Thursday, 6 May 2010

The elections viewed from China

Who will be next Philippine president
by Liu Peng
Editor: Deng Shasha
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/indepth/2010-05/05/c_13278977.htm

MANILA, May 5 (Xinhua) -- The 2010 General Elections of the Philippines are scheduled to be held on May 10, in which a new president, vice president, 12 senators, 287 members of the House of Representatives as well as some 17,000 local officials will be elected by some 50 million voters.

As the upcoming elections will bring major changes to official posts throughout this southeast Asian country, the 2010 General Elections are attracting attention from both inside the Philippines and the international community.

ANTI-CORRUPTION, ELIMINATION OF POVERTY

Major presidential candidates include Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Cojuangco Aquino III from the Liberal Party, Manuel "Manny" Bamba Villar Jr. from the Nacionalista Party, ex-president Joseph "ERAP" Estrada from the Force of the Filipino Masses party, as well as other candidates from various political parties.

Born in 1960, Aquino III is the only son of the late senator Benigno Servillano "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. and late ex-president Maria Corazon "Cory" Sumulong Cojuangco Aquino. Graduated from Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics in 1981, Aquino III was elected to the House of Representatives in 1998, and was elected to the Senate in 2007. Within the Liberal Party, Aquino III has been holding the Vice-Chairman position since March 2006.

Aquino III believes that corruption and poverty are the main reasons for the Filipino people to lack in trust with their government, and pledges that if elected, he will be committed to fighting corruption, eliminating poverty, promoting economy and employment, improving education and healthcare standards and so on.

Villar was born in 1949 to a government employee father and a seafood dealer mother. In his early years as a working student, he graduated from the University of the Philippines with a master of business administration degree. After graduation, he experienced several job changes, later becoming a housing tycoon.

Villar was elected to the House of Representatives in 1992, later becoming Speaker there. He has been a senator since 2001 and served as Senate President from 2006 to 2008. Villar has been president for the Nacionalista Party since 2004.

He believes that extensively existing poverty and social injustice are the main problem the Philippines is faced with, and he pledged that once elected, he will be committed to eliminating poverty, cracking down on corruption, promoting social justice, realizing the economy's self-sufficiency through land reforms, developing local industry, containing environmental damages, improving basic social services such as education, healthcare, housing, etc.

Estrada was elected to the presidency in 1998, and was ousted in 2001 with corruption allegations. His post was assumed by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who became vice-president in 1998. Estrada was sentenced to life imprisonment for plunder in September 2007 but was pardoned by president Arroyo in October. In the 2004 General Elections, Arroyo was permitted to run for presidency and succeeded, and her presidential term ends on June 30, 2010.

Because Estrada's presidency from 1998 to 2004 was terminated in the middle, he was permitted to run for president again in the 2010 elections. In his opinion, the reason causing poverty and starvation in the Philippines is corruption. He pledges that if elected, he will be committed to cracking down on corruption, addressing secessionist problems in the south and creating safe social environment in order to realize stable growth of the economy, improving agricultural conditions, expanding investment in education, promoting employment, etc.

Under the Philippine Constitution, a presidential term lasts for 6 years and upon completion of that term, the president shall not be eligible for any reelection.

ELECTION-RELATED VIOLENCE

In the Philippines, elections have always been haunted by violence. According to police statistics, 229 election-related violence incidents occurred during the congressional mid-term election in 2007, killing 121 people and injuring 176; 249 election-related violence incidents occurred in the 2004 General Elections, leaving 148 people dead and 261 injured.

Before the 2010 General Elections, election-related violence were still rampant, as the political massacre, in which 57 people were slain, happened in Philippines' southern province of Maguindanao in November 2009. Suspects of the massacre were arrested and are undergoing legal procedures.

In order to crack down on election-related violence, military and police have been imposing an firearm ban throughout the country since Jan. 10, 2010 and have set up some 3,500 checkpoints. Furthermore, since April 15, military and police have been put on a Blue Alert, increasing the number of checkpoints throughout the country and patrolling fully armed in automobiles and motorcycles. On April 30, the Blue Alert was upgraded to the Red Alert, the highest security level, with all military and police personnel on constant stand-by and all passes and leaves cancelled.

However, election-related violence continued repeatedly. Police figures released on April 26 showed that 27 people, including city councilors, village councilors, village leaders and common people, were killed and 37 people were injured between Jan. 10, when election campaigns started, and April 25.

About two weeks ahead of the General Elections this year, a group of protesters tried to stage a rally in front of the presidential palace, the Malacanang, calling for "democracy space". They were met by the police on their way and clashes ensued.

The Philippines became a United States colony in the early 20th century. After gaining independence in the wake of the second World War, the Philippines adopted U.S.-style democracy. However, the country is still infested by clan-politics and election- related violence.

FINANCIAL BASIS FOR CAMPAIGN

In the Philippines, running for president without sufficient financial support will go nowhere. To extensively showcase candidates' bright side to voters, they usually open campaign websites, broadcast their campaign advertisements through TV and radio stations, hire motorcades decorated with campaign-related materials to roam streets, ask supporters to post posters along streets and hand out flyers and publicity items such as rubber bracelets and caps with candidates' names or images.

Before the 2010 General Elections, streets in Manila were filled with campaigning advertisements, and even some trees became publicity platforms--yellow ribbons tied to the branches represent Aguino III, and orange ribbons represent Villar.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who initially claimed that he would run for president, scrapped his idea last year, saying he was "bowing" to the reality that his "extremely limited resources" were not enough to run a campaign.

In a statement, Lacson said that while "well-meaning friends" had pledged financial support, "the time has come to face the reality that the intent to lead in this land in order to do good, has become an enterprise only for those who have access to unlimited funds."

He said that "poverty, the lack of health services, education and security will not be solved through dole-outs from politicians during election season, which is given away easily because it came from corruption."

WHO'S IN THE LEAD

The Philippines practises direct voting in general elections, and the candidate who secured the biggest amount of votes wins.

Several surveys showed that Aquino III was in the lead, followed by Villar and Estrada, with the latter two candidates having similar support rates.

According to a survey conducted nationwide by Pulse Asia from April 23 to 25, Aquino III enjoyed a support rate of 39 percent, while Villar and Estrada were respectively supported by 20 percent of the respondents, and the fourth candidate, former Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro Jr. from Lakas Kampi CMD, the ruling party, got 7 percent. None of the other candidates got a support rate higher than 3 percent.

39 percent was the highest that Aquino III secured since the campaign started on Feb. 9.

In another survey conducted by Social Weather Stations from April 16 to 19, Aquino III enjoyed a support rate of 38 percent, 12 percent higher than Villar. The third was Estrada, with 17 percent support rate, followed by Teodoro with a support rate of 9 percent. None of the other candidates had a support rate higher than 2 percent.

Based on this survey, local newspaper the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that assuming a voter turnout of 77 percent, the turnout in the 2004 presidential election, Aquino III would have won by some 4.7 million votes over Villar had the presidential election been held in the third week of April.

In a news briefing on April 30, the Liberal Party proclaimed that without massive frauds in the upcoming presidential election, Aquino III will be the winner.

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