Which New Power Arrangements in the Philippines?


Partyforumseasia:    With the high voter turnout of 81.62 percent, president-elect Duterte’s landslide lead was so clear that his victory could be announced long before all votes had been properly counted. The very successful electronic vote counting system left no doubts only 17 hours after the polling stations closed when already 95 percent of the results were available to the Election Commission (Comelec). Technically and organizationally, this is an admirable success story. Runners up Mar Roxas and Grace Poe gracefully conceded defeat immediately and congratulated Duterte.

Leni R

Vice president elect Leni Robredo

The race for the vice-presidency, which is a separate election in the Philippines, not a running mate solution like in other presidential systems, turned out to be a more complicated story. Only on Friday, May 20th, at 7 p.m., eleven days after the election, the paper thin lead of Leni Robredo was finally confirmed by the Comelec. She won over Ferdinand Marcos, eldest son of the infamous dictator with the same name, with just 263,473 votes. This is a mere .92 percent of all 28.57 million valid votes, but clear enough. With some local results contested or coming in late from remote islands, the lead was sometimes attributed to Marcos and sometimes to Robredo. She can now smile, first for herself and her victory, but also for possibly keeping open a door into the new government for her party, the Liberal Party of the Philippines (LP).

President-elect Duterte, who will take over from president Aquino end of June, had offered her a post in his cabinet but changed his mind already. He may have preferred Marcos. Duterte is considered to be a social democrat and open to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), to which he has offered four cabinet portfolios, namely agrarian reform, social welfare, environment and natural resources, and labor. “Thanking his former student for the “magnanimous offer,” exiled CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison politely declined the cabinet positions, clarifying, however, that the offer would be studied seriously.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 21st, 2016, LINK).
A government with Socialists and Communists would be quite a game changer in the Philippines and threaten the cozy power arrangements of the elites and the traditional politicians called “trapos“. Duterte himself is backed by his party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan or PDP Laban with now 82 out of 292 seats in the House of Representatives.PDP-Laban_logoThey have already signed a coalition agreement with the conservative Nacionalista Party (20 MP’s and 5 senators), the center right National Unity Party (24 MP’s) and the conservative Nationalist People’s Coalition (36 Mp’s and 2 senators). Altogether 162 members of Parliament will give Duterte already a comfortable majority of 55 percent, but the opportunistic political tradition will certainly see more elected members switch into the presidential camp.
A big question is now whether Leni Robredo as vice president will open a door for her Liberal Party which, otherwise, would lose all the jobs in government and administration it held during the six Aquino years. In terms of ideology and compatibility it might look awkward to coalesce with Socialists and Communists, but since at the end ideology is not that important, not in the Philippines and no longer in Western democracies, a flexible solution will be found. May it help the country  to catch up and improve the living conditions of the neglected part of the 100 million Phillipinos.

Philippines Political History

A timeline of the country’s governments since 1945 (The Economist)

 

The Presidential Systems in Indonesia and the Philippines Work Differently


Partyforumseasia: President Joko Widodo of Indonesia is not yet in full control of the political machinery 19 months after assuming office in October 2014. If the election of Setya Novanto as new chairman of Golkar, the second largest party, will end the

Indo Parl

The newest figures by Wikipedia

internal rivalries and the party joins the presidential coalition, the President will control over 60 % of the parliament. But control may be exaggerated as description, as the coalition, see the colorful chart on the left, consists of seven parties,with Golkar already included by Wikipedia after the party convention in Bali last weekend. Running a country as diverse as Indonesia without a majority in parliament is certainly extremely difficult but maybe facilitated by the flexible nature of Indonesians and the very wide range of gray tones between black and white compared to the normal confrontations in Western democracies. The support of Golkar will help President Widodo to push more forcefully for stalled but necessary reforms. But it will remain a daunting task to balance the government coalition and satisfy all party leaders and dignitaries with sufficiently powerful (and profitable) posts and positions in government and public service.

