Benigno “Noynoy” Cojuangco-Aquino Jr. is currently the leading Philippine presidential candidate. He has enough qualifications to become president. Assuming we have relatively clean elections and Noynoy and his vice-presidential candidate partner, Manual “Mar” Araneta-Roxas protect their votes, both will become the country’s next president and vice-president respectively. From what I have seen, heard, and read, there seems to be three main reasons why they will win.
1. “Today we march, tomorrow we vote”- Latino slogan
Filipinos want change; change that is authentic. The presidential elections provide Filipinos, short of a civil war or a third People’s Power revolution, a chance to change the top leadership in one fell swoop. The demand from the bottom is for a top overhaul.
During the 2004 presidential elections, the opposition did not provide a credible alternative to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (PGMA). Worse, the opposition showed Filipinos how disunited and inept they were in opposing PGMA and positioning themselves as the better alternative.
NGOs and other civil society actors did no better. Instead of engaging PGMA early on during her administration, they were too intolerant of her. They abandoned her during the May 2001 EDSA Tres power grab. This singular event combined with the constant, critical, and unhelpful sniping of PGMA pushed her to engage in transactional politics. While some would say she was genetically built to engage in transactional politics eventually, I posit that these circumstances led her to do so earlier. She and her husband built their power base through patronage politics, distrust of all, and manipulation of the rest. The question is; would PGMA have been a better President if civil society engaged her the way Gawad Kalinga engages all, i.e. without judgment?
Third, one in eight Filipinos now work and live abroad. Eight million Filipinos are supporting family and the nation. They, like the middle class left behind in the Philippines, share the same angst and shame at the poverty and underdevelopment of the country. Pinoy pride is undermined by the stigma of corruption and poverty in the Philippines. While personally successful, the masses left behind and falling deeper into poverty and desperation gnaw at OFWs and the elite alike. The poor are a stark and embarrassing reminder of where we all are or where we come from. In Metro Manila alone, over 500 squatter communities share the same walls with about 1,500 gated communities.
The years during and after Marcos have been witness to an endless parade of corruption scandals and blatant display of questionable wealth and arrogant power (“wangwang” syndrome) in a sea of despair and poverty.
Thus, there is a palpable desire to wind down the PGMA era and elect a president that is not a convicted felon, under a cloud of corruption, perceived as building a political dynasty, connected to PGMA, or part of the baby boomer generation that brought us the Marcos dictatorship, made the Philippines an economic basket case, and devastated our environment all in one generation.
Who else but Noynoy?
2. Leaders leading leaders
I have written previously that Filipinos should decide on what kind of leader (a DATU?) they want. I think they have decided. A datu, contrary to popular conception, was not all about defending his territory and invading others. Rather, it was about keeping the peace and providing for all. A datu’s twin tasks were to ensure a stable economy and a peaceful environment. Because Filipinos want authentic change, the next president must be:
- A moral leader. Corruption, influence peddling, and blatant display and abuse of power have left a bad taste in the mouths of Filipinos. I do not think they will tolerate another six years of these. The next president will have to be a role model of honesty and clean living. Further, he will have to be a just leader prioritizing human rights and justice for friend and foe alike.
- A servant-leader. Filipinos are looking for a leader who has the interests of the country and the Filipino truly at heart. They want someone who will prioritize the most vulnerable in society, yet will inspire the best and brightest to achieve their goals and dreams. The next president is expected to lead the Philippines in becoming economically productive, peaceful, while creating an environment where Filipinos can progress individually and as a community-nation. Gawad Kalinga says it best with its slogan for a leader; “Una sa serbisyo, huli sa benepisyo” (first in service, last in benefits). Filipinos are tired of someone telling them to do this, follow that while the leader and his/her factotums violate the laws they are suppose to uphold, become rich while in government, and take privileges at the expense of the citizens, i.e. police escorts through traffic.
- A symbolic leader. As stated, Filipinos are in nearly all the countries of the world. Filipinos know, understand, and live what it is to be global. Yet they are ashamed at being Filipino, because the nationality is associated with the poverty of the majority and the corruption and moral decadence of the minority. More so, when the top leadership is the leading bad example. The next president for the new century and decade should be clean, credible, charismatic, and competent.
Ninoy and Cory Aquino’s lives modeled leadership based on honesty, public service, personal sacrifice, and Filipino character amidst diversity. While Cory critics fault her for not producing the economic miracle everyone hoped for, her administration is credited with institutionalizing democracy despite seven coup attempts, a bankrupt economy, and consecutive disasters. She oversaw the first orderly transition of power in over 20 years.
Nonoy is their son and is expected to carry on with this legacy. After all Filipinos are just asking to be left alone to do their own thing, not to be taken advantage of, and not to be hampered in their pursuit of progress.
