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Oct 16, 2015

Candidate No. 3: Grace Poe (Philippine Presidentiables 2016 Series) Part 3 of 3


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Introduction: For the last installment of this series we will talk about the person on top of the SWS June 2015 survey both for President and Vice-President, Grace Poe Llamanzares. The story behind the birth and adoption of Senator Grace is one for the movies, the kingdom lorded over by her parents The King Fernando Poe, Jr. and Queen of Philippine Movies Susan Roces. Although she had bit roles as a child, she herself said "Even if I aspired to be in showbiz, I felt physically inadequate being compared to my parents." and so she decided to take another path.

Left: The young Grace with parents Fernando Poe, Jr. and Susan Roces; Right: Grace graduating from Boston College .
Left: The young Grace with parents Fernando Poe, Jr. and Susan Roces; Right: Grace graduating from Boston College .

 

She was a debater at Assumption College while she was in high school. In fact, one of the fund managers at the dbAccess Philippines 2015 Conference (the international conference where I listened to the three presidentiables) said, “She was the debate team captain of Assumption when they beat us in Ateneo back then.”  After a couple of years at UP Manila in college, she transferred to Boston College where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree major in Political Science. She married her high school sweetheart soon after graduation at age 22. She resided in the US with her family. She worked as a preschool teacher for three years, a procurement liaison at the United States Geological Survey, and as a product manager at CSC Scientific, a company specializing in scientific equipment.

She came back to the Philippines when her father died in 2004, the same year he tried to become president. Grace became involved in politics when allegations arose that her father lost due to electoral fraud. She was later appointed head of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) in 2010 by Pres. Aquino. And in 2013, she successfully ran for the Senate as guest candidate of the administration, garnering the most number of votes among all Senatorial candidates. Today she remains on top of surveys, even amidst hanging issues on her Filipino citizenship.

 

Grace’s Speech

Senator Grace Poe read her speech, one crafted to have a relevant opening line that aimed to deliver a punch to elicit some reaction from the audience. I like the quality of her voice. It has a soothing effect. There were a few times she got lost in her reading, but they were quite minor. Let’s hear it from the senator.

 

02 Grace speech_FQ
Senator Grace Poe delivering his keynote speech at the dbAccess on October 8, 2015.

 

Thank you for taking time off your Bloomberg screens and your minds off the market for just a few moments to hear me out. I am glad for this opportunity to talk about a worthy cause. I call it worthy because I believe the Philippines is a great long-term investment. They say that political platforms are like Debt Notes.  They should be, but not always, redeemable at the promised time. I for one have no problem of defaulting on mine should you choose to subscribe to my offer.

Since I declared my candidacy a few weeks ago, not a few have asked, “We’ve heard your 20-point platform, but what is your economic vision? And more importantly, how do you intend to realize it?”

Let me first share with you what I envision. I dream for the country. I see the Philippines one day as a developed country, one of the major economies of Asia, perhaps not in six years but definitely in our lifetime. I see more foreign companies setting up shop within our shores bringing with them long-term capital, technology and well-paying jobs in exchange for a decent return on their investment. I see graduates being able to find jobs in their chosen field, not abroad, but right here alongside their friends and families. I see the emergence of a bright and vibrant middle class where families can afford to buy their own homes, send their children to school and to not worry about how the hospital bills will be paid when they come in. Lofty you say, I say necessarily so. For this is what the taxpayer deserves, this is what our youth deserve, this is what the worker deserves, this is what the investor expects of a country of 100 million people in the most economically dynamic region in the world.

So having laid out my vision, let us now assess where we are and what we need to get there.