In the Philippines the post-election political situation looks very different. The country of over 100 million citizens, with a median age of 24.4 years, and still a high poverty rate of 26%, has not developed a strong party system. During the political developments after the fall of Marcos and the “People Power or Edsa Revolution” in 1986, the Philippines have in many ways managed to strengthen their democratic institutions albeit with a weakness of enforcement in important details. With 70 % of legislators coming from political clans and thriving on oligarchic and partially even violent patron-client relationships, the 55 million voters were tired of elite politics and provided maverick candidate Rodrigo Duterte with a handsome majority of 38.6% over the runner up establishment candidate Mar Roxas with 23.45%. The latter’s running mate, Leni Robredo, is still waiting for the final and official results because her lead over “Bongbong” Ferdinand Marcos, eldest son of the late dictator, is paper thin. In case her victory is confirmed, Duterte will give her a cabinet post.

President-elect Duterte has pushed his campaign with a very tough image after two decades as mayor of Davao and plenty of tough talking and promises to clean up with corruption and crime. Elite candidate Mar Roxas, whose grandfather was a president, has graciously conceded defeat and congratulated the winner, but establishment and intellectuals are anything but happy with the outcome. Duterte may manage to cut painfully into their privileges and redistribute the benefits of the country’s economic growth under the Aquino administration to the poorer parts of the society.
As usual in the Philippines, after the president is elected politicians move into his or her camp irrespective of party affiliation. Duterte is holding court in his Davao home and the friends, old and new, queue up to get appointed for positions from minister to ambassador.
Expectations among Duterte’s voters are sky high, but there is also a herculean task ahead. Despite economic progress under Aquino the poverty level is still the second highest in Southeast Asia.
Poverty levels in SEA

The organization of the elections on 9 May has worked remarkably well given the geographical challenges of the 7000 islands nation. On top of the election of president  and vice president, the voters had to decide on12 Senate seats, all 297 seats to the House of Representatives, all governors, vice governors, and 772 seats to the boards of the 81 provinces, all mayors and vice mayors for 145 cities and 1,489 municipalities, all members of the city councils and 11,924 seats on municipal councils, as well as the governor, vice governor and all 24 seats in the regional assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

vote machine

The electronic voting machines are supposed to be hack- and cheat-proof

As the largest electronic vote counting exercise in history with 92,509 vote counting machines being used to digitize voter-marked ballots and transmit the results to the Municipal Board of Canvassers, the 2016 election is an incredible achievement which is not adequately appreciated by the international media, probably too much overshadowed by the victory of Rodrigo Duterte.

Establishment In Panic: Will “President” Duterte End The Golden Rule?


Partiforumseasia: According to traditional political wisdom and experience in the Philippines, the real meaning of the Golden Rule is the rule of those who have the gold.
In this presidential election, however, there are candidates outside the plutocratic establishment. And if the polls are sufficiently reliable, one anti-establishment candidate has a good chance of being elected: DuterteRodrigo Duterte (nickname “Digong“) is so popular because of his cleaner but more brutal law and order policies as mayor of Davao city, including a huge number of extrajudicial killings of criminals. The contrast to the ruling Liberal Party’s candidate, Mar Roxas, could not be bigger. Roxas is a cultivated, well traveled intellectual politician from the quasi aristocratic upper class and successful minister in Aquino’s outgoing cabinet. In the latest polls Roxas stands at 20 % behind Grace Poe with 22% and Duterte with 33%! Duterte seems to be totally eligible for the poor masses and big parts of the middle class as well, who are already soul searching before the election on 9th May. Imelda Deinla from the Australian National University sees the failure of the elites to establish a minimum level of the rule of law and to reduce the rampant corruption and inefficiency of the civil service. See her comment “Rule of law deficit behind voter dismay in Philippines” (LINK) in the East Asia Forum. Narciso Reyes Jr., a former journalist and diplomat, has a deeper psychological analysis of the voters and the darker side of their hopes and aspirations. Here is short passage of his article in the 4th May Inquirer (LINK):

“Duterte’s incredible popularity, despite his crude blunders (…) is evidently being fueled by an atavistic, primal instinct among our people who crave order and a better life under the strong arm of a man with a seeming license to kill.”

