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Senate race: Youth vote will be the game changer

"They are comparatively innocent."



There are several ways of dividing the almost 62 million Filipinos who are registered to vote in next week’s election. One is division according to whether the voters are urban residents or rural residents. Another way is to divide the prospective voters according to their educational attainment—that is, according to whether or not they have received secondary or tertiary education. A third way of disaggregating the electorate is to divide the prospective voters according to age.

For purposes of the election the registered-voter population may be divided into three groups. The first group consists of Filipinos 60 years old and above, i.e., the seniors. At the other end of the age spectrum are the millennials and other voters 18 years old and above—that is to say, the youth. In-between these two groups is the large body of middle-age Filipinos who are eligible to vote. The youth vote is estimated to comprise one-third of the entire voting population; good estimates of the middle-age voters and the seniors as percentages of the total voting population would be 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

Of these three age-oriented groups, the one that is likely to be the game-changer is the group of young voters. It is this group that is most likely to tilt the balance against the party in power and in favor of the forces that are challenging the administration. These forces are led by Otso Diretso. There are two basic reasons for this.

The first—and the more powerful—reason is the comparative innocence of the young, especially the approximately 2.2 million men and women whose names are appearing in the voter rolls for the first time. These Filipinos have just emerged from many years of being told that Philippine politics is full of imperfections, that the vote is a very powerful tool of society, and that there are no bad officials where there are good voters and that a vote cast for meritorious candidates can go a long way toward cleansing society and strengthening democracy. It would be the height of cynicism to believe that years of instruction in the principles of governance have had no impact whatsoever on the psyches and sentiments of the young men and women who will cast ballots on May 13. And it would be the supreme manifestation of a spirit of hopelessness to suggest that the young voters will go from their classrooms straight to the centers of corrupt political activity.

The other reason why it is the youth vote that the nation—especially the opposition—must look to for game-changing is that the members of the two other age groups have seen it all and have become used to this country’s political evils and malpractices and therefore cannot be expected to lead the charge against the worst elements of Philippine political life. They have mostly become inclined to maintain a business-as-usual attitude to the coming political exercise.

It is therefore to the millennials and the rest of the youth group that the nation must look for game-changing of the kind that will place the Otso Diretso aspirants—Tañada, Diokno, Hilbay, Alejano, Macalintal, Aquino, Gutoc and Roxas—within the 12-person senatorial winning circle.

Here lies a clear challenge to the youthful voters of this country. Will they rise to the challenge on May 13? One must hope so.

From my reading of what the economic managers of the Duterte administration have been saying about the inflationary surge of 2018­—the steady rise in the inflation rate this year and the measures adopted by the authorities to deal with it—and about the likely inflation scenario for 2019, I have come to the conclusion that their view of the current inflation situation can be summed up as follows: “The surge in consumer prices throughout 2018 is subsidizing and will, as a result of the government’s remedial measures, make possible a return to the 2-to-4 percent annual inflation target set by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.”

The economic managers—the Secretary of Finance, the Governor of the BSP, the Secretary of Socio-Economic Planning, the Secretary of Trade and Industry and the Secretary of Budget and Management—appear to be saying that the Philippine economy has been undergoing an inflationary ride, that things are beginning to simmer down, that the inflation rate will return to target in 2019 and that all will then be back to normal.

Back to normal? Not quite. Inflationary episodes always leave an aftermath, and this year’s inflation is no different. The 2018 inflation has left—I really should say ‘is leaving’ because there is no certainty about a continued downward movement of prices in the months immediately ahead—behind debris from which the economy will recover in the months immediately ahead.

For starters, there is the upsurge of an inflationary psychology which has not been there in recent times and has a tendency to linger. Once inflationary psychology takes hold, producers begin to indulge in speculation, ever trying to guess whether their suppliers intend to raise their prices and often making pre-emptive price strikes. In that kind of environment—and that is the environment that has come to prevail—marketplace stability is not possible.

With their let’s-move-on mindset, the economic managers believe that the return of the inflation rate to the 2-to-4 percent target range means that things are back to normal and that all is now well. But things are not back to normal. Prices are now higher across the board, and prices, once raised, hardly ever come down. They’re sticky. The price increases that the 2018 inflation has caused producers to implement will have created changes in competitive positions; in the case of Philippine exports, this country’s competitive positions vis-à-vis certain foreign  products may well have been negatively affected.

A further element of the aftermath—the debris—of the 2018 inflation has been the generally jarring effect that it has had, and continues to have, on international prospects of the Philippine economy. No longer can the economic managers speak strongly of this country’s sound macro-economic fundamentals. The new wave of price instability has caused foreign institutions and analysts to re-examine the state of those fundamentals. As a result, there have been downgrades in the projections of the Philippine economy’s growth in 2019 and 2020.

The Philippine economy took a beating in the year that is about to end. And largely because of a wayward locomotive called TRAIN 1.

Topics: Rody Romero , Senate race , Youth vote
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