 

How to get there:

Over the last 5 years, our country has enjoyed an unprecedented period of sustained high economic growth and price stability. Growth has averaged over 6% a year, among the highest in the world, and inflation is well below 1%. According to Bloomberg, our stock market was the best performing in the entire world during the period 2009 to 2014, allowing our companies to raise equity capital and expand their businesses more cheaply than anywhere else in the world. At the same time however, many Filipinos were left out from our economic rebirth and cannot simply be left waiting another 6 years for the benefits of growth to trickle down. A fifth of our population earns under a $1.25 a day, representing the highest poverty incidence in South East Asia outside of Laos. Unemployment, underemployment and income inequality remain the highest among peer countries in the emerging market space. My economic mission, if I’m elected, is to take us onwards to the next level of the journey, upon which we embark under the Aquino government from growth, just growth to inclusive growth.

Now, how do we do this? The process I believe is simply one of identifying the bottlenecks to more inclusive growth and dismantling them one by one, and then letting the bigger and ingenuity of private enterprise take over. This does not sound rocket science to us. Other countries have achieved this before us and we need merely learn from their experiences and apply the lessons to our own. So what exactly are these bottlenecks? The first and perhaps the most observable is the quality of our infrastructure. I was told of a recent study by the IMF, which cited our country as scoring lowest in terms of quality of infrastructure among major ASEAN countries. I asked for the study, but really, do we need to know it from the IMF and World Bank? We don’t. We experience this everyday. Everyday you and I, who do not own helicopters (perhaps there’s more of you here who own helicopters than anywhere else I’d go), would be commuting to and from work due to lack of an inefficient road system and mass public transportation system. Our international airport was quoted, just a few years ago by travelers, as the world’s worst. These infrastructure bottlenecks not only curtail worker productivity and quality of life, they also prevent the development of a vibrant tourism industry - a potential third leg in support of growth and job creation after the OFW remittances and the BPO sector.

Another bottleneck is our constitutional restrictions. Crafted during a time when nationalism was equated to favoring local ownership and over promoting competition (did she mean protectionism?), these restrictions have kept many industries captive to a few dominant players. By restricting competition, this has saddled our economy with a high cost structure - a hollow manufacturing base, and fewer job opportunities than what otherwise would have been the case. Progressive governments, even those in wealthy countries like the UK and Singapore, aggressively court foreign investment. Why do we need jobs and more consumer choice take pains to limit it to the point of writing restrictions into our constitution? (I listened and re-listened to this part, but I can’t really understand her last sentence. I’m guessing a line was missed?)

Yet another bottleneck is the high corporate income tax. At 30%, it is the highest among ASEAN countries. The comparable rates are 25% in Indonesia, 20% in Malaysia and Vietnam, and 17% in Thailand and Singapore. (She got a little confused in stating these percentages.) With the quality of our infrastructure, how do we expect any one to shortlist our country as a production base in the region? And the figures, bear this out: last year we attracted 6 billion in foreign direct investments vs. the other 10 billion that Thailand and Malaysia attracted, and Indonesia’s 20 billion dollars. And this has already progressed because prior to 2010, we used to attract an average of less than 2 billion in foreign direct investments every year.

Yet another bottleneck is what one might call the evenness of our playing field. The goal posts seem to move with every change of administration, an unresponsive…um… as do the rules of the game and the incentive structures. An unresponsive bureaucracy and slow justice system have also favored the well-connected and those adept at bending the rules to the discrimination of outsiders - small and medium enterprises and those who abide by the rule of law.

Indeed these are but a few of the bottlenecks we have engineered into our economy that discourage investments and job creation. But a comprehensive listing is outside the scope of this discussion. In the interest of time, let me move on to some of the ways I intend to break down the barriers to faster and more inclusive growth.

First and foremost, if elected, I pledge to continue President Aquino’s fight against corruption. This government has shown that good governance equals good economics. But let this not be said for only the incumbent political party enjoys a monopoly over such a platform. Last I checked the “Daang Matuwid” or the Straight Path is not really registered under anyone in the patent’s office. My government will continue to promote honesty in all levels of government and lead by example to vigorously prosecute corrupt officials whatever their party affiliation. This I can promise you. This I will promise to our businessmen who choose to invest and create jobs in our country.

Second, I will support Congress’ initiative to deliberate and ease constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership. The most economically progressive countries do not restrict foreign ownership in their economies. We want more jobs created here and more taxes paid to our treasury. Better for consumers, better for laborers, better for the national coffers, if necessary. My government will require that foreign companies list their shares in the stock exchange so that local citizens may own a piece of them and should give comfort to the nationals.

Third I propose to lower corporate income tax rates to at most 25%, if possible, even lower. I believe that in an era of competition, tax rates should be determined not by choice, but by necessity. If you want businesses to locate here, we cannot be uncompetitive on price. One may ask how we intend to make up for the shortfall. For starters, the national budget can still be streamlined. The passage of the Freedom of Information Bill will likely resolve the shrinking of lump-sum items. The underspending, for your information, of our government amounted to 623 billion from 2011 to 2014 and 303 billion in 2014 alone. This is money that the government was not able to spend but was collected from our taxpayers and other revenues. But common sense as well as with other experiences in other countries dictate that there may be no shortfall in the long run. Like with a business that has been overcharging its customers for years wakes up and lowers its prices to what everyone else in the neighborhood is charging. In the long run, business should improve.

Fourth, I will strive to create a level-playing field for all current and prospective investors. There will be no shifting of goal posts or changing of the rules midstream. In line with the continued pursuit of good governance, my government shall continue to reform the justice system and promote a business-friendly attitude in the bureaucracy and among local governments. Rule of law will and should prevail under my government and proximity to Malacanang and the powers that be will not be a factor to make a decent return in the Philippines.

I’ve spoken enough for now though but by no means do I claim that this has given you an exhaustive to-do list. You should at the very least have gotten a flavor of the investment climate and how it would be like in our administration.

To summarize, government will be an enabler, not a substitute for private investment. We will be there to create the playing field that enables the competitive and law-abiding investor to earn an attractive return on his investment. We have the wherewithal to be the perfect enablers. We enjoy the macro stability and fiscal space created by low budget deficit, moderate levels of government debt and an investment grade rating. We enjoy a healthy current account surplus, and benefit from low commodity prices. Structurally, we offer the investor a population of 100 million that is perhaps the youngest in Asia with over 60% of working age and conversant in English. Our median age is at 23 years old and will remain so until 2050. With these pluses and an economy that is already growing at a trajectory of 6% amidst a sluggish world environment, there’s no reason why we cannot turn the next 6 years into the golden age of the Philippine economy. I invite you to join me in this quest to forever erase all memories of our time of being the sick man of Asia. Indeed, let us cement our status as a shining star of the region. But we should not lose sight of the end goal, and that is for the country to achieve genuine and sustainable development and for all Filipinos to have a better quality of life. I think it is in our hands. Many of you are here today, and us in government to make the quality of life for many better here in our country today, and to provide the investment atmosphere that will be enticing for many to come in and invest in our country.

But to put things in perspective, I would like to liberally paraphrase Robert Kennedy. He said, “Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material wealth. Our gross national product, which is what we usually discuss, does not necessarily allow for the health of our children, their quality of education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate, or the integrity of our officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It cannot measure everything which makes life worthwhile.” So I think that with all the gains the country has had in the past how many years, I think it’s time for us to really put the start to inclusive growth - to really look at social protection means to help the general public, but this can only be done, I know, if the government will also provide a climate for our investors to come in. Again, thank you for this opportunity and good afternoon.

Her speech was applauded. And I was personally pleased that she later on agreed to a Q&A, which I earlier heard was not going to happen. She was a pleasant surprise during the Q&A. I told yo,u I like her soothing voice and maybe it’s safe to say that “She’s GRACE under pressure.” I thought her answers were okay. But as I transcribed the Q&A part, I started to shave off some points I initially gave her.

 

The Q&A

1. How would you address the concern about the perceived lack of experience on your part relative to the other candidates?

