POSTSCRIPT / May 2, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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It’s a referendum on Duterte regime

WITH just 10 days to go, it is time the underlying aspect of the May 13 election – that it is also a midterm referendum on the Duterte presidency – be brought into focus to help the people cast an informed vote, especially on the 12 Senate seats at stake.

Discounting personal reasons for preferring specific candidates, every vote cast for a senatorial candidate endorsed by President Duterte could be taken as a vote of confidence in him and a stamp of approval on how he has been running the country.

And every vote for opposition Senate candidates, particularly for the Otso Diretso team, could register as a rebuke to Duterte, or at least serve notice that the voter wants a performance upgrade or a quick replacement.

Some sectors say, with reason, that a vote for Duterte’s candidate may not always mean approval, but could just be a manifestation of the effects of propaganda. To correct the brainwashing, civic groups, the academe, media and other sectors have been engaged in non-partisan voters’ education.

Focus is on the Senate — as 12 or half of its 24 seats are up for grabs. Its present Palace-friendly majority could be diluted if voters would only select candidates not on the basis of their popularity or being simpatico, but for their competence, empathy and honesty.

The Senate could still become largely independent, as desired, if transfused with fresh clean blood through the election of candidates who, aside from being competent and patriotic, are not beholden to vested interests and lobby groups, nor are runners of the President.

If we are looking for check and balance, we can count out the House of Representatives which generally functions as an annex of Malacañang. Then there is also the Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin holding the line, but it seldom comes into play except when cases are brought before it.

It is interesting, btw, that with several senior SC members looking forward to retirement, all the 15 justices will eventually be Duterte appointees if he lasts till 2022. But while the magistrates are political appointees of the President, members of the Senate are elected by the people.

The May 13 election comes, therefore, as an opportunity for an aroused citizenry to install a fiercely independent Senate, a chamber populated not by clowns, showbiz characters and would-be plunderers, but by statesmen, intellectuals and patriots.

As the President acts as endorser of favored candidates, particularly for the Senate, the election campaign becomes a period for putting the endorser himself under scrutiny in some kind of political audit.

The electorate should rake up the promises Duterte made to win the presidency in 2016 — such as ending corruption and the drug menace in six months, stopping the ENDO practice with contract labor, solving the EDSA traffic mess, making the nation self-sufficient in rice, and opening more jobs, et cetera.

It could turn out that some of the statements he made on the campaign trail were not solemn promises, but outright lies tossed at people made vulnerable and gullible by programmed ignorance and poverty.

Through the ballot, the people must also speak up on Duterte’s stance on China’s occupying and militarizing features in our Exclusive Economic Zone, on Chinese displacing Filipino workers and fishermen, and his hocking valuable patrimonial assets to secure huge loans for his ambitious projects.

Catholic voters, who comprise 80 percent of the population, may want to use the election to teach Duterte a lesson in politics and morals, for his vulgar language and his publicly insulting God, the Church, its tenets and its flock.

President Duterte is aware that his political neck is on the line, that the coming election is a referendum on his persona and his turbulent presidency.

As we noted in our Postscript of April 21, he devotes a good part of his rambling campaign speeches to his programs and performance before he segues almost as an after-thought to briefly mention his candidates sitting bored on stage. See:

Some of Duterte’s candidates who apparently believe they can make it on their own or are afraid to be splattered with the flak that he gets do not join many of his campaign sorties, but are faring well. One example is Sen. Grace Poe, who is fixated with capturing the No. 1 spot in the Senate race.

 Duterte bets slide in polls but keep lead

ALL administration senatorial candidates lost percentage shares of the “votes” in Pulse Asia’s April 10-14 survey, but held on to the top 12 slots, even while four opposition bets gained shares but still failed to land in the statistically winning bracket except for Sen. Bam Aquino who was No. 14.

We assume that everything about the survey, including the design and the field work on the sample representing some 60 million voters in 81 provinces, the national capital region, 146 cities, 1,488 towns and 42,036 barangays, was accomplished in FIVE DAYS according to professional standards!

Cynthia Villar edged out Grace Poe to lead the field. Comparing the April poll results to those of the previous month (March), we noted, however, that while all the administration bets slipped, four opposition candidates scored notable gains in their percentage shares of the votes.

We cannot explain their one-month slide, so we will just give the figures based on the Pulse Asia tables:

Of the votes of the 1,800 adults interviewed nationwide in April, these candidates, two of them from the Otso Diretso ticket, slid in their shares of the votes: Poe (-22.1 percent), Sonny Angara (-18.1%), Bong Go (-14.9%), F. Tolentino (-12.9%), Villar (-12%), Imee Marcos (-9.4%), Nancy Binay (-9.3%), S. Osmena (-8.4%), Bato dela Rosa (-8.1%), P. Cayetano (-8.1%), Mar Roxas (-6.8%), Jinggoy Estrada (-6.4%)  Bam Aquino (-5%). Others slipped by smaller percentages.

Gainers among the opposition candidates were: N. Colmenares (+2.8 percent), G. Alejano (+1.5%), S. Gutoc (+1.1%) and C. Diokno (+.6%). Despite their gains, they failed to land in the first 14 slots.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 2, 2019)

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