The elite is in panic mode! The latest move, supported by President Aquino, is warning against a Duterte dictatorship and urging the candidates Mar Roxas and Grace Poe to join forces in order to prevent Duterte…

On a different level, but rather interesting is a comparison with the US presidential campaign. A frightened elite is exploring ways to prevent Donald Trump, who has money himself and will attract more donations now. Duterte is probably not that rich but will not be short of funding either. According to media estimations presidential campaigns in the Philippines cost between 2,5 and 3 billion pesos (or 53 to 65 m US$), and 80% of it going into political ads. Nielsen Media reported that even before the official campaign period started on 9 February, 7.5 billion pesos (nearly 160 m US$) had already been spent for ads of all kinds. But the media campaign is being dwarfed by the carnival atmosphere in the streets when the candidates show up in person. Being the most important crossroads decision in the country’s politics, the 55 million voters in the Philippines are politicized on a high voltage level. When the counting works well, the country is running the elections technically quite professionally, we will see the result within a few days.
Presidential+Candidate+Rodrigo+Duterte+Campaigns+lae0sXCDaAnl

Who Will Be The Next President Of The Philippines?


Partyforumseasia: By coincidence, but not completely surprising, the similar presidential systems in the United States and their former colony, the Philippines, are heading for the election of their next president. The Philippino voters will go to the ballot boxes on 9 May, the US voters will follow half a year later, on 8 November. There are striking similarities in the campaigns of the candidates, some rather, even extremely shrill and – compared to many former presidential races – increasingly populist. The political parties supposed to support a candidate in both systems are being more or less eclipsed as party membership, affiliation or quiet support are increasingly vanishing in both countries. Popularity at any price and fundraising are a big factor. But credible narratives as trademark and emotional identifier of the candidates are increasingly playing their role as well.
Presidents

Just a month before the election, political scientists Julio C. Teehankee, De La Salle University and Mark R. Thompson, City University of Hong Kong, offer a fascinating insight and overview of the electoral situation in the Philippines in an article published 8 April in the EastAsiaForum (full text here LInk):

Here are some glimpses into the article:
“Commentators often view Philippine presidential campaigns as determined purely by popularity, name recall or money. But this overlooks the importance of the enduring narratives that candidates draw upon to woo voters’ support, via widespread political campaigning both on air and on the ground.

While political parties are relatively weak in the Philippines, presidential candidates have based their campaigns on the major narratives of reform, pro-poor populism and neo-authoritarian calls for ‘peace and order’.

Those looking for a ‘safe pair of hands’ to maintain internal political stability and guide the Philippines through both a difficult world economic environment and tense relations with China may look to Mar Roxas, who prospered under the current administration. But Roxas, who has a long record in government, has struggled to gain traction with his promise to continue the ‘straight path’ (daang matuwid) — a reference to Aquino’s anti-corruption reform agenda. (…)

The most promising candidate in many ways is Grace Poe. Poe combines the pro-poor ‘populist’ appeal of her adoptive father — actor-turned-politician Fernando Poe, Jr. — with her image as a competent and serious-minded reformer. Where Duterte offers an iron fist, Poe offers a velvet glove. But her message is failing to take root.

Poe narrowly avoided disqualification for becoming a US citizen before returning to the Philippines over a decade ago. This has led to worries that she is out of touch with the average Filipino. On top of this, the endorsement of the Nationalist People’s Coalition and her defence of its founder — former Marcos crony Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco Jr — have led to charges she is a ‘puppet’.”

 

“Flamboyant” Presidential Candidates in the Philippines


The upcoming presidential campaigns in the Philippines and the USA

Partyforumseasia:
Self-confidence is certainly a prerequisite for candidates running for leadership posts. And as political psychologists have found out, even overblown self-confidence seems to signal competence and leadership qualities to the voters. In the USA the top job attracts surprising numbers of “wannabes” despite the grueling burden of responsibilities. C-Span website “Road to the White House 2016” (Link) lists 24 declared candidates, and Politics1 (Link) includes all sorts of hopefuls in the hundreds. Internationally in the media and quite high in the polls in the US is flamboyant candidate Bush TrumpDonald Trump who has at least highly developed skills in self marketing. Jeb Bush with his handicap of being son and brother of former presidents obviously comes across as too boring though he would probably be much more qualified for the job than Trump.

