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Commentary

Let the race begin

It’s less than six months to the Oct. 16 deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy for president, vice president and senators for the May 2016 elections. The list of aspirants is still evolving.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, a declared presidential wannabe, has consistently led the surveys against shadow opponents, thus becoming a favorite instead of the dark horse that he was in the 2010 vice presidential race. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, president of the Liberal Party, seems to be poised for a rematch with Binay, this time to succeed P-Noy in a presidential run. He was tipped to be vice president via the 2010 polls but lost.

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Some of those whose names have surfaced or been floated to join the presidential race are incumbent senators (Grace Poe, Miriam Santiago, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Alan Cayetano and Francis Escudero) and ex-senators (Panfilo Lacson and, remotely, Manuel Villar); there are also Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Camilo Sabio, former chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government. The Social Weather Stations survey conducted on March 20-23 started sorting out the serious contenders:

Binay (36 percent) still leading but now within reach by Poe (31 percent), Roxas (15 percent) sliding, and Duterte (15 percent) gaining.

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The numbers have moved significantly and a real contest is looming.

The vice-presidential derby is less defined. A number of those in the list for president can be vice-presidential aspirants when the dust clears. Poe is leading the pack and is deemed a sure winner if she decides to run. Escudero, Cayetano and Marcos, as well as Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Antonio Trillanes IV, and even Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, who are in detention in connection with the pork barrel scandal, can also seek the vice presidency.

The senatorial race can anticipate reelectionists if they will not pursue other positions: Guingona, Marcos, Franklin Drilon, Vicente Sotto III, Ralph Recto, Sergio Osmeña, or possible returnees Lacson and Rodolfo Biazon. New personalities who can make a serious run for the Senate are from P-Noy’s official family, like Leila de Lima, Joel Villanueva, Francis Tolentino, Joseph Abaya, Jericho Petilla, Kim Henares, Andy Bautista, Arnel Casanova and Risa Hontiveros; from the House of Representatives, like Rufus Rodriguez, Leni Robredo, Walden Bello, Win Gatchalian, Neri Colmenares, Mark Villar, Roman Romulo and Lino Cayetano; and from local government units, like Isko Moreno, Herbert Bautista and Vilma Santos (or she might seek the vice presidency instead).

Edu Manzano may not want to be outdone. Grace Pulido-Tan and Cory Quirino may be in the running, too. After Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao may next fight for a Senate seat. Even Dingdong Dantes’ name is being floated.

There will be many surprises, to be sure—only in the Philippines.

It is important that the list of candidates be finalized soon so that programs of government can be defined by each of them, to give the people an idea of their respective platforms. For a change, principles must be highlighted. It will be truly sad if between now and May 9, 2016, SWS and Pulse Asia will effectively decide for the people who will be president, vice president and senators. The surveys are necessary, but hopefully the results will be influenced by real agenda that will address the nation’s needs.

The Mamasapano incident on Jan. 25 triggered a crisis of leadership. P-Noy’s approval and trust ratings dropped significantly, projecting once again the label of incompetence that critics attach to him. Is there someone who managed to get above this episode and to deliver hope that the people can bank on for leadership in times of crisis? Unfortunately, no one seems to have responded with wisdom, credibility and grace that can make the people feel that at least the chaff is getting separated from the grain. No beacon of hope has shone. Toxic politics continues to be the name of the game.

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Yet, there are many issues waiting to be addressed with earnestness. Confronting poverty head-on is on top of the list. The “daang matuwid” (straight path) initiative was deemed a means to eradicate poverty. But where is it heading? Agro-industrial development for food production and security that will contribute to inclusive economic growth is an area of great concern, especially with the yearend launch of the Asean Economic Community. The housing backlog continues to be a gap that requires bridging. What new programs can be forthcoming? And where are the education and classroom backlog and the K-to-12 issue heading?

The investment climate continues to be positive. But it needs a sustaining impetus from the government, such as in pursuing infrastructure development, propelling energy and power sources, and consistency of economic and business policies at both the national and local levels.

Environmental concerns should be high in the agenda, too. Natural calamities and disasters have wrought havoc on different parts of the country and can be expected to continue. The government’s responses leave a lot to be desired.

Issues in foreign relations are getting more urgent. China has become very aggressive in the West Philippine Sea. Should the Philippines’ claim to Sabah be made active and arrangements with Malaysia reviewed?

Revisiting the phenomenon of overseas Filipino workers and putting in place a long-term plan to roll out the red carpet for hopefully a big wave of returning OFWs are the least that can be done for these real contemporary heroes of the nation who, despite the government, turned the Philippine economy around from the throes of bankruptcy. Although there are many OFW success stories that make us Filipinos proud, there are countless sad experiences that should humble us and remind us that our country must be made a worthy home for those who have made profound sacrifices.

It is imperative that the leaders to be elected in May 2016 will serve the people at large and not the vested interests of a few. It is time that they who want to lead presented to the people how they intend to bring about a unified and prosperous Filipino nation.

Danilo S. Venida (danilosvenida@gmail.com) holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the University of the Philippines and the Center for Research and Communication/University of Asia and the Pacific. He is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and is now a business consultant.

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TAGS: 2016 Elections, candidates, environment, foreign relations, Mamasapano, ofws
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