POSTSCRIPT / January 8, 2004 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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FPJ: Da King of RP political silent movies

ALLERGY SHOWING: Haven’t you noticed, not only is movie star Fernando Poe Jr. scared of being interviewed by media, he is also allergic to wading into big crowds and shaking hands.

For somebody who wants to become president of an idolatrous nation teeming with some 40 million Filipinos of voting age, this is strange behavior.

In his last major outing, when he and his troupe went to the Commission on Elections to file certificates of candidacy, he kept his distance from the fans by having his “hawi” squad of stunt men push them away.

He smiled and waved at the crowd all right, but while this might do to somebody who considers himself King of Philippine Movies, it will not do to an aspiring president of this Republic.

Instead of reaching out and taking the opportunity to touch flesh, the action star was holding on tightly to his wife Susan Roces and his running mate Loren Legarda like a kid on his first day at school.

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BRIEF APPEARANCE: In his supposed “launch” at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City, sweating fans who had waited for hours were disappointed when Poe showed up late, mumbled a few lines about someday repaying them, smiled, waved, then walked away to his waiting car.

To buttress the wall he has built around himself over the years, this showbiz celebrity straying into politics avoids eye-to-eye contact by looking at people through thick dark glasses.

In fairness to him, maybe it is just that Poe, being a novice in politics, is still not used to the touching-the-flesh way of grassroots politics.

(If we may digress, when President Bush visited recently, his outgoing political instincts were obvious. He waved lustily and shook hands even if we were not US voters, put his arm on the shoulder of local politicos to chat, even walked off the red carpet to pick up and kiss a child. Unlike Poe, Bush was not afraid of people.)

Not that we care, but if Poe does not cure this allergy to people, it could consume his entire being and his campaign — and spell disaster at the polls.

We are talking here of the actual voting and counting of ballots, not the commissioned table “surveys” extrapolating from the supposed responses of selected 1,250 individuals talking for all of us.

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LESSONS FROM ERAP: Even his close associates cannot just go to the actor and talk to him. They have to wait till His Majesty Da King deigns to receive them.

His spokesman and ventriloquist Tito Sotto cannot speak for him all the time to the satisfaction of the press, because he does not always get to talk to Poe himself. It would be risky for an agent to invent quips from a taciturn principal.

Even former President Erap Estrada, his bosom friend who ushered Poe into power politics, is shaking his head now. What he does not know — or appreciate — is that Erap can teach him an entire doctorate, and much more, about dealing with real people.

A producer, scriptwriter, director and actor rolled into one, Poe runs things in his campaign headquarters the way he does in his movie outfit. He makes all the decisions and dictates as if everybody were his employee.

Somebody should advise Poe that in public service, the official is the employee of the citizens and is at their beck and call.

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DEFENSE MECHANISM: And since he appears intellectually challenged in the jaundiced eyes of his critics — Poe has to seek counsel and not force on others ideas plucked from a vacuum.

On second thought, that might explain his allergy to people and the media. If he is not suffering from a complex, he might be foisting a defense mechanism: If he spoke at length on issues, he might expose the yawning space between the ears.

When the chamber of commerce recently held a debate on public issues among the presidential aspirants, while his rivals Raul Roco and Panfilo Lacson delivered their respective statements, a malingering Poe sent a comedian friend to read a speech that somebody else wrote for the actor. Businessmen who felt insulted naturally walked out.

We cannot say who is worse in this regard: Poe or newsreader Noli de Castro, another (vice) presidential hopeful.

The ABS-CBN talent has amassed millions of fans just by sitting before the TV camera, adjusting his tie, crossing his legs, testing his baritone and, at a cue, reading text that staffers had researched and wrote for him in advance.

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NO PEEP FROM POE: Poe’s playing hide-and-seek with the press, and the fans, is getting to be tiring. And suspicious.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, for all her taray, answers media questions and defines her stand on issues. Same thing with Roco and Lacson. We may not always agree with them, but at least we know where they stand.

From Da King of Philippine Silent Movies, however, not a peep.

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POLITICAL MIGRATION: Do not be confused by all those candidates vaulting to the other side of the political fence. These are expected moves of political animals guided by their instincts for survival.

In fact, we can use such seasonal political migrations as indicators of how the winds are likely to blow during the campaign leading to the May 10 national elections.

We find it significant, for instance, that the veterans John Osmena and Miriam Santiago, abandoned their assured slots in the opposition senatorial ticket to join the team of President Arroyo. Same thing with Rodolfo Biazon who left the Roco team and cast his lot with the administration.

Their instincts and their own surveys must have told them who the winner would be in the May presidential race. They must have sensed that the field would soon thin out to leave only Arroyo and Poe bunched together toward the finish line.

In the final spurt, superior Machine and Money would spell the difference. Osmena, Santiago and Baizon know which party has those decisive items.

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DEMONIC DECISION: The recognition by the Comelec of both Lacson and Poe as presidential candidates is, we think, correct.

But the poll body’s recognizing them as both official nominees of the same opposition Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino is, we submit, wrong.

We are not impressed by the Comelec splitting hair and saying that Lacson is the nominee of the Agapito Aquino wing of Laban and Poe that of the Edgardo Angara wing. Not fully accredited by their party, they are not party nominees, but independent candidates.

This is a demonic, not a Solomonic, solution to the dilemma. Either or both Laban factions have reason to go to elsewhere to clear up the Comelec’s own confusion.

It would have been less confusing if Lacson were recognized as Laban’s nominee (assuming he could get also Angara’s signature), and Poe recorded as the nominee of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (assuming the Koalisyon could be registered as a separate political party).

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 8, 2004)

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