Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares (baptized September 3, 1968, [po]) is a Filipina senator, businesswoman, educator, and philanthropist. She is the adopted daughter of actors Susan Roces and Fernando Poe Jr. She served as chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) from 2010 to 2012 and in the Philippine Senate since 2013.
Poe studied at the University of the Philippines Manila, where she majored in development studies, but moved to Boston College in Massachusetts, United States where she finished a degree in political science and has spent much of her adult life in Fairfax, Virginia. In 2004, her adoptive father ran for the Philippine presidency against the incumbent, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but was defeated; he died months later. On April 8, 2005, Grace returned to the Philippines after learning that her father had died. She began pursuing her father's rights over the results of the election and campaigned against alleged electoral fraud.
Poe ran for a seat in the Philippine Senate during the election in 2013 as an Independent affiliated with the Team PNoy coalition of Aquino. She ended up winning more votes than other candidates and over 20 million votes, ahead of Loren Legarda, who previously topped two elections. She was a candidate for the 2016 presidential election. Despite numerous attempts to have her disqualified, the Supreme Court of the Philippines deemed her a natural-born Filipino citizen and she is qualified to become President based on her 10-year residency. Poe placed third in the presidential race count. In May 2019, Poe was reelected senator with over 22 million votes.
She was found on September 3, 1968, in Iloilo City by a woman, in the holy water font of Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral, the main church of the city. When the infant was discovered, the parish priest named her "Grace" in the belief that her finding was through the grace of God; she was christened by Jaime Sin, the Archbishop of Jaro, who would later become Archbishop of Manila. Although the cathedral issued an announcement in the hopes that her biological mother would claim her, no one stepped forward. Grace was taken in by the Militar family, with Sayong Militar's in-law Edgardo, who was a signatory on the child's foundling certificate, considered to be her possible father. Sayong Militar later passed Grace on to her friend Tessie Ledesma Valencia, an unmarried, childless heiress of a sugar baron from Bacolod, Negros Occidental.
Valencia was also friends with film stars Fernando Poe, Jr. and Susan Roces, who were newlyweds at the time; Valencia was an acquaintance of Roces and was the one who brought Grace in trips between Bacolod and Manila. The Poes took Grace in after Valencia decided the baby would be better off with two parents in the Philippines rather than with her as a single parent in the United States, where she was moving to. Militar was initially hesitant in the letting Poe couple adopt Grace because she was unfamiliar with them, having entrusted the baby to Valencia, but was convinced by Archbishop Sin to let the couple adopt her.
Poe was legally adopted by the actors Fernando Poe, Jr. and Susan Roces and she was named Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe by them. While still young, she watched her father from the sets of his movies—even playing minor roles in some of them, such as the daughter of Paquito Diaz's character in Durugin si Totoy Bato, and as a street child in Dugo ng Bayan. Ultimately, Poe did not enter show business.
In 1975, she attended elementary school at Saint Paul College of Pasig and Saint Paul College of Makati. In 1982, Poe transferred to Assumption College San Lorenzo for high school. Following high school, Poe entered the University of the Philippines Manila (UP), where she majored in development studies. She transferred to Boston College, where she graduated with a degree in political science in 1991. She interned for William Weld's campaign while in college.
In 2003, her adoptive father, Fernando Poe, Jr. announced that he was entering politics, running for President of the Philippines in the upcoming election under the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) against then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Poe returned to the Philippines to help him campaign, but returned to the United States afterward.
Fernando Poe, Jr. was rushed to the hospital after a stroke later that year. Grace immediately returned to the Philippines, only to arrive shortly after her father had died on December 14, 2004. Following her father's death, Poe and her family decided to return permanently to the Philippines on April 8, 2005, in order to be with her widowed mother.
Media regulatory board
In the 2010 general election, Poe served as a convenor of Kontra Daya. She also became honorary chairperson of the FPJ for President Movement (FPJPM), the group which was organized to pressure her father to run in 2004, continuing the movement's social relief programs for the less fortunate. On October 10, 2010, President Benigno Aquino III appointed Poe to serve as chairwoman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). She was sworn in on October 21, 2010, at the Malacañang Palace and was later reappointed by President Aquino for another term on October 23, 2011.
While at the MTRCB, Poe had advocated for a "progressive" agency which would have enabled the television and film industries to help the Philippine economy, with her tenure being marked by an emphasis on diplomacy. At the beginning of her term, Poe instigated the implementation of a new ratings system for television programs, which she said was "designed to empower parents to exercise caution and vigilance with the viewing habits of their children". This was complemented by the implementation of a new ratings system for movies—a system which closely follows the new television ratings system—at the end of her term.
The MTRCB under Poe's tenure also implemented policies and programs to promote "intelligent viewing", such as promulgating the implementing rules and regulations for the Children's Television Act of 1997 some fifteen years after its passage, and enforcing restrictions on the type of viewing material that can be shown on public buses. Despite this thrust, Poe has spoken out against restrictions on freedom of expression, preferring self-regulation to censorship. During this time, she encouraged the creation of new cinematic output through the reduction of review fees despite cuts to its budget, and has promoted the welfare of child and female actors.
Although Poe was rumored to be running for senator as early as 2010, it was not confirmed that she would stand for election until October 1, 2012, when President Aquino announced that she was selected by the administration Team PNoy coalition as a member of their senatorial slate. Poe filed her certificate of candidacy the next day on October 2, 2012. Although running under the banner of the Team PNoy coalition, Poe officially ran as an independent. Poe was also a guest candidate of the left-leaning Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan. Until February 21, 2013, Poe was, along with Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero, one of three common guest candidates of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice-President Jejomar Binay.
Analysts noted the rapid rise of Poe in national election surveys, which community organizer Harvey Keh attributed to popular sympathy for her father, fueled in part by high public trust in the Poe name. Prior to the start of the election season, Poe was ranked twenty-eighth in a preliminary survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in mid-2012, before the start of the filing period. Immediately after filing her candidacy, Poe initially ranked fifteenth in the first survey of the election, published by StratPOLLS. While she ranked as low as twentieth in a survey published by SWS later in the year, she entered the top 12 in January 2013, where she stayed. In the last survey issued by Pulse Asia in April 2013, she was ranked third.
While Poe herself admitted that her biggest strength in the campaign was her surname, she also conceded that it would be insufficient for her to be elected simply on that alone, emphasizing that her platform is just as important as her name in getting her elected to the Senate. She also dismissed claims that her candidacy was her family's revenge against her father's loss in 2004, saying that all she wants to do is serve should she be elected to the Senate. A day after the election, Poe was announced as among the winners with her having the highest number of votes. She was officially proclaimed a senator by the COMELEC board on May 2013, along with fellow Team PNoy candidates Chiz Escudero, Sonny Angara, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Loren Legarda, as well United Nationalist Alliance candidate Nancy Binay (who did not attend, opting instead to send her lawyer to represent her).
In the 2013 elections, Poe ran on an eleven-point platform promising to continue the legacy of her father. Her labor legislative agenda also includes more opportunities, skill development and growth for Filipino workers, employment security for the disabled and handicapped, and protection of workers in the informal sector. Specific policies she advocated in the course of her campaign include reviving the national elementary school lunch program first introduced during Marcos Era, the installation of closed-circuit television cameras in government offices, and stricter penalties against child pornography, continuing her earlier advocacy during her time at the MTRCB. In addition, she has also advocated against Internet censorship.
Poe also stresses the importance of female participation in government, having already filed a number of laws for the betterment of women and children in her term of office; she has also called for an investigation on the proliferation of cybersex dens that prey on children and women, and an inquiry on the condition of women detainees and prisoners.
"Effective leadership can be gleaned not just from the progress of a few but the advancement of the majority, especially of those who find themselves in the fringes," Poe said during a speech delivered at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) on May 28, 2015. This was attended mostly by female leaders and entrepreneurs. "It is important for women to have genuine meaningful participation in public affairs. Women leaders have an invaluable take on issues of public interest."
On her first day as a senator in the 16th Congress, Poe filed a bill promoting "film tourism" which aims to make the Philippines a primary location for local and international films. She said that this would generate jobs and promote tourism in the Philippines as well. Poe also filed the "Sustenance for the Filipino child" bill which seeks to give free nutritious meals to children enrolled in public elementary schools and high schools in K-12. It aims to solve hunger and malnutrition which hindered the Filipino youth's potential. Another notable bill filed by Poe is the "First 1000 days" bill which seeks to protect and support Filipino children in their first 1,000 days after they were born. This addresses the problem of malnutrition of Filipino children by providing nutrition counselling, milk feeding, and other needs of children. In addition, Poe is also pushing for the Freedom of Information bill which will promote greater transparency and lessen corruption in the government. This bill will allow government transactions to be open to the public. In 2015, she led the legislature's investigations into the Mamasapano clash, which left 44 Special Action Force members dead.
|“||I am Grace Poe. A Filipino. A daughter, wife and mother. And with God's grace, I offer myself for the country's highest calling as your President.||”|
|— Grace Poe's ending remarks of her speech during her announcement last September 16, 2015.|
Poe was widely speculated to be a potential presidential or vice presidential candidate in the 2016 general elections, with possible running mates such as Rep. Leni Robredo and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Poe placed first on a presidential preference poll issued by Pulse Asia In June 2015 with a rating of 30%, outranking previous front runner Vice President Jejomar Binay, who had a 22% rating. She also placed first in the vice-presidential poll, with a 41% preference nationwide. In an opinion survey issued by Social Weather Stations (SWS) in June 2015, Poe also placed first, with a 42% preference. She also placed first in SWS' vice-presidential poll, with a 41% rating.
On September 16, 2015, Poe, together with Francis Escudero, declared her presidential bid, in front of hundreds of supporters, family and friends at the Bahay ng Alumni, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City under the newly coalition of Partido Galing at Puso, composed of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and is led by the Nationalist People's Coalition. Former Philippine President and Mayor of Manila Joseph Estrada has given his support to her. On her speech announcing her presidential bid, Grace Poe laid down a 20-point program of government if she would be elected.
In June 2015, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) interim president and Navotas City Representative Toby Tiangco claimed that Poe lacked the 10-year residency requirement for a presidential candidate. There was an issue about Poe's certificate of candidacy (COC) for senator in 2012 for the 2013 Philippine Senate Elections, in which she had stated that she had been a resident of the Philippines for six years and six months. Tiangco stated that even during the time of the 2016 Presidential Elections, Poe would still be six months short of the residency requirement.
On November 17, 2015, the Senate Electoral Tribunal opted to drop the cases against her. The decision was affirmed on December 3, 2015. In their judgment on the case, the SET declared that Grace Poe, a foundling, is a "natural-born Filipino", which allowed her to retain her seat in the Philippine Senate. David filed a motion for reconsideration to reverse the ruling by SET, which was rejected on December 3, 2015, after which he filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. On December 1, 2015, the COMELEC's second division disqualified her as presidential candidate due to failing to meet the "10-year requirement" for residency. Under COMELEC rules, the party or coalition supporting her may file a substitute before December 10, 2015. On December 11, the commission's first division also disqualified Poe. The first division, voted 2–1 in favor of the petitions to disqualify and cancel her certificate of candidacy. These decisions were appealed to the COMELEC en banc, which on December 23, 2015, formally disqualified Poe from running as president in the 2016 elections for failing to meet the 10-year residency requirement. Poe said she would appeal the disqualification to the Supreme Court. On December 28, 2015, the Supreme Court issued two temporary restraining orders against the decision of the COMELEC en banc.
On March 8, 2016, voting 9–6, the Supreme Court voted to affirm Poe' natural-born status and 10-year residency. On April 9, 2016, the Supreme Court declared their ruling as final and executory.
