Mong Palatino

Blogging about the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific since 2004


@mongster is a Manila-based activist, former Philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of Asia-Pacific affairs.

Written for The Diplomat

1. The Contest: The Philippine elections are scheduled for May 9, 2016. Filipinos will vote for a new president, vice president, 12 senators, one district representative, one party list representative, and provincial/city/municipal officials. The winning president has six years to lead the country but he/she cannot run again for reelection since the constitution forbids it.

2. The Personalities: The five major contenders in the presidential race are Mar Roxas, Jejomar Binay, Grace Poe, Miriam Santiago, and Rodrigo Duterte. Roxas, the administration bet, topped the senate race in 2004 although he lost as a vice presidential candidate in 2010. He was subsequently appointed by incumbent President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to various executive positions in the past six years. Binay was mayor of Makati City, the country’s financial center, before becoming vice president in 2010. Poe dominated the senatorial election in 2013. She is also the daughter of a famous actor who ran but lost in the 2004 presidential elections. Santiago is a senator who placed second in the 1992 presidential elections. Duterte is mayor of Davao City, located in the southern island of Mindanao. He became popular for making Davao a safe city through his tough methods in suppressing criminality. He is called the ‘Dirty Harry’ of the Philippines because of his anti-crime agenda.

3. The Playing Field: Roxas has the advantage in terms of commanding a nationwide political machinery and vast resources because he is the leader of the ruling party. He vows to continue and expand the reforms instituted by Aquino whose platform is called Daang Matuwid (Straight Path or Righteous Path). If Roxas is the administration candidate, who is the opposition leader? There is no clear answer to this question. While Binay may be the head of the opposition coalition, it was only six months ago when he resigned as a member of the Aquino cabinet. And even though Poe has been critical of the Aquino government, it didn’t prevent her from becoming the first choice of the ruling party for the position of vice president. Santiago is also a consistent critic of the government, though her political party has little influence in local politics. Duterte only formalized his candidacy last month.

4. The Platforms: Roxas hopes to win by emphasizing the need for continuity. But rivals question his competence and the supposed accomplishments of the Aquino administration by highlighting the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila, the continuing suffering of Typhoon Haiyan survivors, and the implementation of unconstitutional ‘presidential pork’. Binay seeks the support of the poor even though his family is hounded by corruption and plunder charges. Poe was the early favorite because of her stellar performance in the Senate but her popularity suffered when her previous American citizenship was questioned in the courts. Santiago, who is known for her intellectual prowess, has a large following among the youth but many are worried that her health problems could affect her candidacy. Duterte’s phenomenal rise from mayor to presidential contender could be attributed to the people’s frustration with an unequal and inefficient political system. He is seen by some analysts and an increasing number of citizens as this year’s alternative candidate who will solve the country’s problems which traditional mainstream politicians have failed to do.

5. Foreign Policy: All candidates support most of the actions taken by the Aquino government in dealing with China’s maritime claims and activities in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea. With respect to United States military pivot, Duterte and Santiago have publicly opposed the Visiting Forces Agreement which allows the entry of U.S. troops in the country. Despite the recent Supreme Court ruling affirming the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, Santiago renewed her opposition to the construction of U.S. military facilities in the country. Duterte once claimed that he rejected the request of the United States to make Davao a center of drone operations in the region. Meanwhile, Binay is in favor of amending the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution which restricts the foreign ownership of land and corporations.

6. Aquino’s Legacy: The presidential election will also determine whether several major programs and policies of the Aquino government will be continued, amended, or revoked such as the Bangsamoro Basic Law (expanded autonomy for Muslim-dominated provinces in southern Philippines), conditional cash transfer for the poorest of the poor, the stalled peace negotiations with communists, and the commitments made by the Philippines in the 2015 Paris climate talks.

7. The Vote: This is the third time that the Philippines will use automated voting technology, which many experts credited for the faster and more credible election results in 2010 and 2013. However, some are worried about the reliability of the digital software and the prospect of vote manipulation based on previous results. In addition, some are questioning the dominance of one company in facilitating vote automation and counting since 2010.

The Race for the Philippine Presidency Has Begun

Written for The Diplomat

According to the Philippine Commission on Elections, 130 persons have applied to run for president in next year’s election. The majority are unknown aspirants who will likely be disqualified for lacking the means to mount a nationwide campaign. The election itself is set for May 9.

There are four major candidates with both strong party backing and large public following. The administration candidate is former interior secretary Mar Roxas. Opposition leader and incumbent vice president Jejomar Binay also formally registered his bid for the presidency. Neophyte Grace Poe, a senator and the leading candidate based on several surveys, also submitted her certificate of candidacy this week. But the surprise candidate is Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who declared her intention to run for president only a few days ago.

Roxas is the grandson of a former president and son of a former senator. He topped the Senate race in 2004 and became the leader of Liberal Party, one of the country’s oldest and biggest political parties. He ran unsuccessfully for vice president in 2010.

Binay was a longtime mayor of Makati City, the country’s premier business and financial hub, prior to his election as vice president. Poe is the daughter of Fernando Poe Jr, an actor who ran for president in 2004. Santiago placed second in the 1992 presidential election before becoming senator in 1995.

Roxas has the edge in terms of election machinery, since he is the candidate of the ruling party. President Benigno Aquino III, who enjoys high public confidence based on opinion polls, has also committed to actively campaign for Roxas. But Aquino’s endorsement can also hurt Roxas by turning away voters who are disappointed with the performance of the president.

Binay claims he has the support of the poor, overseas Filipinos, and local government leaders. But his numbers went down after he was accused of being involved in various corruption scandals. Though he insists that these were all politically-motivated, his reputation has already been tarnished.

Poe presents herself as an alternative candidate who has a clean record as a public servant. Tired of the antics of traditional politicians and political dynasties, many urged her to run for higher office. Though she has decided to run, her previous American citizenship was immediately questioned in the court.

Santiago is also seen as an outsider, even though she has been a politician for more than two decades. She is admired by many people – especially the young – who are looking for intelligent and articulate leaders. Santiago’s candidacy was not expected because she has only recently recovered from cancer.

Turning to their running mates, Roxas has teamed up with Leni Robredo, the widow of a respected politician. Binay’s vice presidential candidate is Senator Gringo Honasan. Poe, meanwhile, chose her mentor, Senator Chiz Escudero, to be her vice president. Santiago has reportedly endorsed the vice presidential candidacy of Senator Bongbong Marcos. Marcos is the son of the country’s former strongman, Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the country for two decades before he was ousted by a popular uprising in 1986.

Campaigning will officially begin next year. But since the candidates are already known, political realignments across the country are expected to reshape the electoral landscape. Political bickering between candidates and parties is also anticipated to intensify.

One Response to “7 Things to Know About the 2016 Philippine Elections”

  1. Thank you


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