for our country.)

In the 2013 senatorial elections, which Poe topped, Hong Kong had one of the highest turnouts of absentee voters. It is also known for having one of the most active Filipino migrant communities.

Poe promised Filipino migrant workers she would not steal from the government’s coffers. After all, she said it is the OFWs who have kept the economy strong during tough times. 

“Makakaasa kayo na hindi ako magnanakaw at lahat ng kita ng gobyerno, bawa't sentimo ay mapupunta sa benepisyo ng ating mga kababayan. Iyan po ang palaki sa atin ng aking tatay na si FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr),” Poe said.

(You can count on me that I will not steal from the government. Each centavo will go to the benefit of our fellowmen. That's how I was brought up by my father, FPJ.)

One of Poe’s rivals in 2016 – Vice President Jejomar Binay – is facing corruption allegations over overpriced buildings and contracts in Makati City, where Binay served as mayor for decades.

“Alam ko po ang sakripisyo ninyo, na bagama’t masaya, marami rin kayong naiwan na mga mahal sa buhay sa Pilipinas. Salamat sa inyong tulong dahil kung hindi dahil sa OFWs, ang ekonomiya ng Pilipinas ay matagal nang tumiklop,” she said.

(I know your sacrifices. Although you're happy here, you also left your loved ones in the Philippines. Thank you for all your help because if it weren't for OFWs, the Philippine economy would have long collapsed.)

‘I know how it feels to live abroad’

Poe repeatedly relates her case to the experiences of OFWs, as a defense against citizenship and residency issues thrown at her. (READ: Poe courts OFWs: ‘We’re still Filipinos even when abroad’)

The senator told OFWs that she knows how it feels to be away from loved ones as she, too, has worked abroad.

Matagal din akong tumira sa ibang bansa, at naiintindihan ko ang inyong kalagayan. Kasama ng Migrante (party-list), ng iba nating mga senador na tumatakbo, itutulak namin ang mga makakabuti para sa OFWs – na bumaba ang fees niyo at yung mga kailangan niyo tulad ng health benefits ay matulungan kayo ng gobyerno,” Poe said.

(I also lived for a long time abroad and I understand your situation. Together with Migrante party-list, our senatorial candidates, we will push for what is good for OFWs – lowering of your fees and government assisting you with your needs like your health benefits.)

Poe, a foundling raised by movie stars Susan Roces and Fernando Poe Jr, left the country in 1991 after her marriage to Neil Llamanzares, a dual citizen of both the United States and the Philippines since birth. He was born in the US to Filipino parents. (READ: TIMELINE: Grace Poe's citizenship, residency)

In 2001, she became a naturalized US citizen and renounced Philippine citizenship. After FPJ’s death, Poe and her family decided to return for good. In 2006, she and all her 3 kids became dual citizens by virtue of Republic Act 9225 or the Citizenship Retention and Re-Acquisition Law. 

She then renounced her foreign citizenship in October 2010, before she took her oath as Movie and Television Review and Classification Board chair.

During the event in Hong Kong, Poe also took the chance to tell OFWs that she remains to be a presidential candidate even after the Comelec en banc disqualified her. 

Hindi ko kayo bibitawan, magkakasama tayo palagi. Sa Pilipinas, kung kami ay mabibigyan ng pagkakataon, walang maiiwan,” Poe said.

(I will not let go of you, we will always be together. In the Philippines, if we will be given the opportunity, no one will be left behind.)

On December 23, or two days before Christmas, the en banc voted to cancel Poe’s certificate of candidacy for president and gave her only 5 calendar days, or until December 28, to secure a temporary restraining order or similar writ from the Supreme Court. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.

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