POSTSCRIPT / October 8, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Poe, Duterte join race as alternative choices

SENATOR Grace Poe Llamanzares and Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 presidential race can give voters fed up with traditional politics an alternative to the dynastic wannabes expected to just continue the same maladministration sinking the nation.

Among the presidential aspirants, only Poe and Duterte are not from the dynasties that have long dominated Philippine politics. The two, plus vice presidential candidate CamSur Rep. Leni Robredo, are a fresh addition to the field.

Poe’s candidacy still hangs, awaiting a definitive ruling on her status as a natural-born citizen. If she is not disqualified on citizenship or residency grounds, she is widely conceded as almost a sure winner.

But she has to first satisfy the basic qualifications (such as natural-born citizenship and residency) imposed by the Constitution before presuming to present whatever qualities (such purity of heart and patriotism) she may possess.

Elections in the Philippines are nothing but popularity contests. Poe happens to be popular enough, at this point, to swamp her rivals Mar Roxas (LP), Jojo Binay (UNA) and Duterte (PDP-Laban).

Talking of political alternatives, there should be product differentiation at the polls for a candidate to escape the dismissive categorization of politicians as parepareho lang sila (they are all the same).

Roxas’ promise to continue the administration’s “Daang Matuwid” (Straight Path) means “more of the same” program of his patron President Noynoy Aquino. The Liberal Party now has to work doubly hard as it has to sell two products – both Aquino and Roxas.

Poe, btw, promises to uphold and continue the legacy of her father Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) whose expertise and achievements are in film-making. She looks qualified to go into the movie business, but what about being Chief of State and Head of Government?

As for Duterte, his chances depend on what campaign issues will warm up until May 2016. If violence kicks up criminality and peace and order as urgent concerns, and his camp is able to cash in on this, he could reap a bumper crop of votes.

But if the administration is able to maintain graft and corruption as the banner issue, the Davao mayor – awaited by a large sector as the one who can whip this unruly country into line — will go down as a provincial politico taking too big a bite at national politics.

Wages, inflation most urgent nat’l concerns

ALTHOUGH listed near the top, violence and criminality are not yet the most urgent concerns of Filipinos, according to the “Ulat ng Bayan” national survey done by Pulse Asia last Sept. 8 – 14 using face-to-face interviews with 2,400 representative adults 18 years old and above.

The survey showed that since June, the economy or livelihood has been Filipinos’ most urgent concern, specifically the increasing of workers’ pay (47 percent of respondents) and controlling inflation or price increases (46 percent).

A second cluster of urgent concerns include graft and corruption (39 percent) and jobs (37 percent). Around one in three Filipinos (32 percent) expresses concern about the need to reduce poverty.

Then follow criminality (25 percent), peace (18 percent), rule of law (16 percent), environment degradation (13 percent), and rapid population growth (11 percent). Filipinos are least concerned about territorial integrity (7 percent), charter change (4 percent), and terrorism (3 percent).

In Metro Manila, the top urgent national concerns are workers’ pay (50 percent) and corruption (42 percent). In the rest of Luzon, the most often mentioned concerns are workers’ pay (48 percent), inflation (46 percent), corruption (39 percent), and jobs (38 percent).

The same pattern is noted in the Visayas, where the most cited concerns are workers’ pay (49 percent), inflation (46 percent), and corruption (40 percent). In Mindanao, respondents are most concerned about inflation (50 percent) and workers’ pay (42 percent).

 Admin’s only majority rating is on OFWs

THE AQUINO administration scored in the survey only one majority approval rating – protecting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (51 percent). There was no note if the respondents gave credit to Vice President Jojo Binay, who was the Cabinet overseer of OFW welfare for four years.

Between June and September, there was a decline of approval for the administration’s fighting criminality, enforcing the rule of law, and acting on corruption (-6 to -8 percentage points). This could have been affected by the perceived selective prosecution of crooks in government.

Disapproval for its fight against criminality and corruption was more pronounced during the same period (+6 and +11 percentage points, respectively). Indecision on the approving or disapproving its enforcing the rule of law also became more evident at this time.

Meanwhile, research group IBON reported that poor quality work has marked job generation, while saying that the country’s jobs crisis reached unprecedented levels.

At a recent economic briefing, National Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that strong economic growth has led to favorable employment prospects. He reported over four million jobs generated over the last five years, with an increase in the share of wage and salaried employment.

But IBON said there is “pseudo-job generation,” noting that the quality of work continues to worsen despite seemingly increasing employment. As last July, more than one-third or 34.3 percent of all employed persons are own-account workers (26.2 percent or 10.2 million) and unpaid family workers (8.1 percent or 3.2 million).

Employment created in the first quarter consisted of 544,000 informal jobs, but 137,000 regular jobs were lost, according to IBON. More than 12 million Filipinos or 32.2 percent work less than 40 hours or are part-time workers.

From July 2014 to July 2015, Labor Force Survey figures (excluding Leyte) showed that the underemployed or those seeking additional work rose from 18.3 percent to 20.8 percent of total labor force.

Quoting government data, IBON said the share of non-regular and agency-hired workers rose from 37 to 44 of 100 Filipino workers from 2008 to 2012. The share of regular employees to total employment decreased from 72 to only 56 of 100 workers.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 8, 2015)

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