"Life has become harder for many Filipinos, and this will be a factor in the 2019 elections."
The period of filing Certificates of Candidacy has ended. A total of 152 wannabes filed their COCs for senator. The final number of candidates will, however, be released by the Commission on Elections after its determination of nuisance candidates who will be stricken off the list.
For senators, the better-known candidates can be categorized into three: pro-Duterte administration, the multi-party opposition coalition, and the reelectionists who are neither identified with administration or opposition.
While the official campaign period is yet to begin in January 2019, excitement over the elections is high especially on social media. Passionate discussions and debates on candidates, their position on issues, qualifications, track record, character, etc. have been ongoing.
Although, it is observable that pro-administration netizens who capable of rationale engagement are much less engaged compared with those critical of Duterte and his people. The big number of Diehard Duterte Supporters (DDS) present in Facebook and Twitter limit their engagement to hurling insults at, threatening, and name-calling those politically opposed to them. There is virtually zero substantive discussion.
These DDS trolls cannot be outrightly dismissed because as shown by the 2016 national elections, theirs is a well-established machinery to propagate disinformation against opposition and towards making pro-Duterte candidates look better.
The robust exchange of opinion online is mainly between and among supporters of opposition candidates individually or collectively. Observing ongoing conversations is fascinating because one is able to determine issues that are important to people. These are so important that the position of candidates on the given issues determine whether or not he or she will be on the ballot of specific voters. These are the deal-breaker issues.
First, let me state that I believe that this is a good time to belong to the opposition because a lot of people are very frustrated with this administration’s performance. The war on drugs has killed thousands, and continues to kill more. The country has never seen this level of killing of innocent people (yes, innocent because those killed were mere suspects who never had their day in court) since the war. Not even the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law can compete with the ruthlessness of the ongoing war on drugs.
Duterte’s inaction over China’s militarization of the West Philippine Sea, and his decision to not pursue the Philippines’ huge victory in the case against China, continue to put the country’s patrimony at risk. These have angered not a few Filipinos.
Duterte’s, and his people’s, misogyny and abuse of women, as well as politicians’ silence on this issue have led to loud voices rejecting pro-administration candidates no matter if some of them have, in the past, been identified as champions of women’s rights. Filipino women, particularly, are very vocal about their opposition to misogyny and those enabling this mindset.
Life for the most number of Filipinos, including the middle class, has significantly been, and continues to be harder. Inflation rates are increasing at record levels. Gasoline prices have repeatedly gone up. This led to the sky-rocketing prices of goods and services, particularly the basic staples such as rice and vegetables. Imagine the prices of “sili
” and ‘wansoy
” soaring up to more than P1,000.00 a kilo!
Fares for public utility vehicles have gone up as well. Commuters are hit by a double whammy—horrendous traffic and increased transportation costs.
Economists outside of government attribute the drastic increase in cost of living to the passage and implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law. As if people’s sufferings are not enough, TRAIN 2 is set to be implemented soon despite people’s complaints.
Reelectionist senators are being blamed by people for TRAIN and this can put them at a disadvantage come election time.
Political dynasty is another issue that appears to be given importance by voters. Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and wife Lani have received severe criticism for running as representatives of Taguig’s two districts. A Cayetano brother is also running as mayor, and sister Pia is running as senator. Political dynasties are seen by people as a sure sign of greed for power. Other political families are doing the same and many netizens are planning to reject them.
Graft and corruption is another deal breaker for many voters especially those who have followed the cases of Janet Napoles that implicated a good number of legislators, and led to the filing of cases, even imprisonment of Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla. The three are back in the race as they filed their candidacies for senator. Their entry in the May 2019 elections met a huge, loud howl from netizens who said that not only are they not going to vote for them, they are also going to campaign against them.
While it is still too early in the game, these important issues have already determined how a good number of netizens will vote next year. These people will most probably go opposition. For now, the multi-party opposition slate has eight (8) candidates: Magdalo representative Gary Alejano, re-electionist senator Bam Aquino, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, former Bangsamoro Transition Commission member Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, former DILG secretary Mar Roxas, and former representative Erin Tañada.
Will people block-vote for the opposition? Surely, some will do, and there are those campaigning for block voting. However, my observation of social media discussions has led me to believe that there are other deal breaker issues even when it comes to opposition candidates. These are reproductive health and divorce. In Particular, Alejano is singled out for his “no” vote during the House voting on the divorce bill, and Macalintal for his consistent ant-RH position from way back.
Women are saying that they no longer want to add to the Sottos and Pacquiaos of the Senate. There are those who have declared that they will not vote for the two. As a women’s rights advocate, I agree with this position as indeed, RH and divorce should be non-negotiable especially for women.
It will be interesting to follow how these deal breaker issues will play out during the campaign. The important thing is, people seem to be setting high standards for candidates for the May 2019 elections. I am hopeful that this will continue and people will vote for a better Senate.
@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook