MANILA: Is he or isn't he?
That question about the Filipino citizenship of a film star running for president threatens to tip May's election into even more chaos and send his angry supporters into the streets.
Fernando Poe Jr, or FPJ as he is known, is a household name in the Philippines for beating up the bad guys in movies since the 1950s and has charged ahead in opinion polls without any record in politics.
Despite his close friendship with deposed president Joseph Estrada, Poe insists he is his own man as his campaign team markets him as a force for national unity and positive change.
But his bid to block President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from a fresh term now hangs in limbo as lawyers, senators and newspapers dig up the roots of his family tree.
Accusations of altered documents have roared back and forth.
“I want all of you to know that I am a Filipino,” Poe told a business gathering yesterday. “I won't be disqualified.”
There is no argument that Poe's mother was an American but the citizenship of his father -- Spanish or Filipino -- and the legitimacy of their marriage will determine whether the actor will be allowed to stand in the election on May 10.
Presidential candidates must be Filipino nationals, over the age of 40 and able to read and write.
As a Senate inquiry sat yesterday to weigh the citizenship question, newspaper editorials called on Poe to live up to his image for honesty and on the government to ensure a credible investigation that will settle the issue once and for all.
“It creates a major wrinkle in the predictability of an election that's unpredictable as it is,” Alex Magno, a political analyst and speechwriter for Arroyo, said.
“It could break into a riot. That scenario is a very likely one but whether this will progress into anything more serious, like burning down the election commission building or whatever, is open to speculation.”
Hundreds of Poe supporters demonstrated their displeasure at the election commission on Monday and the head of a loose legion of fans has warned of unrest if the film star is disqualified.
“The people might hold an uprising,” Ruben “Boots” Cadsawan said on Tuesday. “No one will believe that he is not a Filipino.” – Reuters
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