Answer: Well, there’s nothing I can do about that. Really my experience in government is just five years. Now let us look at past experiences. First of all, I think this was the same issue that they had with Pres. Noynoy Aquino. But I think the example that he has set has shown us that the important thing is really the integrity, and what your goals are for the country and how you can really inspire and serve as a role model and serve as an example to the public. I think his fight against corruption is really the one that echoes with most to us. And this is leadership by example. Now even if I’ve had only 5 years in government and maybe the others running against me have more experience, I guess I should report to you what I’ve done in that short period of time. So for our foreign guests here today, in the Philippines we have the Movie & Television Review Classification Board. In the US it’s called the MPAA. What I did for this department – we had some policy and political changes as well as it was a chance for me also to improve on how it is to be an administrator in an executive position. The MTRCB has a very small budget. The administration before me had to work with P60 million a year. But when I came in because of the austerity measures of the Aquino administration, we cut our budget to P23 million. But in spite of that, not only did I reach my target goals, we were able to remit even higher than our target, I think at that time it was P40 million that we brought in. We cut the rates by 70% of the ones who were involved in indie filming. Now it might be a small feat but another thing that we also did at that time was that instead of concentrating on censorship, what we did was self-regulation. We encouraged the stakeholders to come in and to police themselves according to the ratings that we’ve set for children.

OK now fast forward, in the Senate. I won in 2013 and I was given two committees – one, Public Information & Mass Media, the other one Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, which is usually a committee headed by a man. In both committees, the challenge was, the first one Public Information, I had to pass a very contentious bill in the Senate, The Freedom of Information. But we did this in a record seven months. It was difficult because we had to deal with National Security questions, and staunch supporters of hiding things from the public, but we did pass it in 7 months. That was the first major bill passed in the Senate, other than the smaller bills such as suspending the SK elections. And then in Public Order & Dangerous Drugs, of course we were tasked with investigating the Mamasapano incident. It was a hearing that was very challenging because you were investigating the top leaders of the country and including institutions like the PNP, the AFP, actually foreign governments and their diplomatic relations in the Philippines, as well as rebel groups like the MILF. So it was very difficult to balance all the arguments of everybody and they were very impassioned in their involvement during the hearing. But they said, “How were you able to maintain order in the Senate in spite of it being chaotic?” I said, “I used to be a preschool teacher so I know how to deal with children!” For those people who are saying I don’t have the lengthy experience others have had, that is true, but nobody has ever really “become” president. I mean unless you’re overstaying in that position or you won because of some revolutionary government so you go beyond your reelection, so I think we are all coming in also from the same vantage point, except that they’ve been with the government long enough. But I think your length of service is not a guaranty, it’s more the quality of your service that should matter.

 

 2. One of the frustrations with this government is the infrastructure roll out. How do you square that circle considering that you will also lower income taxes?

Answer: Well, as I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of leaks that we should plug. As I mentioned from 2012 – 2014, we have an unspent budget amount close to P700 billion. Plus we have P312 billion from 2014 that the government was not able to spend, not to mention I think in the last budget hearing in the lower house, they were saying that the BIR was not able to collect about P400 million and the BOC was not able to collect about P200 million, so about 3-2% of the GDP. So these are the things we can take a look at. Why are we penalizing the general public for our inefficiencies? Clearly, the government’s role is to be able to run an efficient government. And see where else we can source funding to provide basic provisions without burdening the public. So I think at the very least, any administration owes a healthy discussion about tax reform. And I feel that with the Asian Economic Integration, it will be certainly a disadvantage for us to have the highest tax rates in the region.

During the pause before the next question, bumati si Senator Grace (she greeted). smiley-163510_640

“I’d like to say hello to some of my friends who are present here today. I don’t know if you’d like to be identified, but you know who you are.”

 

 3. There was also news that your VP running mate Chiz Escudero is pushing to increase minimum wage. Is that something you’d be pushing for as well?

