POSTSCRIPT / November 8, 2016 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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How US election can impact on Phl

NEW YORK – By midnight Tuesday, either Hillary Clinton (D) or Donald Trump (R) – both of whom many American voters supposedly do not trust enough — will have been elected the 45th president of the United States.

If it is Clinton, the Democratic nominee will become the first female US president, sort of returning to the White House. But if Trump the Republican bet wins, the US will have its own version of our Rodrigo Duterte as president and commander-in-chief.

From the viewpoint of serving Philippine interests, who is the preferred winner? We believe that we can live with either Clinton or Trump.

Duterte said days ago, when asked what he thought of the two contenders, that Clinton would make a “good president,” while conceding that Trump, who has been likened to him, was at least a “good candidate.”

That remark was probably another of his flip-flop jokes. He knows that Clinton’s capturing the White House would mean not only her looking after Michelle’s garden but also her continuing the foreign policies of Barack Obama, an object of Digong’s crispiest curses.

Serving for four years as State secretary (2009-2013), Clinton was in the circle that defined Obama’s US policies and actions that have so impacted on the Philippines that Duterte has denounced them as interfering in domestic affairs.

Under a Clinton presidency, White House policy toward the former colony will likely be “more of the same” Obamic pivot to Asia-Pacific. There could be radical moves affecting Manila in reaction to Duterte’s warming up to Beijing.

What if it were a Trump presidency? Nothing much the Philippines could do about that. Duterte could try making friends or just continue his cabin conversation with the pilot (whom he mistook for God) and pass on instructions to fasten seatbelts to the 100-plus million Filipinos on board.

• US must press courtship of Phl

IN EITHER a Clinton or a Trump administration, the US will have to press its courtship of the Philippines, a vital link in America’s strategic encirclement of China since the Cold War (1947-1991).

Unfortunately for Washington, its diplomatic advances on Manila cannot be as fast and as flexible as those of Beijing, whose top bureaucracy can move faster being in the grip of the communist party.

The White House, on the other hand, moves painfully by the number, taking time to mind its power-sharing with the Congress and to also factor in domestic politics in laying down foreign policy.

Such time-consuming rigmarole is even embodied in the Phl-US Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 which carries an American reservation that its military response to an aggressive threat to the Philippines will have to pass US congressional processes.

Duterte is a hitherto unknown number that materialized from the grassroots long downtrodden by the ruling elite. With him now cozying up to China while also trying to catch the eye of Russia, Duterte will be quite elusive for some time.

Whether it is Clinton or Trump in the White House, the US will have to be patient with Duterte even as the superpower applies the usual carrot-and-stick technique often brought to bear on stubborn leaders of modest economies.

It would be disastrous for the US to dismiss Duterte as a budding adversary. It must regard him as a potential friend and act accordingly – and quickly.

Pulling out investments, limiting imports, freezing foreign aid and military assistance, etc., would just push him faster to the waiting arms of China and Russia. With its more than half-century presence in the country, the US is not wanting of friends who can help reach Duterte.

• FilAms make mark in second home

NUMBERING 3.4 million in the last (2010) census, Filipino Americans are now the second largest Asian group in the US, next to Chinese Americans. With many more unreported, FilAms are estimated to number 4 million – the biggest Filipino community overseas.

FilAms are politically active, having elected a number of their compatriots to public office. On average, they earn a higher average household income and achieve a higher level of education than the US national average.

Unlike in the Philippines where the president is elected directly by the people, the US president is chosen by an Electoral College, now consisting of 538 electors.

The number of 538 electors is equal to the total members of Congress (435 representatives and 100 senators), plus those of the District of Columbia which has the same number of electors as the least populous state, currently three.

The electors of all states, except Maine and Nebraska, are chosen on a “winner-take-all” basis. Under this scheme, a state has all of its electors pledged to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in that state. Maine and Nebraska, however, select one elector within each congressional district by popular vote and select the remaining two electors by a statewide vote.

What happens if Clinton and Trump tie with exactly half (269) of the 538 electoral votes, missing the majority of 270 needed for a candidate to win the presidency? This has happened four times in the history of the US, most recently in 2000.

In case of a tie or if no candidate garners 270 votes, the House of Representatives chooses a president in a contingent election where the top three candidates are considered. With each state casting one vote, whoever gets the majority of votes wins the election.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 8, 2016)

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