The nine-three result of last Monday’s Senate elections proclaims a no-change outcome. It locks the country into the iron grip of a status quo—continuity of political sterility in the second half of President Aquino’s administration, which has been hamstrung from delivering economic benefits to the Filipino masses by slogans on good governance.
If elections are expected to be the catalyst of political and social change or harbingers of political renewal, no such thing is taking place in the wake of the Team PNoy poll victory. This is the biggest disappointment coming from the result. There is no euphoria on the part of the public in the result of the senatorial elections. The only surprise that jarred public expectations is the upset pulled by Grace Poe, adopted daughter of the actress Susan Roces and the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., when she dislodged reelectionist senator Loren Legarda from the No. 1 slot, after Legarda had been the front-runner in election surveys in the past three months.
But it’s disappointing to know that both Legarda and Poe belong to the triumphant Team PNoy bandwagon. Poe, who carried the surname of her husband, businessman Neil Llamanzares, before the elections, is a completely new face in the Philippine political landscape. But to her credit, it didn’t take long for her to learn that name recall is a priceless political asset. Pretty soon, in the course of the election campaign, every other word in her political vocabulary was embellished by anything that sounded like “Poe.”
Poe is the new name-setter in the Team PNoy lineup, but it’s hard to imagine how she can act as a dynamo of change in the next Senate. From her brief exposure in the election campaign, she has come off as an articulate and scintillating personality during interviews with the media. She took up development studies at the University of the Philippines, and is a graduate of political science from a Jesuit-run college in Massachusetts in the United States.
President Aquino invited Poe to join his administration as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, and then to run as a senatorial candidate in the Team PNoy ticket. It was not lost on Mr. Aquino that Poe had an axe to grind against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who had been accused of stealing the 2004 presidential election from her father. Besides, Mr. Aquino is presumed not to be unaware of the drawing power of movie celebrities to bolster the campaign of the administration candidates.
What either Poe and Legarda may not realize is that the President used their vote-drawing power—and, in the case of Poe, her father’s name—to achieve the administration’s goal of winning a majority in the senatorial elections, and eventually gain control of the Senate. The administration needs them more than they need the administration’s vehicle to win. For example, if they had run on the opposition ticket, there is every reason to believe that they could have won, with the result less advantageous for the administration than the 9-3 vote in Monday’s balloting.
The administration’s Liberal Party-led alliance with the Nacionalista Party and the Nationalist People’s Coalition has won a hollow victory in the Senate. The LP forms a small nucleus of the multiparty complexion of the nine winners. The result is a clear rebuff of the administration’s scheme to achieve a clean sweep. The voters gave the opposition three seats, with the message that they don’t want the administration to retain control of the three branches of government, or to consolidate the control that it has exercised in the past three years. During that control, the administration did not produce economic results that produced the growth that created jobs and reduced poverty. For another thing, the voters sent the message to keep the opposition alive.
Other issues have flowed from the 9-3 result. One is that while there are new faces elected from the administration’s lineup, they provide assets to help prepare a new agenda for change and economic growth. These assets have to be listened to in order to revitalize the agenda of the next three years. If their initiatives and ideas are hobbled by slogans that do not produce wealth, there can never be a renewal. Another issue that has emerged is that the intensely debated matter of political dynasties is of no moment to voters, as shown by Vice President Jejomar Binay’s daughter Nancy emerging No. 5 in the Top 12 as an opposition candidate. Juan Edgardo Angara of the administration ticket also won a seat—he is sixth in the rankings.
Another issue is that the poor, who have been left behind in the benefits of growth, should be asking: What’s in it for us in the Team PNoy majority win?