Philippine Mid Term Polls may Boost Aquino Reforms

Vote counting is continuing after the mid-term elections in the Philippines to choose representatives for the nation

INDONESIA

Senin, 03 Jun 2013 18:53 WIB

Author

Sen Lam Radio Australia

Philippine Mid Term Polls may Boost Aquino Reforms

Philippines election, political dynasty in Philippines

Former Philippines President Joseph Estrada was recently proclaimed as mayor of Manila after local elections.

Vote counting is continuing after the mid-term elections to choose representatives for the nation’s Congress and local government.

President Aquino has another three years to go, but the outcome of this poll is crucial for his administration to push through a bold reform agenda.

Marites Vitug is one of the Philippines' most seasoned journalists, an author and editor-at-large at Rappler.com. She says it's expected President Aquino will get the chance to push through his reform agenda after these polls.

Sen Lam from Radio Australia has more.


“These elections are a referendum on the performance of President Aquino. The ruling coalition is expected to win both the Senate and the House of Representatives, they will win majority of both houses. So he's expected to continue the reforms he began in 2010 - anti-corruption, for example. But the biggest challenge is to make the growth of our economy inclusive - meaning, to provide more jobs, to reduce the number of poor people - we're still a very poor country, despite the growth in our economy.”

“But I think the bigger measures will come from the Congress - there was a pending bill, which is called the Anti-Trust Bill, which will level the playing field in business and industry - that will make the competition equal and the government will not play favourites. that's a pending measure. The second one, is a political party reform act, which will open up participation in elections like this, which will build stronger political parties. Because as you know, our political parties here are very weak - it's a very personality-centred elections. I think another measure the President should push, is the Freedom of Information bill, which will open up access to information in government.”

President of the Philippines only gets one term. Do you think it's a good thing that the President looks likely to be able to finish what he started, to fulfil his reform agenda?

“Yes, that is really important in the next three years. But there's a big question in people's minds here (the Philippines). When President Aquino steps down in 2016, will his successor, will the next President continue these reforms? Because six years is not really enough, to institutionalise all these reforms that Mr Aquino started.”

Around 90 percent of Philippine legislators are from political families - where does that leave the poor?

“Yes, that is the basic flaw in our politics. That's why I really believe that a law that will reform political parties, that will sanction, that will punish political butterflies, that will make campaign contributions transparent, that will make campaign expense equally transparent, so that we or the parties will not be beholden to vested interests. We should know who are the donors and the moneys spent for campaigns. There is this whole package of reforms that needs to be pushed in the next Congress, to open political participation. One analyst called our Senate and Congress, 'the Old Surnames Club' which to me, is really appropriate.”

How realistic is it to expect Congress to reform itself?

“In the past, we were not hopeful, but in the first three years of President Aquino, this Political Party Reform bill, for the first time, I think in fourteen years, reached plenary, meaning it was discussed by the whole body. So there is hope, there is a chance that this can start under Aquino's term, and then we will see the results, perhaps down the line, many years ahead.”

Scandal-tainted personalities like Imelda Marcos, the former first lady, and also the former President, Joseph Estrada are also running for office in these mid-term elections. What do you think of that?
 
“That is also another very sad part of our elections. Again, this goes to the lack of accountability in our political culture. And the second thing, is we seem to be a very forgiving nation, and may be forgetful. That's why the younger generation of voters should really study our history, so that the younger generation will remember what happened in the past.”

But is there new talent waiting in the wings to take over as independent politicians, without any kind loyalty to any specific benefactor?

“Yes, yes there are. In fact, we've seen a number of them, but they cannot succeed - it's very difficult, because they need lots of money and lots of political connections, but we've seen a number of leaders in the local governments - they have the potential to be national leaders and to join our Congress. But we have to reform first, the political system.”

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