Manila Standard : Bongbong represents continuity

28 March 2022

By Emil Jurado | Manila Standard

“How can the next leader bring us to economic recovery?”

If elected as the next president, Bongbong Marcos will be confronted with the biggest challenge a president of the Philippines will ever face – economic recovery.

Think joblessness, poverty and hunger brought about by years of pandemic that brought down the Philippine economy to its knees.

Can Bongbong overcome this challenge?

First of all, Marcos will rely much on foreign investments because only these would create employment. He needs to continue the economic plans of President Duterte.

A prominent United Kingdom-based research institute in fact, expects broad policy continuity following the elections of May 9. The Fitch Solutions Research stated that “Regardless of the presidential outcome, we expect a smooth transition with only minor changes to economic policy.”

Marcos Jr’s policy approach is the closest to outgoing President Duterte’s, while Vice President Leni Robredo’s presents the largest divergence. Continuity is important, the research group emphasized.

The impact of the pandemic was most felt by the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Jose Concepcion, presidential adviser on MSMEs, said that Bongbong Marcos’ plans to prioritize the MSMES which constitute up to 99.5 percent of the country’s business, is crucial. It’s what the country needs. Bongbong said he would give priority to solving the problems of joblessness and poverty brought by the pandemic.

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The Commission of Elections (Comelec) wants to go after what it calls “vote-buying” in connection with the May 9, 2022 elections.

But, my gulay, what is vote-buying? If the Comelec refers to a candidate giving away cash and directly offering money in exchange for votes, that’s clearly vote-buying !

But, there are many ways and forms of vote-buying which are not clearly defined in the rules of the Comelec. For instance, when candidates, either for national or local posts, support a project of a community, is that vote-buying ? When an aspirant for a national or local post gives away money to community or a barangay to help them build a basketball court, is that vote-buying ? Or , when a candidate for a national or local post funds the construction of a community building to help people there to support a cooperative, is that vote-buying ?

In the Philippines, Filipinos give much importance to the relationship often called “padrinos or palakasan”. It is called “utang na loob” or debt of gratitude, something unknown to the West and even among other Asians. And when a known supporter of an aspirant for a national or local post helps a community to put up a local project, people there do not regard it as buying their votes.

If this is vote buying, our jails would be filled with politicians and known supporters of national and local candidates, Santa banana!

Thus, it would do well for the Comelec not to make a general rule against vote-buying. Oh yes, during Election day, when local politicians known to push the candidacy of a national or local aspirant for a post have people ferried by jeepneys and buses from their homes far from the precincts and provides them breakfast and lunch and give them money to enable them to get back to their homes, is that vote-buying ? It’s something very common in the provinces and even in cities.

The Comelec should not make a big thing about vote-buying, which can take so many forms in our political context.

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It is that time of the campaign period for the national and local candidates that supporters of national candidates start looking at reality – whether or not the candidates they endorsed earlier have a chance of making it or not.

Take the case of the Reforma Party headed by Davao del Norte politician Pantaleon Alvarez, former Speaker of the House of Representatives. His party switched its endorsement for president from Senator Ping Lacson to Vice President Leni Robredo, obviously thinking that Robredo has a better chance of becoming president.

I am not saying that Lacson has no chance of making it in the race to Malacanang, but poll surveys show that among the five aspirants for President, Lacson has become the tailender.

Alvarez certainly has no love lost for the BBM-Sara tandem since he knows fully well that Sara Duterte Carpio was one of those who were responsible for ousting him from the Speakership. He is now obviously thinking that the endorsement of the Reforma Party for Robredo has a better chance of making it, rather than Lacson.

Lacson said the switch of Reforma to Robredo was all about money which local candidates of Reforma need. It could well be about money considering the fact that politics is local.

I also believe that the sudden endorsement of PDP-Laban of Bongbong for president has something to do with poll surveys showing that Bongbong Marcos is now clearly the frontrunner in the presidential race. The recent endorsements of PDP-Laban, the ruling majority party and the National Unity Party of Ricky Razon for Bongbong is a clear indication of this.

In fact, I believe that there will be more changes in the political scene as the nation gets closer to Election Day. I would not even be surprised that one or two of the presidential aspirants or even among vice presidential candidates, will withdraw. I don’t know who will, but there are indications to this effect.

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Santa Banana, with no less than 18,023 local posts up for grabs till Election Day, there will be more political rallies and sorties and even handshaking of candidates with the people.

What I am afraid of is that with the easing of health protocols and restrictions, there will be another surge.

Personally, that’s what worries me since people will be crowding rallies and political sorties. If a new wave of COVID-19 comes about, how will this affect the national and local elections ? That’s something President Duterte, the Department of Health and the IATF or the Inter-Agency Task Force should contemplate.

I hate to think about it, especially since the May 9 Elections Day is fast approaching.