3. “Welcome to the future” --Black Eyed Peas
While the rich nations of Europe, North America, Japan, and Australia are aging and experiencing falling birthrates, the Philippines has a young population and has a stable (although decreasing slightly) birthrate. The 2009 population is about 92 million. The working age population is about 59.3 million, with about 35 million employed. The voting population is estimated at between 47 to 51 million. Of this number, 54% constitute the youth voting bloc. Of the 2.6 million new voters, 80% constitute the youth voting bloc.
As pundits and the latest surveys show, the youth bloc will either go for Noynoy or Manny Villar. A generational shift is occurring vis-à-vis voters. Shouldn’t it follow that we need to drastically change the leadership as well? The present crop of presidential aspirants save for Noynoy and Gilbert Teodoro come from the generation that brought us Marcos, economic depression, human rights violations, environmental degradation, and the Filipino diaspora.
The other presidential candidates emphasize their competence and experience to lead, but they are weighed down precisely by their track record. They were already there during the Marcos regime and they were active participants in the post-Marcos era that brought us a felon for a president and a very unpopular present leader. Thus, they represent the old order.
Gilbert Teodoro, Noynoy’s contemporary and relative, is saddled by his association with PGMA and his uncle, Marcos associate Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, his active participation in the attempted impeachment of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide , the inadequate response of the National Disaster Coordinating Committee (NDCC) under his lead during Typhoon Ondoy, and the possession of Department of Defense armaments by the Ampatuan clan members.
Now is the right time for change and Noynoy above all represents this change, this generational shift.
The media has been reporting the survey results over time and I will not repeat it here. Villar is said to have spent an estimated PhP2.5 billion in ads, half a billion of which was spent during the last four months alone. The flood of ads though seem to be working because Villar improved by 12 percentage points to make the election race a tight one at the moment. Yet, he trails Noynoy in the latest survey by two percentage points. Nonoy has yet to launch his ad blitz or receive significant campaign funds from his supporters.
Do online numbers support these survey results? Similar to the Barack Obama online phenomenon, which eventually translated into votes, Noynoy does have a robust online presence. In Facebook, the leading social networking portal at present, Noynoy’s facebook page has 555,740 fans compared to Gibo Teodoro’s 94,495 fans. Villar, who reportedly has invested significantly for a big bang online presence, has 519,161 fans.
Digital videos complement television advertising. Google’s YouTube provides video access to the youth. Gilbert Teodoro was first to join YouTube in July 03, 2009. To date, he had 9,584 channel views (those who visited owner’s YouTube page), 108,206 upload views (total views of all videos uploaded), and 218 subscribers. Villar soon followed Teodoro a few weeks after and signed up on July 24, 2009. Villar has channel views of 9,154, total upload views of 58,073, and 127 subscribers. Noynoy was the last to join on October 7, 2009. He has 14,351 channel views, total upload views of 105,511, and 411 subscribers.
How important is the online Filipino to the 2010 elections? The researches of advertising firm Universal McCann's Wave 4 and InternetWorldStats on the digital Filipino indicate that there 24 million Filipinos who go online, with 84 to 86% that are part of a social network group such as Friendster, Mulitply, and Facebook. The numbers are staggering. Internet penetration in the Philippines is 21%. For Friendster, 12 million of the over 50 million subscribers are Filipino and within the 15-29 age group. Thus, over 40% of their daily traffic originates from the Philippines. For Facebook, 8.3 million users are Filipinos. For Multiply, nearly three million of the 12 million members are Filipinos accounting for 30% of its daily traffic. Interestingly, half of the two million photos uploaded are from Filipinos.
Further, 90% of Filipinos online read a blog, while 98% watch YouTube videos. A 2008 Yahoo-Nielsen internet survey research revealed that Filipino internet users blogged, were opinion makers, trend setters and/or trend conscious, and used social networking sites.
Interestingly, the internet was being accessed by lower income groups.
Apart from the internet, Filipinos connect through the ubiquitous cellphone. In the Philippines, there were 63 million cellphones in use with 2 billion text messages sent daily as of August 2009.
Thus, there are forces, social forces, mobilizing in the country. One social force seeks to maintain its status, power, and wealth from the local to national levels. The poster boy is the Ampatuan family.
Other social forces are looking at reform, renewal, good governance, a moral economy, bayanihan, among others. Civil society in terms of the Church, Gawad Kalinga, NGO workers, farmers, fishermen, artists, environmentalists, teachers, social entrepreneurs, ethical businessmen, OFWs, and so on are themselves mobilizing.
If massive voter manipulation is minimized, Noynoy will be the next president of the Philippines.
The three main reasons stated above basically show that Noynoy may be the most probable winner because the Philippine socio-economic-geopolitical context is becoming unbearable leading to the people demanding a change in national leadership. The leader being sought after is someone untainted by corruption. It is honesty and credibility in these corrupt times that will determine the next president. It is character that Filipinos are looking for in the next president.
What we have here is a confluence of events, a yearning of the Filipino people to rise above the prevailing despair and apathy, a shallow pool of presidential aspirants, a call for honesty and good governance, and the need to institute widespread societal and institutional reform.
The task and the responsibility will ultimately fall on Noynoy.