Carvajal: It’s simply worth it

·2 min read

TO SET the record straight, poverty that plagues millions in our society today has been with us since Spanish times. No administration, colonial or domestic, has ever come near to closing the gap between the privileged few and the marginalized many.

Corruption, a major aggravating factor, has also festered since then. It seems, however, to have markedly worsened when politicians learned -- from Marcos who hardly got more than a slap on the wrist for big-time plunder -- that corruption pays and it is easy to get away with a bigger amount of stolen money.

Granting that, as opposition groups claim, poverty and corruption have gotten much worse during President Duterte’s term, and the Philippines, as VP Leni Robredo puts it, cannot afford another Duterte-style rule, the cynic in me would like to pose two questions to those vying to prevent a similar rule by Duterte’s anointed.

First, why don’t they unite to insure a win? From surveys, even united, their chance of a victory looks slim. How much more if they are fragmented?

Second, why do they want to take on the country’s huge problems so badly that they would be willing to spend billions to win the presidency? The law allows a staggering (at P10 per voter) P600 million for 60 million registered voters (2019 elections’ figures: 61.8 million registered voters and 1.8 million overseas Filipino voters), but we all know their spending will exceed the legal limit.

The Covid-19 problem alone, which they claim has been grossly mishandled by Duterte, does not have any sure-fire solution from any group of experts worldwide.

These questions would seem to have an economic answer: The presidency is worth all the money that one spends to win it. First, with perhaps the sole exception of Pacquiao, the campaign funds of presidential candidates will come mostly from big business. (If you wonder why economic policies of any administration favor big businesses, this is why.)

Second, win or lose, candidates make money. The winner gets the returns of his/her investment solely for himself/herself as financial backers are repaid in the form of favorable policies, contracts and appointments to lucrative government positions. The losers, not only don’t have to pay back their financiers, they also get to keep whatever is left of the contributed funds.

No, in spite of glowing rhetoric to the contrary (I’m only hearing motherhood statements so far), they are not running for love of country. It’s cynical of me, but I just find it hard to believe they are willing to invest billions to win the presidency because they are oozing with concern for its poor millions.

In the game of Philippine politics, the rewards for winning the presidency are simply worth the billions one has to spend to get it.

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