"Mr. Duterte can do anything he wants."
Five lessons from the May 13, 2019 Senate, congressional and local elections:
One, the nation is looking for young leaders. Below 50, educated, competent, hardworking, dedicated to the people, with a measure of moral moorings, with a vision of what they can contribute to governance and the welfare of the people. They won with commanding and overwhelming mandate in their respective constituencies.
Two, people are fed up with corruption.
Three, President Duterte is immensely popular.
Four, Filipinos are getting tired with political dynasties and want them (the bad ones) eliminated from the face of Philippine politics.
Five, the pool of possible presidents in the next presidential election (2022) is very limited and not exactly the best of the race.
Among the dynasties that lost the Game of Thrones—the Estrada family (which lost two senatorial fights and two mayoralty races), the Jojo Binay family (the patriarch lost a congressional rate to a virtual unknown rival and his daughter almost did not make it as senator), and the Osmeña clan (it lost the mayorship of Cebu and a senatorial fight).
Other what the Inquirer calls formidable political houses that fell: The Gordons and Magsaysays of Zambales, the Javiers of Antique, the Zaragozas of Ilocos Sur, the Seares and Luna clans of Abra, the Jalosjos clan of Zamboanga del Norte and the Lobregats of Zamboanga City. In Quezon City, former Ilocos warlord Bingbong Crisologo lost his mayoral bid to Gen X-er Joy Belmonte, 49.
In Manila, one-time street scavenger Isko Moreno, 44, toppled the dynastic political palace of Joseph Estrada, 82, and put an end to his otherwise colorful and celebrated public career that began in small-town San Juan in August 1969. Moreno also wrote finis to the career of returning Mayor Alfredo Lim, 89. Isko won with a commanding 51 percent of the 707,453 votes cast for mayor with outgoing hizzoner Estrada managing just 29.7 percent, and Lim 19.6 percent, despite the incumbent outspending the young upstart by a ratio of four to one.
In Estrada’s native San Juan, his granddaughter Janella Ejercito, daughter of Jinggoy Estrada, lost to Francis Zamora, 41. The son of Congressman Ronaldo Zamora garnered 59 percent of the vote. Francis vowed to curb corruption, relocate San Juan’s squatters, solve its congestion and build a new business district in upscale mall Greenhills.
In northern suburban Valenzuela City, reelectionist Rex Gatchalian, 40, coasted to an easy victory, unopposed. He got 97 percent of the votes cast for mayor. Valenzuela is a modernizing city although it is under the stranglehold of business tycoon William Gatchalian.
Abby Binay’s quiet competence and hard work paid off with an easy win over her brother, returning former Makati mayor Junjun Binay, 59 percent vs.32.6 percent.
Amazing is the support by the people of Pasig to their new mayor, Vico Sotto, 29, who toppled the 27-year dynastic rule of the Eusebio family in Metro Manila’s richest eastern suburb. The son of celebrities Vic Sotto and Connie Reyes, the Jesuit-trained Sotto trounced the reelectionist Bobby Eusebio with 63 percent of the vote—209,370 vs. 121,556. Young Sotto vowed to rid Pasig of corruption, attend to the poor, and revitalize business.
Something common about the winners: They are well-educated, competent, hardworking, dedicated to work for the people. Corruption? Well, that has yet to rear its ugly head during their stints.
Abby Binay finished law at Ateneo and human ecology at UP. Rex Gatchalian studied political science at Georgetown, cum laude. Vico Sotto has political science and master’s degrees from Ateneo. Isko educated himself, having gone to Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynilad and for short courses at Harvard and Oxford. Francis went to La Salle where he was basketball team captain, got an MA in public administration at UP, and did entrepreneurship studies at New York University. Joy Belmonte has a social science degree from Ateneo.
In the Social Weather Stations survey of March 2019, “will not be corrupt” was the No. 1 characteristic people wanted in a senator—the choice of 25 percent of all voters in Metro Manila and nationwide. Second was “Helps/has concern for the poor,” 23 percent in Metro Manila and 22 percent nationwide. Third was “has good personal characteristics” (which is a repeat of the first two), 15 percent in NCR and 21 percent nationwide.
In the 2010 senatorial elections, Bong Revilla topped with 19.5 million votes or 51.15 percent of all votes cast for senators. No. 2 was Jinggoy Estrada, 18.92-million votes or 49.61 percent. Two things remarkable about Bong and Jinggoy—they were succeeding their fathers (Ramon Revilla and Joseph Estrada, respectively) as senators; and two, they were both celebrated actors (as were their fathers). This year, their celebrity magic did not work.
In this year’s senatorial race, Revilla almost lost, ending up No. 11, with 14.624 million or 4.9-million votes than the 19.5 million he chalked up in 2010. Jinggoy Estrada lost badly, ending up No. 15 with just 11.359-million votes, a whopping 7.56-million votes less than his second place winning 18.925-million votes in 2010. Why? Both senators were accused of plunder, supposedly the worst form of graft, and were jailed for it.
Another senator tainted by a father’s corruption was Nancy Binay. She almost lost, managing a cliffhanger 12th place this year, with 14.5 million votes. The first time she ran for senator, Nancy placed a comfortable No. 5, with 16.81-million votes, 2.31 million more votes than her 2019 effort.
In 2019, 47.29 million voted, 9.13 million more than those who voted 38.16 million, in 2010, and 7.02 million more than the 40.2 million who voted in 2013. This means voters abandoned Revilla, Binay and Jinggoy in massive numbers. The reason: The taint or hint of corruption.
Meanwhile, with Duterte’s control of both houses of Congress, the Judiciary and of course, the Executive branch, the former prosecutor of nine years and mayor of 23 years of Davao can do anything he wants, including the unthinkable, which is convert our centralized presidential system into a federal government.