The Washington Post has chimed in with an astute article about Philippine elections. It states what AP readers have no trouble dealing with – Filipino voters choices in the Philippine elections amount to nothing.
Where are the yellow zombies and Carolla blowhards – mag-rally na kayo sa harap ng Washington Post!!!
In Philippines, pre-vote largess doesn’t translate into post-vote progress
By Blaine Harden
Tuesday, April 27, 2010; A06
MANILA — It’s election season in the Philippines, and the short-term forecast is for manna from heaven.
For voters who live in Baseco, a slum built on garbage beside Manila Bay, it’s hard to keep track of all the incoming goodies. Roads have been paved. Playgrounds have been built. A maternity clinic is under construction. One candidate bankrolled a beauty contest. Another sent in doctors bearing free antibiotics. Demolition of squatters’ huts has been halted. Free food is expected on May 10, election day.
“It is like a fiesta,” said Ray Campanera, senior councilor in the local government here. “Life is a little bit happier.”
Yet for the residents of Baseco, as for the poor who account for a third of the 92 million people in the Philippines, pre-election good times are almost always followed by post-election betrayal.
Politicians who win election in this former U.S. colony have one of the worst records in Southeast Asia for stiffing the poor, coddling the rich and indulging themselves, according to a mountain of data and a chorus of economists.
Bad governance has gone hand in glove with rising crime, a surge in political killing, stagnant foreign investment, and a restless search by tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and other highly skilled Filipinos for opportunity outside their homeland. About 1.7 million Filipino immigrants now live in the United States, the second-largest immigrant group, after Mexicans.
A weak central government has also provided an opening for Islamist extremists operating in the southern Philippines, where for eight years U.S. Special Forces have been training the Philippine military in guerrilla tactics.
This is the only country in Southeast Asia where the absolute number of poor people has increased since 1990, according to the Asian Development Bank.
“If you are poor, the Philippines is the wrong place to be,” said Arsenio M. Balisacan, a professor of economics at the University of the Philippines.
And it’s not because the overall economy is in trouble. Until the global recession, growth had clipped along here at about 5.5 percent for much of the past decade. But thanks to elected policymakers — the most influential of whom tend to come from a handful of families — poverty, hunger and income inequality have increased along with growth.
Meanwhile, the percentage of the gross domestic product spent on health care, public education and farm services has stalled or declined. Two-thirds of the poor live in rural areas and are dependent on farming for their livelihood, but investment in farm-to-market roads and other basic infrastructure has fallen.
“The social conscience of the elite in this country is wanting,” said Victor A. Abola, an economist at the University of Asia and the Pacific. “The richest people who are involved in politics don’t want to pay their taxes.”
Abola estimates that tax evasion deprives the government of about a third of its annual operating revenue, crippling the state’s capacity to pay down debts or invest in infrastructure that would increase productivity and improve living standards.
A report this month by the Asian Development Bank said the government should stop granting tax exemptions to the rich, crack down on tax evaders and enforce anti-corruption policies.
Politicians running in the upcoming elections are not denying the need to do much more for the poor. It is the primary talking point of the 85,000 candidates running for 17,000 elective positions, as they try to secure the loyalty of the country’s 50 million registered voters, many of whom are poor and getting poorer.
The campaign slogan of the presidential front-runner, Sen. Benigno Aquino III, says: “Without corrupt officials, there are no poor people.”
Aquino is beloved for being the only son of assassinated opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. and of former president Corazon Aquino, who died last year. But after 12 years in public office, he has little record of introducing legislation aimed at poverty reduction.
Aquino’s main challenger, Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., counters with: “End poverty, once and for all.”
Villar grew up in a Manila slum and became a real estate billionaire. He says he understands poverty like no other politician in the country and knows how to alleviate it. His critics say he became rich, in part, by using his political influence.
Presidents here have enormous power to shape government policy. Whoever wins could improve tax collection, crack down on corruption and increase spending on schools, health care and rural roads.
Still, the history of the Philippines suggests that spending on the poor — together with earnest speeches about their needs — peaks before national elections.
The current deluge of pre-election spending is expected to boost the country’s economy through May, according to the Asian Development Bank.
“You have to understand how campaigns are conducted in this country,” said Abola, the economist. “Candidates and their backers bring in money they have stashed abroad or kept in dollar accounts. There is a real redistribution effect.”
Here in Baseco, big-ticket campaign spending has come courtesy of Manila’s mayor, Alfredo S. Lim. Behind huge yellow signs bearing his name, laborers are working overtime building the maternity clinic.
“Of course Mayor Lim has my vote,” said Diane Espinoza, who grew up in Baseco. “He is taking care of the people.”
Special correspondent Carmela Cruz contributed to this report.
A follow-up story on the Washington Post article was made by Philstar.
RP polls bring feast then famine – Washington Post
By Jose Katigbak, STAR Washington bureau (The Philippine Star) Updated April 29, 2010 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON – Filipino politicians have one of the worst records in Southeast Asia for stiffing the poor, coddling the rich and indulging themselves, The Washington Post said.
A Post report from Manila by Blaine Harden said in an election season in the Philippines, the poor are inundated with “goodies” but the pre-election good times are almost always followed by post-election betrayal.
The need to do much for the poor is the primary talking point of 85,000 candidates running for 17,000 elective positions in the May 10 general elections, the newspaper said, and “it’s hard to keep track of all the incoming goodies.”
Traditionally, aid to the poor drops off after the vote.
The campaign slogan of presidential frontrunner Sen. Benigno Aquino is “without corrupt officials, there are no poor people,“ the report said, “but after 12 years in public office, he has little record of introducing legislation aimed at poverty reduction.”
As for Sen. Manuel Villar, Aquino’s main challenger, his slogan is: “End poverty once and for all.“
Villar says he understands poverty like no other candidate because he grew up in the slums and knows how to alleviate it, but his critics claim he became rich in part by using his political influence, the newspaper report said.
Many of the candidates employ the services of entertainment and sports celebrities to boost their chances at the polls.
In the United States, Hollywood fame brings candidates no political fortune, The Washington Times reported.
It said a study by researchers at North Carolina State University found that celebrity endorsements by stars such as Madonna and George Clooney do not help political candidates and, in fact, can hurt them.
The Times said public annoyance with celebrities who leave the sound stage for the campaign trail has been detected elsewhere in the United States.
The Philippine election campaign has attracted little attention in the US media primarily because the leading candidates in the presidential stakes are pro-American.
There doesn’t seem to be anything interesting about the election unless of course it doesn’t happen, said Walter Lohman of the Heritage Foundation.
“Now that would be a problem because the US definitely wants to see the elections proceeding and the results being honored,” he said.
Ernest Bower of the Center for Strategic & International Studies said the election was an important opportunity for the Philippines to emphasize one of its key competitive advantages – a democratic government.
“Let’s hope the race is well fought and won by the candidate receiving the most votes. The candidates who lose should support the new president and move on to support the country’s national interest,” he said.
Yoooo hoooo.. yellow zombies and Carolla blowhards, where are you – magrally na kayo sa harap ng Philstar. 😆