In late 2015 we started musing over the idea of running a series of articles about the Philippine Elections in 2016 for Ballots and Bullets, a blog run by the School of Politics and International Relations at The University of Nottingham. We knew that the official campaign would be three months long and that this task would be a big commitment. After canvassing a number of friends and colleagues on whether they would write for us we decided to go ahead. When the election campaign started on 9 February so did our blog.
The election campaign has been hard fought and dominated by the rise of Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte came to the campaign late, offended a fair number of people with his colourful language and seemingly casual approach to violence. He risked alienating women, the Pope, various foreign ambassadors and human rights groups. However the voters embraced him. Clearly fed up with entrenched poverty, oligarchic politics and rampant criminality, the voters delivered nearly sixteen million votes (based on partial and incomplete voting) for Duterte. His supporters used the hashtag #changeiscoming on social media. The coming months will show whether it really is.
The president-elect has promised to get rid of corruption, drugs and criminality in the Philippines within three to six months. The task before him is daunting. His detractors have claimed that a Duterte presidency will plunge the Philippines back to the dark days of dictatorship. His supporters on the other hand, have pointed to his strong track record as Mayor of Davao. Davao is regularly cited as one of the safest cities in Asia. Duterte is on speaking terms with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army. He has articulated an agenda that appeals to the progressive left and described himself as a socialist.
76% of wealth is owned by the richest 10% of the population in the Philippines. The Philippine economy expanded at an average rate of 6.2% during the Aquino administration but the poor saw little evidence of this. A quarter of the population of Metro Manila live in informal housing and many families struggle to feed themselves. According to UNICEF, the Philippines ranks fifth in the world for low infant birthrate. This is worse than many war torn African countries. Meanwhile, the rich have retreated to gated communities and air conditioned condominiums to avoid the heat, gridlocked traffic and poverty. Duterte promised to address these problems and the voters have to given him the chance to do it.
The vice presidential race has been just as competitive as the presidential contest. At the time of writing, frontrunner Leni Robredo is leading by a slim margin of three hundred thousand votes against Bongbong Marcos, with around 4% of clustered precincts still unaccounted for. While the vice president has traditionally been considered a ‘spare tyre’ the cooperation of the second highest government official will be critical for Durterte’s administration given the radical changes he is seeking to achieve during the next six years.
A candidate of the ruling party, Leni Robredo has vowed to fully support Duterte if she wins the vice presidency. It is unclear however, if her preference for managing special anti-poverty projects over an appointment as a cabinet secretary will be granted. Leni is best known for her pro-poor advocacies as a member of the House of Representatives and was a human rights lawyer before entering politics. So far, the only clear assurance to Robredo has been that she will not be a “flower vase” in Duterte government, assuring her of a cabinet position if she wins as vice president.
Bongbong Marcos on the other hand, favoured Duterte as a running mate for the 2016 national elections but was turned down because of an existing commitment with Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. Despite of this, Duterte has always had high regard for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and has declared that he would let Bongbong take over as president if he did not get rid of corruption, drugs and criminality in three to six months. Before joining the vice presidential race, Bongbong held various positions in both executive and legislative branches of government for more than three decades.
The contest between Robredo and Marcos has been contentious for two reasons. First, both candidates have not overwhelmingly convinced voters that they are more suitable for the position. The challenge for Robredo seems to be her affiliation with the current administration, which has slowly lost credibility with the Filipino people. The government’s weak response to events such as Typhoon Yolanda, the Zamboanga siege, the Masasapano incident, and the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) has generated doubts regarding the current platform of anti-corruption and good governance espoused by Robredo. Meanwhile, Marcos has been dogged by criticism of atrocities associated with his family, most prominently the implementation for Martial Law in the Philippines. While Marcos constantly tries to distance himself from his father’s legacy, not all voters are pleased with his explanations and narratives.
The second reason is authoritarian nostalgia or the preference for a strongman rule. This phenomenon has been influenced by the continuous failure of previous governments to implement reforms and improve the living conditions in the Philippines. This context has propelled Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency and helped Marcos to generate strong support for his campaign. A victory for Robredo would be a preference for balancing Duterte’s authoritarian preferences while a win for Marcos would indeed confirm the renaissance of dictatorial rule in the Philippines.
Over the course of our blog series, contributors have addressed a range of foreign and domestic issues as they related to the election campaign. Our contributors addressed poverty and environmental damage. They have discussed the South China Sea/West Philippine dispute, military modernization, the Bangsamoro Peace Process as well as the importance of the OFW vote. The blog has also covered what elections mean for the Philippines and why voters vote the way that they do. We have also covered authoritarian nostalgia, charter change and the many and various personalities that make up the Philippine political scene.
