Still, Poe's candidacy spooked the business community. The last presidential election was won by another film star, Joseph Estrada, who was run out of office 21/2 years later by a People Power demonstration. Like Estrada, Poe is weak on policy and platformhe has none yetbut is beloved among the country's movie-crazy masses, particularly the poor. He lacks the dissolute reputation of Estrada, however, enjoying a happy marriage to movie queen Susan Roces. If Estrada, who lives in a police camp awaiting trial for economic plunder and perjury, is let out to campaign for Poe, some analysts think Poe will be unbeatable come polling in May. "He's just an actor," sniffed Arroyo's Chief of Staff Rigoberto Tiglao last week. "He's a nothing." The next day, Tiglao changed his tune in a written statement lauding Poe's "patriotism and willingness to sacrifice." The President's men may have recalled a common occurrence in movie houses during Poe film screenings. When a villain insults or lands a punch on Poe, audience members are known to pull out revolvers and shoot at the screen.
When action star Fernando Poe Jr. announced he was running for President of the Philippines last week, the Manila stock market fell nearly 2% and the peso tanked to its lowest level in a century. The Central Bank governor quickly announced that the markets weren't freaking out over Poe alone but were reacting to "a series of events over the last four weeks." Indeed: a band of congressmen tried (unsuccessfully) to impeach the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo saw a mini-exodus of officials, including respected Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho; kidnap gangs ran riot in Manila; power blackouts were predicted for vast stretches of the country. And the day Poe became a candidate, a shadowy group of soldiers released a manifesto threatening a coup if Arroyo didn't clean up the government.