Suddenly, Grace Poe

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Okay, Senator Grace Poe, I get that you’re still fuming about 2004. But now that you’ve done your part to try to divert the people’s attention away from the pork barrel scam, please rejoin the Comite de Silencio so I can start ignoring you again.


Like many people, I’m surprised that Poe has come out only now about the travails of her father, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., whom she claims was cheated two presidential elections ago. It’s not that the younger Poe, who topped the senatorial elections last year even if she was a relative political nobody, shouldn’t be talking about how her adoptive father was robbed by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo a decade ago; it’s just that she should really have made her call for justice for FPJ from the day she was elected and then done so every day since, if she really wanted to exact revenge from those who allegedly stole the presidency from him.

The timing of Poe’s privilege speech is most unfortunate, since she took the floor when the pork barrel scandal has already reached the doorstep of Malacañang itself. And because Poe has always been identified with this administration, which appointed her chief censor in 2010 before backing her bid for the Senate in 2013, she is now being accused of being part of an effort to make people forget about Janet Lim Napoles, her mentor Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and all the other actors in the still-raging scandal.

The fact that Poe attacked Arroyo, the foremost enemy and default scapegoat of embattled President Noynoy Aquino, is only icing on the cake. Like the sudden removal of the once-protected MRT general manager Al Vitangcol, Poe’s decision to lambast the players in the so-called “Hello Garci” scam sounds like yet another bright idea from the propaganda experts who have propped up Aquino and his inept, hypocritical government all these years with spin and more spin.

Poe is also believed in certain circles to have been the beneficiary, wittingly or not, of efforts to keep opposition candidates out of the final list of Senate winners through the so-called “60-30-10” cheating scam pulled off last year. So having her talk, at this late date, about election cheating that took place 10 years ago is really ironic, these people say.

Finally, Poe is also being bruited about as an alternative candidate of the ruling Liberal Party for president two years from now, if Mar Roxas is conclusively found to be totally unelectable to the highest office in the land. The usually quiet Poe has made no effort to squelch rumors that she may be gunning for the LP nomination if Roxas crashes and burns, as expected, which is why she could be susceptible to following the palace propaganda playbook.

Publicly, of course, Poe will probably deny that she is working with Malacañang propagandists to make people forget about Napoles and her earth-shaking revelations by resurrecting her dad. But I doubt if she can convincingly explain why she suddenly realized that now is the time to jump into the whole, stale Garci bit.

Perhaps Poe should really take a cue from Aquino who, like his own mother after she herself was elected President, apparently lost any interest in the strange case of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983. But speaking of those two, I await (not really eagerly) the detonation of yet another bombshell from the Annoying First Sister, because if Kris suddenly makes some dramatic announcement in the next few days - tearfully or not - then I’ll know that the bright boys of the Malacanang propaganda machine are really working overtime.

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Sometimes, the official responses from the vaunted, well-funded Malacañang spin generator can be downright infuriating—when they are not head-scratchingly incomprehensible. Secretary Herminio Coloma made one such unintelligible reply yesterday to allegations that the government’s slow and inadequate rehabilitation work caused the death of a woman and her six children in a tent community for survivors of Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City this week.

“We must acknowledge the breadth, depth and complexity of the task at hand, and it would not be responsible to simply blame government because this is something that can be empirically determined,” Coloma said in a news briefing. If I may attempt to translate Coloma’s technocratese, I think he means that because the Aquino administration did not itself start the fire, it should not be blamed for the family’s unfortunate death.

Of course, nobody is accusing Aquino, Coloma or any other government functionary of actually lighting a match or throwing a lit Marlboro inside the tent of the now-deceased family of typhoon survivors. What the critics mean is when the government can only build 50 homes for thousands of families who desperately need shelter in Tacloban alone half a year after the typhoon hit, then surely something must be terribly, terribly wrong.


And when Coloma can only say that the government response should also be judged by what hasn’t happened—no breakdown of peace and order and no epidemics, for instance - then you know that Malacañang is admitting that it hasn’t done anything concrete and positive. Yes, like building homes for survivors so they don’t have to live permanently in flammable tents.