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Talking about the next president …

opinion / Columnists
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Talking about the next president …

The good news is that the Philippine economy grew by 6 percent (real GDP) in the third quarter of this year, which is marginally higher than the 5.8 percent growth rate in the second quarter, and higher than the 5.5 percent growth rate in the third quarter. The bad news is that at this rate, we will definitely not attain the 7-8 percent growth rate that the government set for 2015. To achieve that, we have to grow by 11.2 percent in the last quarter to hit 7 percent, and by 15.2 percent to hit 8 percent.

Further analysis of the 6 percent growth rate reveals that the Agriculture sector contributed NOTHING to it. The Philippine Statistical Authority reports that the Services sector contributed 4.2 percentage points of that 6 percent, while the Industry sector contributed 1.8 percentage points. Together, that makes 6 percent, doesn’t it? Agriculture, the third major sector, contributed 0.03 percentage points.

The Q3 growth of Agriculture and Forestry was zero.

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Fishing saved the day for the sector. It grew by 1.7 percent, and allowed the “Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing” sector to report a growth of 0.4 percent, much better than the negative growth of 2.4 percent in last year’s Q3. “Much better,” but nowhere near good enough.

We should view this with great alarm because the Agriculture sector accounts for 28.0 percent of our employed labor force (Services, 55.5 percent; Industry, 16.5 percent). Moreover, 60 percent of our poor come from this sector. That explains why, in spite of all the growth, we have not gained in our war against poverty. Agriculture Secretary Prospero “Procy” Alcala and Presidential Assistant for Agriculture Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan really have nothing to show for their years in agriculture service. They are examples of P-Noy’s failures.

If the next president really wants to fight poverty, he or she should give agriculture the attention it deserves. It did not get attention in the recent Apec conversations on MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises). The farmers and fishers were completely ignored. They’re not even on the radar screen!

* * *

And talking about the next president, Rodrigo Duterte is now very much in the news. I have three points to make about the Duterte phenomenon.

First, the “Davao is the safest city in the world” tag was given by Numbeo, described in Wikipedia as “a crowd-sourced global database of reported … perceived crime rates … other statistics.” What does this mean? This means it is based on what people (who go to the website) say, and not on hard data, which is why they talk about “perceived” crime rates. That is why in the space of seven months—between April and November 2015—it moved from the ninth safest city to the No. 1 spot (from ninth to fourth, between April and June).

The rankings can be manipulated. In the Davao case, the ranking was based on less than 500 observations—all self-selected. On the other hand, the Economist Intelligence Unit has a list of the world’s 50 safest cities; Davao is not in the list.

In other words, it is not true that Davao is the safest city in the world.

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But even if it were true, the fact is that Duterte has been mayor or in control of Davao City for more than 20 years. It took all that time to get Davao cleaned up. How much time will it take to get the Philippines cleaned up? He only has six years as president—if he wins.

Second, the reported reason Duterte gave for running, in spite of his previous “NO” answers, was that the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) on the Grace Poe disqualification case did not sit well with him. No way is he going to have an American citizen as president, he said. Having said that, he chose Alan Peter Cayetano as running mate. I have not checked on it, but I bet Alan and his sister Pia Cayetano vote the same way on important issues. Well, Pia voted for Poe, which is why the vote was 5-4 in Poe’s favor (all three Supreme Court justice-members of the SET voted against). So what does this say about Duterte’s decision-making abilities?

Third, I interviewed election lawyer Romy Macalintal (one of the best), and he says that there is no way Duterte can run, substituting for Martin Diño, PDP-Laban’s candidate. Why? Because Diño’s certificate of candidacy is flawed: It shows his candidacy for mayor of Pasay City. And he had a chance to correct the COC when he withdrew his candidacy. But he didn’t.

I was under the impression that the Commission on Elections had allowed Duterte to run, which is why I texted Macalintal. But as of this writing, Duterte has not filed his COC. So the Comelec has still to rule. (Duterte filed his COC for president before noon yesterday. The Comelec accepted it and elevated it to the en banc for resolution.—ED.) And Macalintal says the Comelec ruling cannot be favorable, unless Duterte substitutes for some other candidate, like Roy Señeres. Or unless the Comelec breaks its own rules (my take, not Macalintal’s).

In the meantime, we are left with Jojo Binay, Mar Roxas and Poe for president. Binay seems reluctant to meet his rivals in a no-holds-barred debate: He did not appear with Roxas and Poe at the Manila Polo Club, although I am told that he was on dzMM at the same time. Maybe he is right: Concentrate on the D-E class only.

Anyway, Poe’s main problem other than that she had to read her opening spiel (which raises the who-wrote-it issue) was that she did not answer the question “Did you renounce your Filipino citizenship?” but instead just went round and round. Pity that Karen Davila did not repeat the question or ask, “Is that a Yes or a No?”

Roxas sounded really “presidentiable,” giving facts, figures and analyses with great confidence, no notes. So as of now, it looks like Roxas is still the best man for the job.

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TAGS: agriculture, economy, Elections 2016, Roderigo Duterte
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