My Thoughts on the 2016 Presidential Race 2 Weeks Before the Elections

2016 Phil. Presidential Candidates. Images from respective wikipedia pages.

Two more weeks before we all cast our votes. Friends ask what is my take on the issues. Who am I leaning towards? I think it's obvious below as I write my thoughts on the Presidential candidates.

1.  Jejomar Binay.

He has consistently been pictured and demonized as corrupt. He is running on the strength that Makati is Makati city because of him. People doubt this because Makati is already Makati with or without him. Besides, I haven’t really heard Makati voters crediting him the way Davao residents (almost fanatically) do for Mayor Duterte.  

Corruption charges may be true or not, as people accuse him. I just don’t know because I don’t have inside info, personal knowledge, nor a court decision to base my conclusions. I am reminded of Villar during the previous elections. I think he lost the elections because of propaganda, him being a front runner also. Poor Villar. 

I just don’t know if the same goes for Binay. For an ordinary citizen like me who follows politics in this country, I find him strange because, apart from his corruption image (whether true or not), he seemed to have respect for other politicians, even for Pnoy. It only changed later as the election season approached.

Should Binay win the elections, he might not be effective since his 6 years will be mired by political attacks, especially on corruption.  He will be too busy trying to defend himself.

2.  Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Why is he very scintillating for me?  It is for two reasons -- hope in a promised change and my interest in political science and modern media.

Let’s deal with lesser contentious points first. His dramatic rise in the surveys is a phenomenon. It was propelled by the social media. His rise is unprecedented because it is a display of social media and the internet’s power even over established television networks. His campaign is driven by people in the internet. In the study of political science, political machinery is key. He doesn’t have the political machinery and the disposal of government resources but he has overcome it through people who strongly endorse him.

In my ordinary understanding, it was Cayetano who pushed him to run. Should he win and should he be a successful president, then I think this was a stroke of Cayetano genius or foresight.

Now on to the more divisive points. People want real change. People want law and order. People are tired of undelivered promises. The number of this people is obvious. We have long been suffering because of uncontrolled crime and corruption. People think Duterte has what it takes to make a big difference in this area.

Duterte supporters cut through all social brackets, from the rich to the poor. Filipinos oversees who experience how it is to live and earn high wages in countries with relatively high peace and order seem to be some of the strongest supporters of a strong leader like Duterte.

But he also cuts through ideologies in the sense that he is both attacked by the political spectrum. Those in the left paint him as a Martial Law demon, that he will curtail freedoms. Those on the right, on the other hand, accuse him of being a communist. Those on the right are fuming mad that he supports the NPA, that in doing so he is forgetting  the sacrifices of our soldiers in the hands of the rebels. 

Those on the left on the other hand accuse him of human rights violations. A centrist like me thinks that both sides forget or refuse to acknowledge that throughout the years both the left and the right committed human rights violations and both left civilians devastated.  They are both guilty of the filth that they throw against each other and against Duterte. That is the sad truth that neither side admits.

Those on the right also accuse him of wanting to surrender our sovereignty over the Spratlys to China. Those on the left, on the other hand are silent against China.

So is Duterte pro left or pro right? I think he is neither. He is pro whatever it is that will promote peace and order. That is the enigma that people don’t understand. Many people attack him because they don’t understand him. But great leaders are exactly that. They are a head above us. They are prone to be misunderstood because they refuse to be molded according to what we want them to be, not realizing that if we force a genius to think the way we do, then we pull him/her down to our level and force them to become ordinary and less effective like us.

Democracy and leadership style. This post will be too long if I write everything that can be discussed. The point is we are not Americans. Western style democracy may not really be for Asians. Singapore will not be Singapore without its "benevolent dictator" and Japan, China, and South Korea will not be the economic powerhouses of Asia if they unquestioningly stuck to western notions and subservience the way we have. For all the moralizing on the internet we forget that not even the Bible endorses western style democracy the way we picture it to be.  Enough said about that, for now.

What do I foresee in a Duterte presidency?  Perhaps sweeping changes in law enforcement that will redound to business confidence, that will in turn result to peace and prosperity. At least that is what is hoped for.

How about Martial Law? I don’t think he will. He may be a strongman but he knows as a lawyer that he is not above his mandate in the Constitution. He will squeeze and push his allowable limit in the Constitution but he will not go beyond it. What I do fear is if, like in the Marcos era, the unarmed wing of the left provoke the administration and take to the streets day in and day out, then history may repeat itself. Duterte doesn’t believe it will, but who is to say?

Federalism. I do believe in the beauty of Federalism versus a Unitary form of government in general. But am I ready to allow the current local leaders in my barangay and municipality more powers? I am not so sure about that. A special concession like a Federal Muslim Mindanao only for now? Perhaps yes.

How about his mouth? Miriam is famous for her mouth too. That is who they are. You will be amazed at how many foul utterances were neglected by people because the achievements of those who mouthed them nullified the negatively perceived utterances.

