ANALYSIS: Philippine politicians suffer backlash of population bill vote

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino III appears uncertain of his clout in winning control of an ungovernable Senate in the 2013 midterm elections as he faces a grass-roots backlash from the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy over the passage in Congress of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.

After steamrollering the bill for ratification by the Senate-House conference committee last week, Aquino marked time signing it into law to avoid humiliating the bishops for their defeat.

The Palace patronizingly said the consolidated version of the House and Senate bills would "definitely be signed at the end of the year."

But the issue is likely to fester as the bishops lick their wounds. They have vowed to mobilize the Church's nationwide constituency to vote down the administration's senatorial candidates and reelectionist House members in next May's elections.

The prospects of ending the deep divisions appear dim.

Buoyed up by the passage of the bill, Aquino told reporters last week that he was looking forward to campaigning for the administration's senatorial candidates.

He said the election results would be a "referendum" on his first three years, marked by zeal in tormenting and prosecuting his political enemies, and by a shortfall in accomplishments on economic and social programs designed to reduce poverty and create jobs.

More than a referendum

The midterm elections will not only be a referendum; it will be more than that.

It will determine whether the election results would make the administration a lame-duck presidency. It will also test the political influence of the Catholic Church, which is putting its clout on the line on the RH bill.

According to the President, the Liberal Party (LP), supposedly the ruling party, has trimmed down its senatorial ticket to 12 from 40. The ticket is a mixed lot in composition.

The LP has only four members in the Senate-Francis Pangilinan, Teofisto Guingona III, Ralph Recto and Franklin Drilon. The Nacionalista Party (NP) has the most numbers with five-Manuel Villar, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Bongbong Marcos and Antonio Trillanes.

Lakas-Kampi has three-Joker Arroyo, Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla; Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), two-Tito Sotto and Loren Legarda; Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), two-Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada; People's Reform Party, one-Miriam Defensor-Santiago; Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), one-Edgardo Angara; Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban), one-Aquilino Pimentel III; and independent, four-Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Chiz Escudero and Sergio Osmeña.

The reelectionist senators are Alan Peter Cayetano, Trillanes, Escudero, Honasan, Legarda and Pimentel.

From this jumble of names and myriad of parties, the vexing question follows: How can one build a party system based on ideology, policy or program of government on this hollow foundation? From this chaos of parties, the LP faces an impossible task of building a ruling party in the Senate.

No majority

The House is less chaotic, but still no single party can claim a plurality, much less a majority.

The status of parties in the House is as follows: Lakas-CMD-Kampi, 107; LP, 39; NPC, 32; NP, 24; PMP, five; PDP-Laban, two; LDP, two; Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, two; six other minor parties with one member each; and seven independents.

This distribution of parties not only staggers the imagination but also illustrates the importance of Aquino's claim that the results of the midterm elections could be a referendum on the first half of his administration.

Those in the LP senatorial slate expect or hope that their chances of being elected would be lifted by the President's popularity, which will be tested in the elections.

The LP ticket includes Senators Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pimentel, Trillanes, former Senators Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Jamby Madrigal, former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar and Grace Poe-Llamanzares, daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.

The list also includes Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, son of Sen. Eduardo Angara, and Paolo Benigno Aquino V, the President's cousin.

Only six LP candidates placed in the 12 winning places in the Social Weather Stations survey of Nov. 23 to Dec. 3. According to the survey, Legarda topped the survey, followed by Escudero (second), Cayetano (third), Villar (fourth), Pimentel (sixth to seventh) and Trillanes (11th).

Being identified with the administration is not a guarantee for election to the Senate. It cuts both ways.

Joblessness worsened

The backlash from the negative campaign from some of the bishops on the RH bill can hurt the chances of some senators.

Although the President's poll survey ratings have remained high, the administration's record on economic management is certain to come up during the campaign.

The downside is that despite the surprising economic growth in the 2012 third quarter, joblessness worsened in October compared to the same month last year.

