POSTSCRIPT / November 29, 2015 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Duterte bid blooms as that of Poe fades

A GROWING number of voters seem to be realizing that Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares’ claim to being a natural-born citizen is legally untenable and her executive track record not that solid — while they see an alternative would-be president in tough-talking Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

It is too early to say as the numbers have not firmed up. Still, the last survey in Metro Manila – far from the home ground of Duterte – showed him leading the presidential pack with 34 percent against the 26 percent of Poe, the erstwhile favorite.

Last September when he was not yet a declared presidential candidate, Duterte with 27 percent already placed second to Poe in Metro Manila, behind her 31 percent. Binay was third with 26 percent, and Roxas fourth with 13 percent.

We are reading Duterte’s chart against Poe’s, because the mayor said he was prompted to run after the political majority in the Senate Electoral Tribunal ruled that the neophyte senator is natural-born and therefore qualified to keep her Senate seat (and run for president).

Where Manila goes so will the nation?

BUT THE AREA surveyed by Pulse Asia was just Metro Manila? That is precisely the exclamation point! It calls to mind the hoary adage that where Manila, the economic and political capital, goes so goes the rest of the nation.

The metropolis, a melting pot where some 12 percent of the national population lives and works, is far from the Mindanao bailiwick of Duterte.

Yet the poll results reflect deep and wide support for him — meaning his message, platform and his no-nonsense approach to governance issues have resonated as far north as Manila even before he filed his certificate of candidacy last Friday.

In the survey last Nov. 11-12, one in every three voters in the national capital said he would vote for Duterte if elections were held that day. The 70-year-old bet dominated all economic and social classes.

To Duterte’s 34 percent, Poe got 26, Vice President Jojo Binay 22, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas 11, and Sen. Miriam Santiago 7 percent.

Bets’ differentiation now clearer

TO MANY of us who are disturbed by runaway crime to the point of desperation, if not surrender, Duterte’s style of dealing with petty and big-time hoodlums is a welcome change from the Aquino administration’s waffling.

With the entry of game-changer Duterte, there is now product differentiation. For instance, while Mar Roxas appears as arguably the best equipped candidate for the Palace job, he lacks — like tepid soup — the zing of a decisive leader.

Everybody must now rethink his campaign messaging. Roxas can no longer simply offer more of the same Aquino“daang matuwid” menu and the others should do better than merely rewriting it.

Poe’s constitutional infirmities and her lackluster executive background have started to show. Binay has been hobbled by perceptions of corruption. Santiago must overcome fears of her followers that she may not survive the presidency.

But even Duterte the iron man is not exempt from the corrosive dirt of Philippine politics. Keep your ear cocked for the signal to start his demolition.

PH growth misses forecast in Q3

THE MARKET Monitor service of business writers Ernie Tolentino and Lito Gagni reports:

The economy grew slower than expected in the third quarter after years of sustained growth due a shrunken industrial and agriculture output.

Gross domestic product expanded by 6.0 percent in the July-September period, faster than 5.8 percent in the previous quarter — but below the 6.3 percent median expectation of economists as a slowdown in manufacturing weighed on growth in services and public spending.

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index fell sharply last Friday, closing below the 7,000 mark, as investors assessed the weaker-than-expected third quarter domestic economic growth.

The PSEI lost 136.18 points or 1.93 percent to close at 6.927.07 amid mostly weaker regional markets.  Value turnover for the day was at P16.42 billion, with 111 decliners and 60 advancers.

The services sector was the main growth driver in the third quarter, growing 7.3 percent — the highest in two years — from 5.6 percent last year. Year-on-year, industry growth slowed to 5.4 percent from 7.8 percent, while agriculture declined 0.4 percent from a 2.6 percent contraction.

False sense of prosperity in 2016

PLANNING Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the economy could still grow as much as 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter due to a boost in consumption during the Christmas season, bringing the full-year average to at least 6.0 percent.

 “The outcome of the national election will have an impact on the economy,” Balisacan added. “We are hoping that whoever will get elected will speed up and sustain the reforms so we can raise the potential of the economy.”

The Philippines has the potential to grow by as much as 8.0 percent next year, he insisted, ignoring the negative effect of the El Nino dry spell, which has begun to hurt agriculture —  down 1.1 percent quarter-on-quarter.

Balisacan did not say it, but the expected accelerated release of billions in the national election spending next year will create a false sense of prosperity in 2016.

The Senate approved on third and final reading Thursday the proposed P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016. Approval was on a vote of 14 to 1, with the lone nay vote coming from Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III.

Malacañang has promised, meanwhile, to account for the P10 billion allocated for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings that were concluded last Nov. 19.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the APEC expenses went to the local economy, such as to hotel accommodations and infrastructure.

Records show, however, that allocations for the APEC have been made before 2015 as, for instance, for the building and fixing of infrastructure in Iloilo City, where APEC meetings had been held since July.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 29, 2015)

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