In Search of the New Political DNA
By Ma. Lourdes N. Tiquia1
The speaker who should be standing before you today, would have been Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. I am neither a Senator nor a person with very impressive IQ, colorful hyperboles, and hilarious pick up lines. Interestingly, this is the second time I have to take the slot of the prolific Senator. The first time was right after the impeachment and before law students where I tried to spice up my spiel with her typical diatribes. Well, nothing beats the original. Now, I don't know if standing before FOCAP in place of the good Senator would be as interesting as she would have talked about politics, Philippine style. But let me try doing what I do most comfortably ...analyzing and calling a spade, a spade. Tress Martelino-Reyes invited me only yesterday. I received the invitation early afternoon and had it not been for a good colleague from the academe, UP Professor, Dr. Popoy de Vera, VP for Public Affairs, I would have said no. But when UP beckons, we always say yes.
A paper delivered before Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Ballroom, Mandarin Oriental, 17 January 2013 1 Tiquia is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. (www.publicusasia.com). She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a AB degree in Political Science and a Masters in Public Administration. She also completed her Master of Arts in Political Management from the George Washington University.
I was given a task today –to share my thoughts on: the political situation in the country, the significance of the midterm elections, the likely outcomes, and some appreciation on the implications. The election of the son of the EDSA icon was said to be a black swan event. Three years after, Benigno Aquino III has high performance rating of 78% and a trust rating of 80% in a survey done by Pulse Asia last November 12, 2012. If we were to refer to SWS results, Mr. Aquino's satisfaction score was at 77% as of December 2012. From Ramos to Arroyo, the trends of the indicators were on a downward trajectory that by midterm, it had become a referendum on the incumbent. From Ramos to Arroyo, there were opposition parties fighting it out with the admin coalitions. After all, elections are all about choices –intelligent choices, we hope. But that was from Ramos to Arroyo. Today, we don't see that familiar occurrence. Today, there is no opposition. In fact what appears to be one, is just a token. Even the coalitions formed were intriguing, to say the least. Who would imagine LP, NPC and NP to be together in one camp and the veritable three kings shining through in UNA, with the preferred VP in 2010 heading it?
From Ramos to Arroyo, it is only now where in midterm, economic growth is at 7%. It would seem the indicators are good if you take a look at the growth rate. But taking a second look at growth from the perspective of jobs generated and prices of goods in the market, the poor is becoming poorer. Voters today appear to be ready for new politics, but PHL politics still remains just at the doorstep. Unknowingly, voters in 2010 who ushered in Aquino have been in constant search of new political names...of the new political DNA. Case in point, the anti-Epal movement shaming trapos has been successful in its campaign. The campaign has been very successful that even COMELEC embraced the advocacy with the release of COMELEC Resolution No. 9615 last Tuesday. I salute the COMELEC for ensuring candidates in the forthcoming elections come May 13 not to kill trees, litter the grounds, trash water systems with plastics where plastic is locally banned, and flood the airwaves with too many TVCs and RCs. At last, COMELEC is doing its job! The same COMELEC removed a total of 75 nuisance candidates from its list and so with nearing a hundred Partylist organizations that made a mockery of the Partylist system.
From Breakout Nations to Start Up Nation to Why Nations Fail, when we look at the PHL, the risk has always been politically based. Tweaking the now famous mantra, indeed in our case, it's politics, stupid! Our politics is just too extractive, leaving behind the fringes to wallow in unabated poverty. Even the index of self rated hunger swings like the proverbial pendulum of Big Ben. Just take a look at the political Santa Claus in the Senate giving away taxpayers’ money as gift...and there have been a lot more political maneuvers. A few days from today, we will have the campaign for the Senate. The 33 names running for 12 positions are old names with nine offering themselves as alternatives. A closer look would tell us that the LP-led coalition and UNA are sister teams of the same company. They look the same, sound the same, and act the same. In pre-campaign surveys, it appears that six reelectionists are leading the pack. When I am asked to look at the crystal ball, I always say it would be a 12-0 win for Aquino. But there are telltale signs of a potential rebellion by the voters. As I said earlier, voters today appear to be ready for new politics, but PHL politics still remains just at the doorstep. For instance, during midterm elections, turn out
has always been relatively low. Recent history would tell us that there were reelectionists who lost. The observation gave us the impression that voters are ready to engage the candidates come Feb 12. And there might just be surprises in getting the voter's nod because they are in search of the new political DNA: may takot sa Dyos, may paninindigan, madaling lapitan, nakikita/bumibisita, magaling magsalita, marunong makinig, desente, hindi naninira, may track record, hard worker, may isang salita, and makabayan are the traits they are looking for. But the question is, are there candidates who carry such DNA? We have seen in this Administration, what Aquino wants, Aquino gets: the impeachment, sin taxes, RH, framework on peace in Mindanao, early passage of budget with least cuts, among others. What Aquino does not want, stays at the back burner: FOI, SALN, and bank accounts of public officials not made public, disciplining his KKK, etc. Consequently, I do not see any major hiccups in the midterm, nationally that is. What appears to be heating up are key local races at the gubernatorial in big provinces like Laguna, Cebu, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Cavite, and Quezon. Again, all at the centers, not at the fringes. Masbate, one of the poorest provinces in the country with traditional politicos, has a priest running and the poor priest just wanted to offer an alternative.
With the level of ratings Mr. Aquino has gained to date, and with no politician willing to cross swords with him, Mr. Aquino is simply lucky. Nonetheless, his next three years will be a challenging ride because he will have to ensure his legacy agenda is in place, if we can see one. Leading up to May 2016 though is another thing. We will see that right after May 2013, the veritable political knives will be ready for leading presidential and vice presidential prospective candidates. Even now, political gatekeepers may not want one particular candidate in May 2013 to be the No.1 Senator in the roll and this is already looking forward to 2016. In fine, politics should serve the interests of the nation. However, we see here small steps that are quite few and far between with the habit of taking the fringes at the backseat. In the tradition of Laswell, politics is who gets what, when and how. Inclusiveness is the call of the day. As the PHL economy grows, no one should be left behind. If the politics could only serve this end, we just might...just might, see a stable national growth in our lifetime and not the boom and bust cycle that PHL has been quite known for. Thank you.