In February 2017, she voted in favor of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act or TRAIN Law. After the inflation rate increased due to the law, Poe said that she voted in favor because President Duterte 'needed funds'. On the same month, Poe did not support the resolution declaring that the Senate has a say in the termination of any treaty or international agreement. In December 13, 2017, she voted in favor of the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
In May 17, 2018, Poe was among the senators who voted in favor of a resolution calling on the Supreme Court to review its decision granting the quo warranto petition and ousting Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. In June 2018, she voted in favor of a national ID system. In September 2018, Poe announced her bid for re-election in the Senate. In October 15, she filed her certificate of candidacy for senator.
In 2019, after the 2018 Philippine third telecommunications provider bidding, Poe chaired the committee which allowed the telecommunication franchise of Mislatel, composed of China Telecom and businessman Dennis Uy's Udenna Corp and Chelsea Logistics. The approval was controversial because of the company's connection to China, Chinese security threats, and its violations to Philippine franchise laws. Despite this, in February 6, Poe gave the green light for the company's endorsement to the plenary.
On May 13, 2019, Poe was reelected to the Senate with over 22 million votes, coming in second, only behind fellow Senator Cynthia Villar.
Poe worked as a preschool teacher at a local Montessori education-style school in 1995. In 1998, she left her job as a teacher to work as a procurement liaison officer at the United States Geological Survey. In 2005, she was made Vice President and Treasurer of her father's film production company, FPJ Productions, and was put in charge of maintaining the company's archive of over 200 films.
Poe is an avid reader: she has read all the books of David Baldacci, who she describes as her favorite author, but she has also read books from a wide variety of genres and authors. She is also a film aficionado, watching all kinds of movies but with a particular affinity for action films, conspiracy movies, movies starring her father, and movies with happy endings. Poe is a tennis player and also has a black belt in taekwondo, having competed in tournaments while in high school.
Poe is a natural-born Filipino. On October 18, 2001, Poe acquired U.S. citizenship by naturalization. She reacquired her Philippine citizenship and in October 2010, she renounced her American citizenship, as per the RA 9225 law.
Poe has two adoptive half-siblings through her father Fernando Poe Jr. Both of these half-siblings are actors: Ronian, born to actress Ana Marin; and Lourdes Virginia (Lovi), born to model Rowena Moran. Though she did not grow up with her half-siblings, even admitting that she met Lovi for the first time only after their father died.
Poe married Teodoro Misael Daniel "Neil" Vera Llamanzares on July 27, 1991. Llamanzares is a natural-born Filipino who held American citizenship since birth until April 2016. He is a veteran of the United States Air Force who served from 1988 to 1991 and later worked for Science Applications International Corporation. He worked for San Miguel Corporation after the return of his wife to the Philippines.
On April 16, 1992, Poe gave birth to her son, Brian, a journalist who worked as a reporter for CNN Philippines. She later gave birth to two daughters: Hanna in 1998, and Nika in 2004. Her family lived in Fairfax, Virginia, for 12 years.
Freedom of Information
Poe is the main proponent of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill and the official face of the government transparency movement in the Philippines. She has been pushing the enactment of the bill on the very first day she was elected as senator.
Poe is in favor of charter change so that the country will attract more investors. The move, she said, will bring more jobs in the country, and will greatly reduce poverty, especially in rural areas. While in the Senate the poverty and specially in the rural hasn't reduced so she doesn't fulfilled that job as a senator.
Poe is against the country's shift to federalism unless an anti-political dynasty law is passed. She sees a federal Philippines without an anti-dynasty law as a nation that would perpetuate political dynasties and prolong their existence.
Taxes and Labor
Poe is in favor of lowering income taxes as she sees it as a burden to the masses. She is against contractualization, stating that the practice is anti-poor.
Poe is vehemently against political dynasties, as she sees it as a source of corruption, which has been proven by various cases connected to families of a political status.
West Philippine Sea Dispute
Poe has repeatedly said in public statements and speeches her opposition to China's territorial aggression and land grabbing in the West Philippine Sea. She is in favor of having a diplomatic battle with China under United Nations specifications and international law. She also wants a unified ASEAN to combat China's aggression.
