As featured in Edition 40, available here.
BY ALICE STANDEN (2nd year - History and Sociology - Bristol, UK)
In the Philippines, an upcoming election scheduled for May 9th “heralds winds of change”, as the country prepares to elect a new president, vice-president, 12 senators, and a new term for local officials. Key issues for many voters will be the pandemic response, the previous president’s corruption scandals and accusations of human rights abuses, and relief for local communities following the devastating effects of Typhoon Rai, which landed in December 2021.
However, the candidates on the tentative list have been dropping like flies: while there were 15 presidential candidates in December, it dropped to ten in mid-January, and only five attended the first forum for presidential candidates in February. While the current and controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte, has announced his retirement, the elections have already been filled with controversy.
One candidate, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., faced a petition seeking to bar him from running in the election. The petition argued that he was not eligible to run due to a past tax conviction, but was dismissed by the Philippines election commission, which ruled there were “no grounds to cancel” his candidacy. However, the petition is only one of many seeking to bar Ferdinand Marcos Jr., known popularly as Bongbong Marcos, from running in the election. This is because his father, Ferdinand Marcos, ruled as a dictator under martial law from 1972 until 1981. Following the People Power Revolution, a civil resistance campaign against regime violence and electoral fraud, Marcos was overthrown in 1986, more than 20 years after first becoming president, and later died in exile. Many fear that Bongbong Marcos will follow in his father’s footsteps if he is elected.
Another controversial candidate is Marcos’ running-mate, Sara Duterte, daughter of the current president. One of her policy ideas is to urge Congress to pass a military conscription law, similar to one in South Korea, which would mean all citizens would serve in the military once they reached 18 years of age. Another vice-presidential candidate, former Congressman Walden Bello, criticised this campaign and argued that demilitarisation was key to resolving “disaster preparedness [and] social welfare”. Notably, this conscription policy was advocated for by President Duterte during his time in office amid security issues, such as China’s presence in the South China Sea, but failed to gain any traction.
Despite these criticisms, Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte have attracted popularity in Southern Leyte, which saw 79.54% voter turnout in the 2019 elections. The Marcoses have a stronghold in the north, whilst the Dutertes’ base is in the south, which has made the two frontrunners on a national scale. Marcos is also leading in most pre-election surveys but will have to contend with pro-democracy forces campaigning against him.
Their main opposition is Leody de Guzman, who represents a “pro-labor and pro-people stance”, and whose running-mate, Bello, criticised Duterte’s conscription policy. He claims he will order the recovery of the Marcos’ wrongfully obtained wealth, as well as exhume dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ remains if he is elected president. In addition to focusing on economic, political, and social development, de Guzman and Bello have made it clear that they are campaigning strongly against what they call the “Marcos-Duterte Axis of Evil”.
Another strong opponent is the only female presidential candidate, Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, who is currently the vice-president under Duterte and previously defeated Marcos in the 2016 vice-presidential race. However, she entered the race late and has failed to gain widespread support, especially since her proposed anti-dynasty bill, which she co-wrote as a legislator, has made her enemies among those who support the rampant nepotism within the political system.
Other notable candidates include former soldier and police officer Panfilo Lacson, former boxer Manny Pacquiao (who presented a “22 rounds agenda”), and current Manila Mayor Isko Moreno. Lacson is just one of many former soldiers and cops running for positions in the 2022 election, with the highest number coming from President Duterte’s party, PDP-Laban.
While it seems that the Marcos-Duterte ticket could preserve the rule of two political dynasties in the Philippines, the president and vice-president are elected separately in what is known as ‘split-ticket voting’. This means that, despite seeming to be popular candidates, there is still a chance for a coalition between parties if only one is elected. However, a published paper on the phenomenon found that political dynasties previously had adverse effects on the Philippines, such as “the perpetuation of poverty and underdevelopment… and the prevalence of massive corruption”.
It may be too early to determine the political future of the Philippines— but it is certainly one to watch.
Image: Flickr (Ilocos Norte)