Answer: You know I’ve heard about that. I’m not sure how he was quoted on that. But after that, I think he had a subsequent position, which was more in tune with what I’m thinking. First of all, I really believe that what we should aim for is a strong economy. And that should be the basis for us to increase wages. Where there’s more competition, more choices for our workers to find a job. I am quite uncomfortable using legislation to peg the minimum wage. We have local wage boards that conduct discussions of those but of course, if it becomes unjust, the government steps in when there’s an unreasonable inflation rate, but at this point, where there is low inflation rate, we should have a healthy discussion with those wage boards, and that I think the market forces can be taken, but that is not to say that we do not support a higher take home pay for our employees. That’s why we want to institute tax reforms. That’s why we would like to increase the services through Philhealth, and through controlling inflation if possible by having healthy policies on products and farm inputs, etc.

 

4. I think having invested here and looking at anti-corruption campaigns, can you just give us an idea how far through that process are… and is it likely in the short term or next couple of years if you are successful… to slowly … we’ve seen this in China, India, Indonesia where they have some strong anti-graft campaign has sort of slowed down in growth as people are unprepared to make decisions.

(Okay, this was a foreigner asking and even I was not very clear on his question, and I liked that Senator Grace clarified his question first before she answered, although she started with...)

Answer: I understand what you mean. So what you’re saying, let me just clarify what you’re saying. So you’re saying anti-corruption reforms might actually slow down the economy. Well, we’ve seen that happen with the DAP controversy. The government having difficulty spending the money because of the absorptive capacity of some institutions but what I feel also a… these are the foundations we need to build. Any anti-corruption campaign should be taken seriously because they say good governance is good economics. So in this case, we are slowly adjusting to this new system of accountability and we need to push it. Now, I don’t think that it’s so much the anti-corruption campaign that has slowed down the spending ability of the government. Let me give you an example. Problems of infrastructure alone, the problems that have come up – acquiring the right of way to be able to build roads, contracts being challenged in courts, the changing of the terms of reference midstream. These are the things that actually slowed down the implementation of certain projects. So I think that we can support this by bringing transparency in the government, by bringing more people in the deliberation process. I think every administration should convene, what I mean, the LEDAC or the Legislative Executive Council that will decide on projects, together with the executive. And I think that this should also be done with the judiciary, so that we can suggest which legislation we should push for to be able to create an environment that’s conducive to investors. As I was saying, we’re not competing with congress for power. Let’s say the executive should not think of it as that. They should think of Congress as a partner in development.

5. It might be too early, but if it’s not, could you share your information on your support team on the economy? Who will be advising you on the economy?

Answer: (Sighs with a faint laughter) Ok, um… I’m being candid with you all. I know that that’s the worry of some groups. Who’s surrounding Senator Poe? Some of you may not necessarily agree with some people you think are with me. Ah… you know you can never really please anyone (maybe she meant everyone). If I have to pick someone who’s running for public office the important thing is I’m confident … um… I’m confident with the foundations that I have. That’s one thing. I pride myself in being able to make judgments in the past year, which I think are fair. I may not be perfect. I may make some mistakes but I own up to them. But here’s the thing, who are the people in my team? And you should know this yourself, the culture that we have in business. A lot are helping, I mean very respectable individuals from the business community. Are they willing to come out now? I’m not sure, maybe you guys are very secretive also, I don’t know why, but what I feel is this: A lot of the movers and players of business industries, I seek their inputs and advice on matters that clearly affect their industry. Nobody has a monopoly of what’s right. It doesn’t mean that just because we were elected by the people and we’re in government we will know how to run business well. Obviously, you have to have the inputs of stakeholders. So I have consulted some members, not the official club itself, but some members of the Makati Business Club, in their individual capacity. I’ve sought them out for their advice, on their brief presentation such as agriculture, ease of doing business, competitiveness, a… but other candidates are also free to consult with them. Hopefully, in the coming months these individuals will have the strength, the courage to say, “Yes, I’m the one helping Senator Poe.” They’re probably thinking let’s see if she can defend our policies well, because she might screw… (laughter from her and the audience) and then it will be on us. No, but I respect these individuals and I think when the time comes and they come out, you will probably heave a sigh of relief.