In comparison, the Philippines are even more open to colorful and flamboyant candidates than the US. Partyforumseasia has taken up the topic already on 24 September. But the pre-campaign is getting more colorful by the day. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Oct. 6th, (Link) “Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is going solo in his quest for the vice presidency.” Since the elections of president and vice president are held on the same day but separately (Article II Sec. 13 of the OMNIBUS ELECTION CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES) a president elect can be confronted with an unwanted vice president elect.   Bongbong support
Bongbong Marcos is a senator since 2010 and seems to be acceptable to the voters despite the shadow of his father. Support by political fossils like his 86 year old mother Imelda, former president and now mayor of Manila Joseph Estrada (78), and controversial “eternal politician” Juan Ponce Enrile (91) may not be very appealing to the young voters, bu help him at least to keep his campaign budget healthy. Playing down his privileged youth and education he says: “I humbly ask them (the voters) to judge whether or not I am worthy of their trust to be Vice President on the strength of my performance as a public servant in the last 26 years: first as former vice governor and governor of Ilocos Norte, then as representative of the second district of Ilocos Norte and finally, as a senator of the country.”
Somewhat more disturbing for Non-Philippinos is the candidacy of another senator. Gregorio Ballesteros Honasan II, better known as Gringo Honasan, participated in the EDSA revolution ousting president Marcos, but staged an unsuccessful coup in 1987 against democracy icon Cory Aquino. Imprisoned and escaped, he was pardoned by president Fidel Ramos in 1992. According to an interesting Wikipedia formulation, Honasan “utilized his rebel infamy to enter politics in 1995, becoming the first independent candidate in Philippine history to win a seat in the Senate”, and is serving his fourth term now.

Gringo-Enrile

Gringo Sen.Honasan before (1986) and after as senator (now).

During last week he declared that he is not teaming up with vice president Jejomar Binay because of unbridgeable differences in policies, but his flamboyant and somewhat adventurous image may give him a realistic chance.

Roxas RobredoWhereas the entertainment value of flamboyant candidates is evident, the Liberal Party candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas may be more presidentiable,  but at least at the moment he remains in the media shadow of the flamboyants, a bit like Jeb Bush with Trump and others in the US. But Roxas has found an attractive running mate with Leni Robredo, the widow of popular politician Jesse Robredo who died in a plane crash in 2012. Their poll results are improving since the announcement of the team agreement.

If we ask whether flamboyant politicians can be good leaders, Partyforumseasia tends to be skeptical. From Mussolini, Hitler and Mao Tse Dong to Ceausescu, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi and the Kim dynasty in North Korea, flamboyant leaders may be successful in a certain sense but for good governance the dependable and sober “paperclips” are certainly a much better choice.

Hopefuls and Presidentiables in the Philippines


Partyforumseasia: The United States of America and the Philippines have quite a few things in common.One feature they share rather visibly at the moment is the long preparation for the next presidential election, due in the US in November 2016 and in the Philippines in May. Since President Aquino‘s term has boosted the Liberal Party, they understandably try to continue with a liberal candidate and field interior secretary Manuel Roxas. His hopes to get popular senator Grace Poe as team mate have failed since Grace Poe seems to run increasingly away in all polls and “offers herself” for the post. The Philippine Daily Enquirer praises her sensible stand on many raging issues which has earned her Poe Escuderoplaudits from the public, her clean persona and intimate connections with show biz royalty, another similarity with the USA. But with Francis Escudero, a fellow senator, as her choice of running mate she may undermine her “presidentiable” image. Escudero has a record of supporting former president Estrada who was impeached for corruption but resurfaced as mayor of Manila.
Another quite popular team of candidates is formed by vice president Jejomar Binay Binay Marcoswho is facing a corruption probe and Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. , son of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos who allegedly syphoned away between five and ten billion US$ during his terms in office.
Voters in the Philippines, either a forgiving lot or cynical about their political class or both, seem to enjoy the presidential race and its entertaining aspects and don’t mind the expenses, like the American voters.

Historical links between the US and the Philippines:
The USA indirectly supported the Philippine Revolution which ended about 350 years of Spanish colonial rule by their own war against Spain in 1898.  Spain ceded the Philippines to the US for 200 million $. One of the leaders against the Spanish occupation, Emilio Aguinaldo, born in 1869 was the first president of the Philippines from 1899 to 1901.
Aguinaldo voll

The contemporary illustration in a French journal (1901) shows Aguinaldo’s capture by US forces:

But the US quickly ended the dream of independent statehood by establishing her own colonialism in 1901. Limited self-rule granted in 1935 under president Quezon was soon interrupted by the Japanese invasion, full independence came only in 1946.
The Spanish heritage is still visible in the family names and many Spanish words in the national language Tagalog. What persists from the US-rule is widespread English with local pronunciation, the presidential system and many other legal features, the education system, close military cooperation, and 3.4 million Philippinos in the US.