According to the National Statistics Office, the unemployment rate stood at 6.8 percent, or about 2.8 million unemployed-higher than the 6.4 percent recorded in October 2011.

Arsenio Balisacan, director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, said that despite the gross national product of 7.1 percent in the third quarter, unemployment was still the government's "greatest challenge."

He said "achievement in rapid economic growth is one thing but inclusive growth is clearly another."

This means that the growth statistics indicate that most of the poor are being left out. The administration didn't say how taking control of the Senate can create more jobs to reduce poverty.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Militants want US Marines pulled out of Negros
    Militants want US Marines pulled out of Negros

    The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) is calling for the pullout of US Marines who arrived in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last Wednesday to train Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and members of the allied forces. The SAF commandos and the allied forces will secure the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meeting in this city. Bayan-Negros secretary general Christian Tuayon said the US troops might violate the human rights of activists, especially those …

  • China subs outnumber US fleet – admiral
    China subs outnumber US fleet – admiral

    China is building some “fairly amazing submarines” and now has more diesel- and nuclear-powered vessels than the United States, a top US Navy admiral told US lawmakers on Wednesday, although he said their quality was inferior. Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for capabilities and resources, told the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee that China was also expanding the geographic areas of operation for its submarines, and their length of …

  • Pacman mega fight tax exemption up to Congress, BIR
    Pacman mega fight tax exemption up to Congress, BIR

    Malacañang is leaving it up to Congress and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to consider a proposed special tax exemption for boxing icon Manny Pacquiao in his much-awaited fight with Floyd Mayweather. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday it will have to be discussed by Congress because lawmakers are the ones who enact tax exemptions, special or general. Pacquiao has been dogged by unsettled tax obligations with the BIR. …

  • Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together
    Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — After spending 67 years together as devoted husband and wife, there was no question how Floyd and Violet Hartwig would end their lives — together. …

  • 3 Pinays on Forbes power women list
    3 Pinays on Forbes power women list

    Three Filipina executives, who are all daughters of known business tycoons in the country, made it to Forbes’ list of the 50 most powerful businesswomen in Asia. Teresita Sy-Coson, vice chairman of SM Investments and chairman of BDO Universal Bank, was included in the list for the fourth year in a row since its inception. “Under her (Sy-Coson) lead SMIC became the largest listed company on the Philippine Stock Exchange by market cap. Also in the 2015 list is 70-year-old Helen Yuchengco-Dee, …

  • Binay backs house arrest for JPE, GMA
    Binay backs house arrest for JPE, GMA

    Vice President Jejomar Binay yesterday supported proposals to put Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo under house arrest. “Government prosecutors are opposing house arrest for… Enrile. Binay issued the statement after the 91-year-old Enrile was rushed to the Makati Medical Center on Thursday due to pneumonia. House arrest for him would be the compassionate thing to do,” he added. …

  • Hijacked Indonesian vessel found in Davao
    Hijacked Indonesian vessel found in Davao

    An Indonesian cargo vessel that was hijacked a month ago in North Sulawesi, Indonesia has been found stuck in the waters off Mati, Davao Oriental, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported yesterday. PCG spokesperson Armand Balilo said the PCG- Southeastern Mindanao district was informed on Feb. 23 that the M/T Rehoboth was found aground off Barangay Cabuaya. Four personnel from the local PCG district office were sent to verify the report. The vessel was reportedly hijacked by …

  • US-led strikes on IS after group seizes 220 Christians
    US-led strikes on IS after group seizes 220 Christians

    The US-led coalition has carried out air strikes against the Islamic State group in northeastern Syria, where the jihadists have launched a new offensive and kidnapped 220 Assyrian Christians. The raids on Thursday struck areas around the town of Tal Tamr in Hasakeh province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, without giving information on possible casualties. The town remains under the control of Kurdish forces, but at least 10 surrounding villages have been seized by IS, along …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options