The unspoken daemons of the Philippine elections

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benigno_aquino
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in front of a portrait of his late mother, Corazon Aquino.

During Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s visit to an elementary school in Quezon City this past week, a sea of yellow shirt-clad supporters greeted him with synchronized chants of “Cory,” the country’s former president and the standing Aquino’s mother.

Some 1,500 people gathered underneath a metal-covered enclosure to catch a glimpse of their incumbent president, paper fans fluttering away to fend off the oppressive heat. President Aquino has engendered a lot of sympathy in the Philippines, where the history of his father’s assassination and mother’s recent lose against cancer are fresh in many Filipinos’ memories. It is a particularly powerful tool to wield in this Monday’s upcoming midterm election, a show that is more personal that ideological.

The international community is increasingly feeling the charm of the scion as well. The second fastest growing country in Asia, the Philippines has recently received three back-to-back investment upgrades. An economist by trade, President Aquino’s good governance policies have led to a business climate that has created Asia’s fiercest growing stock market, leading Time magazine to name him one of this year’s 100 most influential people.

But beyond the statistics and Ivory Tower praise, the Philippines has glaring troubles that have lost between the murky election-related mudslinging. Since coming to office in 2010, poverty levels have stagnated and job creation remains a debilitating problem due to a lack of labour-intensive industries.

Phil rally
Yellow shirt-clad supporters for Benigno Aquino’s ruling coalition at a recent rally in Quezon City

Even amongst adoring supporters, this reality is crushingly evident. After President Aquino left his podium at the elementary school, the crowd shuffled towards an iron-cast gate where women in ragged clothes were reaching for a table of plastic bottles, pawing at the ground to grab those that already fell. Just across the street, feral children beg, not for money, but food.

According to the data from the National Statistical Coordination Board, more than 27.9 per cent of the Philippines’ 2009 population fell below the international poverty line, commonly interpreted as less than $1.50 per day. High teenage pregnancy rates, a subject that surrounds a law that will be in hot debate on Monday’s elections, further reinforces the vicious circle of Philippine poverty.

While the US looks on in fascinated disgust and relief as Amanda Berry and her two other abductees return to their families after spending years in the “personal prison” of their captor, the Philippines continues on its own unceremonious battle against human trafficking. The subject of a forthcoming CNN film, Philippine celebrity boxer Manny Pacquiao joins forces with an anti-trafficking advocate to bring a larger spotlight to the country’s countless abduction cases. It is estimated that there are about 100,000 Filipino women and girls being trafficked into the country’s prostitution rings, usually operated by crime syndicates. While the Philippines passed an anti-trafficking law in 2003, enforcement is reported to be patchy.

Team PNoy, the supported coalition of President Aquino, would have voters believe that “if there is no corruption, there is no poverty.” This, however, is merely a disguise to settle a score with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a former professor of the current president who has thus far escaped the clutches of graft charges. It is the archetypical example of how grudges pollute Philippine politics, overshadowing the most demanding issues.

Poverty eradication and the safety of girls such as those in the crowd at the elementary school should be more important than fighting drawn-out corruption cases.

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in front of a portrait of his late mother, Corazon Aquino.

During Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s visit to an elementary school in Quezon City this past week, a sea of yellow shirt-clad supporters greeted him with synchronized chants of “Cory,” the country’s former president and the standing Aquino’s mother.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

benigno_aquino
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in front of a portrait of his late mother, Corazon Aquino.

During Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s visit to an elementary school in Quezon City this past week, a sea of yellow shirt-clad supporters greeted him with synchronized chants of “Cory,” the country’s former president and the standing Aquino’s mother.

Some 1,500 people gathered underneath a metal-covered enclosure to catch a glimpse of their incumbent president, paper fans fluttering away to fend off the oppressive heat. President Aquino has engendered a lot of sympathy in the Philippines, where the history of his father’s assassination and mother’s recent lose against cancer are fresh in many Filipinos’ memories. It is a particularly powerful tool to wield in this Monday’s upcoming midterm election, a show that is more personal that ideological.

The international community is increasingly feeling the charm of the scion as well. The second fastest growing country in Asia, the Philippines has recently received three back-to-back investment upgrades. An economist by trade, President Aquino’s good governance policies have led to a business climate that has created Asia’s fiercest growing stock market, leading Time magazine to name him one of this year’s 100 most influential people.

But beyond the statistics and Ivory Tower praise, the Philippines has glaring troubles that have lost between the murky election-related mudslinging. Since coming to office in 2010, poverty levels have stagnated and job creation remains a debilitating problem due to a lack of labour-intensive industries.

Phil rally
Yellow shirt-clad supporters for Benigno Aquino’s ruling coalition at a recent rally in Quezon City

Even amongst adoring supporters, this reality is crushingly evident. After President Aquino left his podium at the elementary school, the crowd shuffled towards an iron-cast gate where women in ragged clothes were reaching for a table of plastic bottles, pawing at the ground to grab those that already fell. Just across the street, feral children beg, not for money, but food.

According to the data from the National Statistical Coordination Board, more than 27.9 per cent of the Philippines’ 2009 population fell below the international poverty line, commonly interpreted as less than $1.50 per day. High teenage pregnancy rates, a subject that surrounds a law that will be in hot debate on Monday’s elections, further reinforces the vicious circle of Philippine poverty.

While the US looks on in fascinated disgust and relief as Amanda Berry and her two other abductees return to their families after spending years in the “personal prison” of their captor, the Philippines continues on its own unceremonious battle against human trafficking. The subject of a forthcoming CNN film, Philippine celebrity boxer Manny Pacquiao joins forces with an anti-trafficking advocate to bring a larger spotlight to the country’s countless abduction cases. It is estimated that there are about 100,000 Filipino women and girls being trafficked into the country’s prostitution rings, usually operated by crime syndicates. While the Philippines passed an anti-trafficking law in 2003, enforcement is reported to be patchy.

Team PNoy, the supported coalition of President Aquino, would have voters believe that “if there is no corruption, there is no poverty.” This, however, is merely a disguise to settle a score with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a former professor of the current president who has thus far escaped the clutches of graft charges. It is the archetypical example of how grudges pollute Philippine politics, overshadowing the most demanding issues.

Poverty eradication and the safety of girls such as those in the crowd at the elementary school should be more important than fighting drawn-out corruption cases.

 

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