6. I think one of the issues that are facing the investors here is really the size and the depth of the capital market, the stock and bond market. Investors don’t have enough room to invest. And there’s talk about what we can do in tax reforms, to help broaden the capital markets. I just want to know if, at this stage, you have suggestions on how we can broaden the capital markets? 

Answer: So you’re talking about the capital markets in the Philippines? Um… well one thing is we should really deliberate on our foreign ownership in our constitution, how we should allow more foreign investments to come in. We cannot be too restrictive. We have to be just, but we also have to be practical about certain things. Not giving up on our sovereignty and that when you have more investments coming in, you have more competition, you have more places to determine where you want to invest. What type of restriction… You know there’s a proposal and I’m not saying that I’ll subscribe to it now, this is just one of the proposals and I think it is worthy of discussion in the lower house. The proposal of Speaker Belmonte is, we can put this line, “as may be provided by law” for the economic provisions, so we can tackle each particular economic provision individually. You know, because there’s no question on land ownership, and there are suggestions, of course these have not yet been deliberated upon by the Senate, like should we allow this if it will be used for manufacturing or for tourism? Certainly, I think this is a priority. I think in my first few months I will have in office, these are the things I will be sending to Congress for deliberation. The deliberation on economic policies, Freedom of Information, the modernizing of the Customs and Tariffs, and a few of the other things that we need to focus on.

7. I found an article where you were quoted as saying you want to reduce electricity bills or tariffs which would be good for the manufacturing sector, could you elaborate how you plan to achieve this?

Answer: When you look at our Meralco bill, there are many different items there. We have transmission charge, systems loss, and whatever. Now when you talk to those that produce power, they will tell you that they’re already at very competitive level. There are also legacy debt (I’m not sure about this.) that are tucked on to the bill. Another thing also is transmission cost. There are some proposals, that’s why I said it in my 20-point program, to exhaust ways to be able to lower the bill.  There are certain proposals that indigenous sources of energy should be taxed less, or removed from that total bill um…um…for…for… to tuck in the VAT or whatever, but of course this is really something that we need to discuss. I really think that the bidding process in selling um… the spot market or whatever… should be transparent…um… so that there’s no collusion and it’s up to bidding to those who are producing the power. And when you have the healthy bidding and transparent process, chances are really, you can maintain, a level, a decent level of electricity cost. But you know in other countries, for example Vietnam. Yes their electricity is low but it’s truly subsidized by the government. The EPIRA law, some are saying doesn’t really work. Some are saying that it’s good. But I think there are stages in the EPIRA like for example, if only they will allow the building of power plants at a faster way with less a..a… permits or friction costs or whatever… um… we would have the supply that we needed and it won’t take three years just to get the permits, or a year and half just to build the power plant. I talked to some of them, I think by next year our power needs in Mindanao will be sufficient. This is what they’re saying.

8. Irrespective of the presidents, the engine of growth has always been OFW remittances and BPOs. In your term, will we see another revenue stream?

Answer: With technology and apps, sometimes with the BPO, we will have to be able to diversify to raise the level to analytics. So you’re not just having people answering robotic, very predictable questions but can provide high level of analysis and that’s the kind of labor we are providing. But aside from that, the low hanging fruit is really tourism. It has a multiplier effect just because it’s like 100% spent in the country. Compared to those with export cost, the return would be much higher. But this will not succeed if we don’t fix our infrastructure. We can promote our country all we want and everybody knows our country is beautiful, but if you live in the United States and you only have two weeks vacation every year, you would say, “Do I want to go to a country that would take me three days to go to an island? Or a country where it’s relatively easy and hassle free to travel?” So one of the things is improving our air transport capacity and transports. Do you know that small fixes can be done? Like for example in provinces, we don’t have landing lights in our runways that’s why at 5 pm they cannot accept landing. Meaning the bottleneck is NAIA because of that simple landing lights problems. So really just small things that the government can concentrate on. There’s a proposal to have a third runway in NAIA, the reclamation is somewhere in Sangley Point, then Clark. But we should always think of the short term as well as the long term. Sometimes we’re so short sighted that we only take a look at 6 years. In fact, the Philippine Development Plan will end in 2016 and we need another plan for the next 10 years.

