Our country faces a crucial junction as we elect our next president on May 9. Each candidate—Duterte, Poe, Roxas, Defensor-Santiago, Binay—has made their case, laying out their platforms in both regional campaigns and nationally televised debates. Social media sites have made a killing off of the millions of posts that their political campaigns have generated, some of which have infamously led to fights among friends.
It's a sticky situation. Oftentimes, it gets comically intense. And when it does—as with any conflict—an outsider's perspective could be of tremendous help. In the case of these national elections, it's the international press that can offer that zoomed-out point-of-view. Away from the intensity of the emotions, what things are they seeing that we aren't able to see anymore? We scanned news websites across the globe to find out. Hopefully, their opinions can shine some light on the aspects obscured by the fact that we're so close to the subject.
The Deal With Digong
Rodrigo Duterte charmed our socks off. For a time, the dude was Batman without the no-kill rule. We've had economists run the land for almost three presidential terms. Yet the people couldn't feel enough of a change. The numbers had been positive enough, as far as reports go, but a significant amount of the population still had trouble putting food on the table. That's why people will risk giving the ultimate power to someone who's been dubbed by his rivals and critics as the closest to being the second coming of Marcos. A Pulse Asia Research poll released on April 24 pegs Duterte as the frontrunner with a 34-percent voter preference rating. Grace Poe comes second at 18 percent.
The London-based The Economist calls the current poll leader "the beast of Davao." Vote for him and we risk undoing the economic improvements that the Aquino administration, for all its perceived shortcomings, have done. Duterte's vigilantism, the paper further states, isn't equipped to solve our long list of problems. On the other hand, Poe is too inexperienced. They blame the popularity of these two on the Filipinos' "love of showmanship and personality over policy and administrative ability." Duterte's that funny uncle with a flair for machismo, always popular in reunions. Poe is described by the paper as "telegenic", the easiest on the eye among all the candidates.
Here's who the paper would like to vote for: Mar Roxas. "The dull but diligent Mar Roxas would make the best next president," it states. If only he hadn't been so charmless.
"The Strongman Syndrome"
Roxas' inability to strike a chord can't be blamed for a lack of hilarious quips. On the other hand, Duterte's current grip on the electorate isn't merely because he's the most interesting man in the world.
CNN says that the appeal of the strongman—a raging messiah promising to fix all that is broken—is not endemic to the Philippines. Indonesia, India, and Peru in recent years have also selected "tough-talking, single-minded politicians." What do we have in common with these countries? We're all troubled democracies, the site states. We are nations experiencing accelerated economic growth. However, that fast growth comes at a price in the form of political divisiveness. The money is coming in, but it's also disrupting the usual order of things. The pie is bigger, but not everyone's getting a fair share. Which leader can fix that immediately? In our case, it's Duterte that has been able to package himself as That Guy.
Donald Trump has been able to do the same in the U.S., CNN also states. While the U.S. has a far more established democracy than any other countries mentioned in the preceding paragraph, its population has also shown a measure of dissatisfaction towards the perceived lack of decisive action from its leaders. And hasnt' that been the complaint towards P-Noy in recent years as well?
In the vice presidential race, Bongbong Marcos leads the pack. Like Duterte, he promises a decisive style of leadership. But it's not just because of that. CNN also mentions a few other reasons behind his popularity:
"In a country where forgetfulness and forgiveness are interchangeable and there is collective mental bias for the immediate present than the distant past, Marcos' blitzkrieg campaign of 'historical revisionism' has proven increasingly effective, especially among the youth and those who are critical of the Philippines' oligarchy."
Just how effective these candidates' campaigns are, we'll know for sure come May 9. But even before the elections, the race has had economic effects on our country.
Finance authority Bloomberg reported the biggest monthly drop for the Philippine peso since it experienced a 2.2-percent drop from July 2015 to August 2015. The peso dropped to P46.90 per dollar, a 1.8-percent drop this April, according to the Bankers Association of the Philippines. Why the drop? They say it's because recent polls showed that candidates with no track record in business or economics surged past contenders which investors believe could steer the Philippine economy best.
These dips, however, aren't unusual when a change in leadership is imminent. In a New York Times article, it is noted that "the leading candidates recognize the importance of the economic resurgence of the Philippines, and none of them have put forward proposals to dismantle the policies of the Aquino administration that relate to governance and economy policy." They've also promised to improve wealth distribution, a major issue in the Aquino administration.
The Diplomat offers their own choice as to which candidate will be able to continue what Aquino started: Roxas. Echoing The Economist, the publication said:
Mar Roxas, Aquino’s choice and a man who has held many positions in the executive branch, would likely oversee a smooth transition from the Aquino government, attempting to build on Aquino’s achievements. Roxas would probably try to implement the peace deal, continue the drive to make the Philippines more attractive to investment, and pursue an increasingly tough approach to the South China Sea, one that includes beefing up defense ties with not only the United States but also with Japan and other regional powers.
That seems to be the general belief in most international outlets. It's going to be hard to beat Duterte. Grace Poe is too green behind the ears. Mar is probably the most well-equipped but is charmless.