Mindanao and Communism
Poe is in favor of the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, stating it is key to peace and stability in all of Mindanao and the country as a whole. She is also in favor of resuming peace talks with the Communist Party and its armed wing the New People's Army, while magnifying the integral sovereignty of the Philippines.
North Borneo dispute
Poe believes that the rights to Eastern Sabah is 'for the Philippines, and the Philippines alone.' She bases her position on the claims of the Sultanate of Sulu which gave all its territorial rights to the government of the Philippines in the late 20th century.
Poe is not in favor of divorce, stating that the first thing to do first is to amend the Family Code of the Philippines.
Abortion and Contraception
Poe is in favor of the complete implementation of the Reproductive Health Law which allows the usage of contraception and an effective educational campaign on reproductive health, especially among women. She states that the law will greatly help in reducing maternal deaths. Her position on abortion is not clearly defined.
Poe is in favor of the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill (now SOGIE Equality Bill). The LGBT sector was one of the sectors she prioritized and thanked during her 2016 presidential bid. She was not in favor of same-sex marriage during a 2013 interview and instead was in favor of domestic partnership, however, she changed her mind and announced her all-out support for same-sex marriage in 2016, the first and only presidential candidate in Philippine history to do so.
During her presidential campaign in 2016, Poe was in favor of the death penalty, but only in cases that involves heinous crimes. However, in 2017, she had a change of heart and began to speak out against the reintroduction of the death penalty law after seeing the justice system and law enforcement in the country.
Poe wants to establish a Department of Risk Reduction and Management to nationalize the efforts to manage and mitigate climate change, as the current agency for the job is constrained due to lack of a nationalized integration efforts. She is in favor of the passage of the National Land Use Act, which is one of the priority environmental bills of the Green Thumb Coalition, the country's largest environmental coalition of pro-environment organizations. She is also advocating for the modernization of PAGASA, the country's meteorological institution, and enlargement of the scope of the National Reforestation Program.
Culture and Arts
Being the daughter of a National Artist for Cinema, FPJ, she is a strong advocate for the enhancement and internationalization of Philippine culture and the arts, especially among the youth. She views Philippine culture and arts as the next Asian spotlight.
Education and Indigenous People
Poe vowed to eliminate classroom backlogs and maximize digital technology for education. She stated that her administration will develop a curriculum for indigenous peoples and will initiate reforms in the budget to make sure indigenous people's education is rooted in the IP's' culture. Her target is to build more schools within the 5-kilometer range of IP communities. She is in favor in giving free education in all levels up to college. She has also expressed the need for the continuation of the K-12 Program, which she believes will benefit the country in the long-run.
Agriculture and Aquaculture
Poe wants to allot 10% of GDP solely for the benefit of the country's agriculture and aquaculture industries, which would have been the biggest GDP percentage usage in Philippine history. She is in favor of the establishment of a Department of Aquaculture and agro-industrial zones.
Poe supports the establishment of more resource centers for OFWs to bring services closer to Filipinos abroad. She wants the establishment of a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers. She also stated that the goal is to create a better job environment in the Philippines, so that the country will eventually stop exporting its talented workers. She is supported by notable OFW advocate, Susan 'Toots' Ople.
She is in favor of the passage of the Magna Carta for Internet Freedom. She also advocated for the establishment of free wifi in all public areas in the country and the entrance of foreign internet providers to enhance internet competition in the country, which would help speed-up one of the world's worst internet connection speed.
Poe wants to expand the coverage of PhilHealth, increase the basic pay of medical workers into 25,000 pesos, modernize all public hospitals, and to establish special barangay health centers nationwide.
Poe is advocating for the establishment of a high-speed bullet train system from Manila to Clark. She is also advocating the establishment or modernization of airports, notably in Laoag, Clark, Bacolod, Dumaguet, Bohol, Cebu, and Iloilo. She also intends to fix the bus franchise system which has caused traffic in Metro Manila. She is in favor of shifting into renewable-powered vehicles from the current oil-powered vehicles.
Poe iterated that she will continue and enhance the Conditional Cash Transfer Program (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino) or 4Ps and stresses that the families under the 4Ps should become independent after the program.