We hope that our blogs have offered a useful social commentary on the election. Our bloggers were a diverse bunch. Journalists, academics, postgraduate students, clergymen and civil activists from around the world freely gave up their time to write for us. We would like to take this opportunity to thank them. We would also like to thank all our readers. The blog has been read across the globe by thousands. Last but not least we would also like to thank John Pollock, our intrepid social media officer, who supported us all the way.
Maraming Salamat/Thank you very much.
Links to all our election blogs are here. Please follow the hyperlinks for the full articles:
Roland G. Simbulan, Philippines 2016: How ‘Dutertismo’ can make a difference, May 11 2016.
Vladimir Guevarra, Top 5 Things to Expect of a Duterte Presidency, May 11 2016.
Pauline Eadie, How the Philippines’ new strongman romped into office despite a shocking campaign, May 10 2016.
Richard J. Heydarian, The Coming Uncertainty: Philippine Elections, May 6 2016.
Carmilita Morante, Electioneering in the Promised Land: Payatas Dumpsite 2016, May 6 2016.
Erwin S. Fernandez, The Federal Alternative: Will Rodrigo Duterte clinch the presidency? Part II, May 5 2016
Erwin S. Fernandez, The Federal Alternative: Will Rodrigo Duterte clinch the presidency? Part I, May 4 2016
Elliot Newbold, A Family Business: The Rise & Fall of the Roxas Dynasty, May 3 2016.
Pauline Eadie, Hardman Rodrigo Duterte closes in on the Philippine presidency, April 27 2016.
Kevin H.R. Villanueva, Philippines 2016: Election Day is All Souls Day, April 26 2016.
Rosalie Arcala Hall, Philippines 2016: Regional Party Building and for Women in Politics, April 25 2016.
Vladimir Guevarra, Philippine Elections 2016: Much Ado About Nothing?, April 21 2016.
Julia Palmiano Federer, Philippines 2016: The Bangsamoro Peace Process Beyond May, April 19 2016.
Pauline Eadie, The Philippines, Environmental Politics and the Challenges Ahead, April 18 2016.
Francis Domingo Missiles Not Rifles: The Significance of Military Modernization for the Next President, April 13 2016.
Barry Naylor, What Hope for Integrity?: Philippines Election 2016, April 12, 2016.
Amador IV Peleo, Philippine Fanfare and the Frailty of Philippine Foreign Policy, April 11 2016.
Sumantra Maitra, Security Dilemma in South China Sea: China, US and the choices for Philippines, April 7 2016.
Anthony Lawrence A. Borja, Philippines 2016: The Political Spectacle and the Frustrated Vote, April 6 2016.
Rachelle Bascara, Philippines 2016: The Significance of the OFW Vote, April 5 2016.
Roland G. Simbulan, Challenging Oligarchic Politics in the Philippines, March 23 2016.
Pauline Eadie, Typhoon Yolanda Survivors Need More than Pro-poor Rhetoric from Politicians, March 22 2016.
Jeremiah Reyes, Marcos and Duterte: Authoritarian Nostalgia in the Philippines, March 21 2016.
Elliot Newbold, Philippines 2016: Is America’s military presence affecting the Philippine elections?, March 15 2016.
Pauline Eadie, The EDSA revolution at 30: what does it mean for the poor Philippines 2016?, March 7 2016.
Aries A. Arugay, Philippines 2016: The Crises of Representation in the Philippines and the Role of Charter Change, March 2 2016.
Ernie R. Gonzales, Democratic Dysfunction in the Philippines: “Pateros ” as a Microcosm, February 29 2016.
Carmina Yu Untalan, Philippines 2016: Democracy for the Bobotante, February 24 2016
Pauline Eadie, Philippines 2016: We Need to Talk About Manny, February 22 2016.
Joseph Franco, 2016 Philippine Presidential Elections: Turning Point for Internal Conflicts?, February 18 2016.
Pauleen Gorosp, What the Philippines 2016 Elections Mean for the Mindanao Peace Process, February 17 2016.
Pauline Eadie and Francis Domingo, Philippines 2016 at the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies, February 8 2016.
Pauline Eadie is an Assistant Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at The University of Nottingham. She is Deputy Director of the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies (IAPS). Francis Domingo is an Assistant Professor of International Studies at De La Salle University in Manila and a doctoral candidate at the School of Politics and International Relations at The University of Nottingham. Image credit: Wikipedia Commons.