Action film star and presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr., who refused to concede May’s Philippines election, died Dec. 14 in Manila after suffering a stroke. He was 65.
A political neophyte, the film star reluctantly agreed to become the main challenger to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the May 10 election but lost by 1.1 million votes after a lengthy and tumultuous manual ballot count.
Two months later, Poe asked the Supreme Court to nullify Arroyo’s victory and declare him president, accusing her party of committing electoral fraud. Arroyo’s camp denied any wrongdoing and expressed confidence the Supreme Court would eventually throw out Poe’s protest.
Poe — known in the Philippines as FPJ or “Da King”– was a close friend of former president Joseph Estrada. Poe was a formidable opponent to Arroyo even though his campaign suffered from disorganization and questions over his citizenship, which a court later resolved in his favor.
Starring in more than 200 films from the early ’60s to last year, Poe endeared himself to impoverished Filipinos as an underdog hero crippling enemies with rapid punches and fancy tricks with a .45 caliber pistol. He also has played true-to-life heroes, including decorated policemen, and appeared in several World War II movies as a soldier or guerrilla fighting Japanese invaders.
A five-time winner in the local version of the Oscars, one of his most memorable roles was a true story — a teacher who became a rebel leader fighting greedy landlords and bureaucrats in the 1920s, when the Philippines was still an American colony.
Born Ronald Allen Kelley Poe, he also directed 10 films under the name Ronwaldo Reyes.
Poe’s parents were popular Filipino actor Fernando Poe Sr. and Elizabeth Kelley, an American.
His family prospered until his father died of rabies and Poe had to drop out of high school to help support them. Poe worked odd jobs, including as a cleaner and a stunt man, becoming a full-time actor in the 1950s.