9. You handled the Senate inquiry on the railways. Please give us your insights on the bottlenecks of the railways and what you intend to do assuming that PPP and infrastructure as part of your priority program?

Answer: I know a part of this, and I think the bottleneck is really the inefficiency and the shortcomings of the government. I think that from the get-go there are certain terms of the agreement that would probably, some would say, one-sided. On the other hand, you may say that the government had entered into that contract. That’s why you may feel that in some discussions about the government not having the right engineers, or the lawyers to scrutinize contracts, to see if it’s actually viable, well then the government can hire a consulting company that can provide those people to review those contracts. What bottlenecks do I see? Well first of all, the transparency factors should really be there. Let’s just look at the MRT system. In 2010 Pres. Aquino took office. And then Ping de Jesus, the Transportation secretary, resigned and he was replaced and during that time, the person there did not want to continue the maintenance provided by the Sumitomo. And after that, Sec. Abaya took over. He just signed what was approved by the last one. Meaning, giving the contract to a company that’s not capitalized, a company that’s not been proven in maintenance providing or something like that. So they did an emergency bid but people weren’t able to scrutinize the merits of that contract. Another thing is for the MRT, sourcing, staying on with their deliverables. I think anybody that you get for the government, of course it’s always easy to say, “We’ll get the best and the brightest to be there.” They should be the right person for the job. They should have integrity and capability. But also they should have deliverables. If they don’t meet their deliverables, I think you should just give them one or two chances then they should leave. I think we held on too much to so many in government right now in the top posts that did not perform or underperform. There’s MRT 7 that should have been constructed from Plaridel, Bulacan all the way to Quezon City. And there’s still that question about the right of way at the common station? And some right of way issues for by-pass roads? And the sad thing about this is, it is the role of the government to make sure that those right of way issues are cleared up. And sometimes the ones who own the land are not private individuals, they’re actually owned by the government, and the government can’t even negotiate with themselves. So you really have to have a strong political will to implement these projects. Of course, this is something I was thinking out, in your first 100 days in office, we should have a war room in Malacanang, that just clearly monitors infrastructure, where we have all our infrastructure projects and where are we now? Because this is really something that the president can press on with the local government. We need this at this time. Otherwise, if we just allow the old bureaucratic process to take place, six years is not really going to be enough.

That was the last question and the host, Noel Bautista, thanked the senator. 

These were her last words, “Can I just thank you again for your warm welcome. This is my first business forum format, and I said I don’t really attend this very much. Thank you for being kind.”

 

My Burning Question:

I approached her to ask my question.

Rose: Hi Senator Grace. May I ask you a question?

Sen. Grace: Yes, what is it?

Rose: If you win as president, what will be the role of Chiz Escudero in your administration?

Sen. Grace: He will be my “Hudsy.”

Rose: Your what?

Sen. Grace: He will be my “Hudsy.” That will be his role.

(She said it with a friendly smile. Honestly, I didn’t understand what that meant but I thought maybe I could google that. Before I could ask what’s that, she said…)

Sen. Grace: Don’t worry, I will be watching him!

(She said this with the sweetest comforting smile as she touched my arm. Then of course, the mandatory selfie followed. smiley-163510_640)

 Later on when I googled, I realized that she probably meant HUDCC – Housing Development Coordinating Council.

03 - Grace with author_FQ
Sen. Grace Poe with the author

 

Impressions:

Senator Grace was disarming. She’s petite but she has an aura of confidence, yet not intimidating. She could be your friend, your co-parent, your sister you’d love to have long lunches with. For the younger voters, she could be their tita they could confide in who would give them sensible advice. For the elderly, she could be their devoted daughter they could count on. Packaging-wise, I think she’s a winner!