On cussing and womanizing. The current support of his former wife says a lot about this issue.  However, Duterte should control this. If he becomes president he will be on prime time television all the time. We don’t want kids to be exposed to this.

Other political implications. Duterte is a Marcos admirer. In a Philippine Graphic interview he even said that Marcos is a good template. In the same interview he also said he will abolish the Congress since we have so many laws already and what we really need is implementation.  Marcos loyalists will give him their support in the form of votes and political followership. Marcos victims and opponents will not stop attacking him. This will constantly arise during his presidency.

Should he become president, he will not be busy defending himself.  His supporters will do that for him.  Besides, he doesn't care what people think.  That can be good.  That can also be bad.

My simple suggestion:  Never take his words on its surface.  State craft is like art.  According to Francis Schaeffer you cannot judge an artist based on a single piece of work.  You evaluate them according to their whole ouvre. 

3.  Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares.

Well, the Supreme Court has spoken. Who am I to challenge their legal knowledge. I was swayed after reading the text of their decision. However, as an ordinary citizen, like many other Filipinos, who never thought of abandoning my citizenship, I feel somehow cheated.

I have long thought that if I love my country I will battle it out on this soil. Like most ordinary Filipino citizens, the overriding thought is we cannot abandon ship. Yes, we may suffer from poverty or low incomes and corruption but we will stay put. That no matter how powerless we are we will stand our ground and make this country work. We need to make it work. We don't have other options but to make the system work.  Now we have a model showing us that we can abandon ship and forget the daily struggles and come back at a more opportune time and even run for president.  Up until that SC decision I thought that a captain sinks with the ship.

Like others, I also think she is not yet experienced and hasn't actually done anything that can prove capability as a Chief Executive. Sweet words coupled with a sweet smile and calm voice is very enticing but will it accomplish anything in the real world?

Puso is excellent. It is awesome. It can hurdle a lot of obstacles, but just like our national Smart Gilas team, it is inspirational but against very high odds puso is not enough to get us to the top. You actually need better skills, experience, height and heft.

4.  Secretary Mar Roxas.

If our country has real political parties, not merely election parties (as political scientists call it, just as we have right now), then that may already be 50% Mar vote for me so that we can continue with Daang Matuwid. The other 50% is if I’m convinced that the pace of Daang Matuwid 2.0 is the way to go.

One problem is Mar’s choice of waging battle. In paper his party has a good laid-out platform but on TV, especially during the early stages of the campaign he seems to have focused on attacks. At least that’s what I saw in the first presidential debate. For other candidates I would have understood it. But watching it from him seems so off.   Reminds mo so much of Pnoy whom he is hoping to succeed.

I did not vote for the Liberal party standard bearers in 2010. Despite not having voted for President Noy Aquino I decided to move on and accept the people’s mandate and support him by being a law abiding citizen. I was even fortunate to have my short thoughts of support published in the Inquirer in 2010.  Read My "Dear Noynoy".

Pnoy seemed on track. The party’s platform of '"Tuwid na Daan" seems to have moved us further as a country. I believe in giving everyone what is due to them. Pnoy’s administration accomplished a lot. More business confidence and modernization of the Armed Forces are examples. But, is the party and Mar the best option as we strive to fast track development and national growth? Maybe not if there’s a better option. In fact here in the grassroots in the province ("laylayan", as excellently pushed by Leni Robredo), their 4Ps is even used by fisher folk to buy drugs. So 4Ps is not a long term solution.

I don't even need to enumerate this administration's failures here.  

So what is Mar’s problem now? As I said above, today’s negative publicity for him and the Liberal party is the party itself. As an administration party in this country they are bound to accept turncoats who join them only for the sake of riding on their machinery and not because of adherence to the party’s ideology. Look at their party mates in the local government units and you’ll see that those who opposed them and their matuwid na daan are now under their banner. These are the same people who have the lewd dances in public and who distribute envelopes in campaign sorties.

True enough, as I write this post, the internet banners our local Governor declaring a shift in allegiance from Roxas to Poe!  Two weeks before elections!  Yes, wow, men.  Philippine party system at its best.  

This is why Duterte is fast moving ahead. Duterte rejects support from the powerful and wealthy because he knows he will be bound by them. A leader bound by utang na loob to dubious people will fail as a leader. In effect, Duterte tells those who want to donate that he will not receive those donations and if he does they should not think that he will not run after them if they mess with the law.

That is what amazes me in this elections. That thousands and perhaps millions of Filipinos are saying, contrary to what we think, that they want to have a country ruled by law as long as we have a leader who truly believes in and implements the law.

5.  Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago

I don’t know. She seems to be an excellent senator, popular and loved by so many. However, somehow, the time doesn’t seem right anymore for her. She has been vocal about corruption and public service but some of her decisions like choice of a vice presidential running mate is difficult to comprehend or reconcile.

Miriam winning the elections may well be a victory for the Philippines although I personally think not even her strong words can make the executive branch execute well. Her subordinates may just let her words pass through their calloused ears and kill her orders with inaction.

So there, my thoughts as of now. Hopefully I could also write one for the Vice Presidential candidates.


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