Poe courts OFWs: ‘We’re still Filipinos even when abroad’

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential aspirant Grace Poe has always cited the situation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) 
each time she defends herself from citizenship and residency issues hurled at her.

Now, she pitches herself before them at a migrant group’s forum held in the University of the Philippines Diliman on Friday, December 18.

Asked by a migrant worker on the disqualification cases against her, Poe took the opportunity to seek support from OFWs.


“Sa tingin ko nga kung mayroon mang grupo na simpatyado rito ay kayo dahil alam 'nyo paano manirahan sa ibang bansa,” Poe said. (I think if there’s any group that can relate to this, it’s you because you know how it is to live in other countries.)


Two divisions of the Commission on Elections ruled to cancel Poe's certificate of candidacy for the 2016 elections, saying she is not a natural-born Filipino and had failed to comply with the 10-year residency requirement for a presidential candidate.

At the forum, Poe was quick to point out that while some think her life abroad was easy, it was not entirely the case. Poe said she returned to the country in 2005. She attempted to explain the complicated issue to her audience.

“Alam mo, sabi nila, 'Eh masarap ang buhay mo doon.’ Hindi madali manirahan sa ibang bansa. Masasabi ko natugunan ang pangangailangan ng aking pamilya, pero noong bumalik kami noong 2005, yun po ang panahon ng ibang administrasyon at kamamatay lang ng tatay ko. Maraming issue ang nilabanan natin. Di po 'yun panahon na madali sa amin, pero kailangan ipaglaban ang paniniwala at hustisya,” Poe said.

(You know, they say, ‘Your life was easy there.’ It’s not easy to live abroad. I can say the needs of my family were met, but when we returned in 2005, that was a time of the previous administration and of my father’s death. We fought so many issues. It was not an easy time for us, but we needed to fight for our beliefs and for justice.)

Poe also hit her critics, as she related her case to the plight of migrant workers.

“Ito na lang po ang tanong ko: 'pag kayo umalis at magpadala ng pera dito, nagbigay kayo ng pasalubong, kayo ay bagong bayani. Pero 'pag kayo’y tatakbo na, di na kayo bayani?” Poe said, receiving laughs from the audience.

(This is my question. If you leave and you send money and give gifts, you’re a hero. But when you’re running in the elections, you’re no longer a hero?)

Opportunity to serve

Amid incessant criticisms that she left the country to pursue a better life in the United States, Poe said it is “unfair” to say this of people who returned and helped the country.

“At sa tingin ko po medyo nagkakaroon nang hindi patas na pagtingin. Marami pong mga magagaling na Pilipino ang umuuwi, nagtatayo ng negosyo dito sa atin, at nagbibigay ng oportunidad at nagsisislbi. Tingnan naman natin ang pagkatao rin,” Poe said.

(I think there’s an unfair treatment. There are many good Filipinos who return to the country. They build businesses and give opportunities and serve our fellowmen. Let’s also look at the person.)

Poe maintained that one's intention is more important, as love for country could not be solely measured by one’s stay in the Philippines. Poe left the country in 1990 and lived in the US. She became a US citizen in 2001 and became a dual citizen of both the Philippines and the US in 2006. She then renounced her foreign citizenship twice – in 2010 and 2011. (READ: TIMELINE: Grace Poe citizenship, residency)

“Ang pagmamahal sa bayan ay hindi determinado lamang ng teritoryo. Kahit saan po tayo ay nananatiling Pilipino. Mas lalo tayong nagiging Pilipino sapagkat mas nami-miss natin ang bayan natin. Pag bumabalik tayo dito, parang ayaw na rin natin umalis,” Poe said.

(Love for country is not only determined by territory. Anywhere we are, we remain Filipinos. We become even Filipinos even more because we miss our country. When we come back, it’s like we don’t want to leave anymore.)

Despite everything thrown at her, the neophyte senator maintained her conscience is clear. She earlier said she would have a “more peaceful life” if her name would be excluded from the 2016 ballot.

“Kung ano man ang sinasabi, malinis ang konsensya ko. Madali tanggapin para sa sarili ko lamang, pero ang hindi natin dapat tanggapin ang hindi maayos na proseso sa ating bansa,” Poe said.

(Whatever they say, my conscience is clear. It’s easy to accept if it’s just for me, but we cannot accept the questionable processes in our country.)

She earlier linked the disqualification cases against her to the camps of administration standard-bearer Mar Roxas and Vice President Jejomar Binay. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com