Honestly, right after the Q&A I thought she was great and was the best in that category among the three. It was only when I transcribed the Q&A portion that I saw that there’s a huge room for learning. There were times that she would contradict herself, like when she was discussing how to expedite things then she says they bring in should more people in the deliberation process! When she was discussing how to lower our power cost, she cited Vietnam as an example of a country with low power cost but later on said, "but that's subsidized" and I don't think she was proposing subsidy. Then she would mention this and that proposal or info she got from here and there, sounding like she found the easy solution, but has yet to fully understand and really digest all these data and figure out how to use them. But I didn't notice all these while I was listening to her.

You cannot really underestimate the effect of packaging and that blink factor. “She got me at hello.” smiley-163510_640 But I do like her. She seems smart and kind, and maybe her debating skills worked on me because I thought her answers were a lot better when I heard them compared to when I read them.

 

Let me share with you the other comments I gathered from the attendees:

  1. She had a clear 4-point speech and answered what she will do with the issues. She was surprisingly strong in the Q&A with sincere, honest and logical responses.
  2. I heard motherhood statements from a mother.
  3. She’s very Americanized, hahaha! She quoted Kennedy and would refer to the US in her talk and answers.
  4. I would vote for her if I were a Filipino. Although I didn’t hear Sec. Mar so I could not compare.
  5. It’s funny to hear her always say, “whatever” when she didn’t know what to say next.
  6. I wonder who the people behind her are? I hope that, as she said, we would really heave a sigh of relief when we finally know who they are.

 

Let’s take this elections seriously

I’m also heaving a sigh of relief as I end this article. I’ve spent long hours, three days straight transcribing and writing this 3-part series. It’s a labor of love. smiley-163510_640 I know that not all of us will have the chance to really listen to them beyond their sound bites on tv and their campaign sorties. I hope that in my own little way, I was able to give you a peak into how the three candidates go through their thought process, how they react, how they interact, so that you will have a clearer insight into the person you will put into office to lead us for the next six years.

 

P.S. On Senator Miriam Santiago

The senator announced her intention to run for the highest office this week, and I received some requests to also write about her. Unfortunately, she was not in the conference. Sayang! I think we can all agree that she comes up with the best sound bites and would have been an interesting article. But to those who are seriously considering to vote for her, I suggest you go beyond her witty sound bites and funny pa-laban antics. Make the necessary research to find out, or remind yourself of what she stands for, her thought process, her history, how she has been in our political firmament. And I think you can easily google these - how she performed in the impeachment proceedings which were shown live on tv, etc., because that’s my wish: For every voter to come up with a well-thought out decision on who to put in office. Let’s all vote wisely. Mabuhay and Pilipinas!

 

To read the first two parts clink the following links:

Candidate No. 1: Jejomar Binay

Candidate No. 2: Mar Roxas

 

************************

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

  1. I will speak at the ADMU John Gokongwei School of Management during their JGSOM week on October 30, 2015.
  2. I will speak at the Knowledge Community, Inc. on How to Raise and Nurture Children to have High FQ on November 19, 2015 at the Crown Plaza Hotel.
  3. I will speak at the 6th PANA (Philippine Association of National Advertisers) Foundation IMC Youth Congress on November 27, 2015 at the Philippine Trade Training Center, Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. cor. Roxas Blvd., Pasay City.

Rose Fres Fausto is the author of bestselling books Raising Pinoy Boys and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon. Her new book is the Filipino version of the latter entitled Ang Muling Pagsasalaysay ng Ang Pinakamayamang Tao sa Babilonya. Click this link to read samples of the books. Books of FQ Mom Rose Fres Fausto. She is also the grand prize winner of the first Sinag Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Awards.

 

Attribution: Photos taken by the author during the dbAccess Philippines Conference 2015, and images from mrcheapjusticefiles.wordpress.com, philstar.com, thefilam.net put together to help deliver the message of the article.

 

This article is also published in FQMom.com and RaisingPinoyBoys.com.

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