Seeking Change: Will the May 2010 Elections Deliver?

Villar and to some degree Villanueva acknowledge the importance of developing local manufacturing. They also express being critical of so-called globalization and call for a review, as do Delos Reyes and Perlas. Conversely Aquino, Estrada, Gordon and Teodoro are the most aggressive in opening up the domestic economy to foreign investors (even in large-scale mining, with the exception of Aquino who is silent on the matter).

People’s welfare

The record joblessness can only be arrested upon reversing the economy’s decline but there can still be immediate measures to improve the people’s welfare. Madrigal has taken on all workers’ major demands of higher wages (supporting a nationwide P125 hike), banning contractualization and defense of migrant rights. Villanueva and Villar likewise support higher wages, with the latter open to legislating a wage hike; Delos Reyes and Villanueva both oppose contractualization. Gordon, Perlas and Teodoro are silent on increasing wages. Estrada resisted wage hikes during his terms while Aquino, despite pushing legislation against non-compliance with the minimum wage and for productivity incentives for workers, tolerated the poor wages of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers.

Debt service payments have long been proposed as a source of increased funding for social services. Madrigal has the most defined position and advocates cancelling or repudiating debt, imposing a cap, and even demanding reparations for payments already made on onerous debt. Delos Reyes, Gordon and Villanueva appear open to at least a moratorium while Perlas and Villar are amenable to changing the law on automatic appropriation and pursuing debt relief. The Estrada administration faithfully paid debt, while apparently able to give relatively greater priority to education than all the other post-Marcos governments, and Teodoro promises do likewise. Aquino has no clear position on the issue.

Filipinos suffer a regressive tax burden. Madrigal voted against the RVAT law and other tax measures, Delos Reyes says that he will lower the VAT on food, water and electricity, Perlas vows he will lessen the tax burden on the poor, and Villanueva says he wants progressive taxation. In contrast Aquino, Gordon, and Villar voted for RVAT and so-called sin taxes (with Gordon authoring the sin taxes law). Aquino and Villar say that they are open to imposing new taxes while Teodoro has already proposed raising the VAT from 12% to 15 percent. Among Estrada’s crimes was pocketing hundreds of millions in tobacco taxes for himself.

Sovereignty, peace and equality

Philippine governments have persistently yielded to big foreign powers especially the United States (US). Madrigal unequivocally opposes foreign military presence in the country and stands for the repeal of military treaties with the US. Delos Reyes, Perlas and Villar in turn only seek a review of the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and other unequal military treaties. Aquino, Gordon and Teodoro are particularly vocal in their support of the US military presence in the country while the controversial VFA was ratified during the Estrada administration.

Deep poverty and inequality have underpinned the armed conflicts on-going in the country involving the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Madrigal, Perlas and Villar support peace talks and addressing the socioeconomic and political roots of the conflicts. In contrast, Estrada opted to wage “all-out war” against the MILF, while Teodoro criticizes the “hearts and minds” approach to insurgency as too soft and advocates greater militarism. Aquino, Delos Reyes, Gordon and Villanueva have not publicly stated a clear stand on the resumption of talks. Villanueva does however acknowledge the underpinnings of conflict and his “long-term peace agenda” includes socioeconomic measures.

On long-neglected gender issues, Madrigal is again most specific in identifying and opposing various forms of gender inequality such as unequal pay, discriminatory access to work, sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse, and sexist culture and biases. Gordon also declares opposition but does not go into any detail, which in effect places him astride Aquino, Perlas, Teodoro, Villanueva and Villar who have no clear stand on the matter. Delos Reyes meanwhile has actually articulated a position against women asserting their rights while Estrada is unrepentant about his undisguised womanizing.

Love of country

Nationalist values have been particularly disparaged in the age of globalization. Only Madrigal and Villanueva are conscious to actively promote nationalism and patriotism, including but not restricted to prioritizing the national language as the medium of instruction; Delos Reyes supports nationalist filmmaking in particular. Aquino, Estrada, Gordon, Perlas, Teodoro and Villlar do not have a clear stand.

Assessing the presidentiables

The People’s Criteria seek to assess candidates’ declarations and practice in terms of the demand for meaningful change and from a patriotic, pro-people and democratic standpoint. The underlying questions are big and imposing: Who will be genuinely anti-corruption as well as uphold human rights? Who is open to radical economic and social reforms that break from the failed policies of the past? Who will stand for sovereignty and social justice? At the same time the issues at hand are specific and concrete: grand-scale corruption and electoral fraud by the Arroyo administration; worsening poverty, inequality and underdevelopment due to globalization policies; and state-sponsored human rights violations and political repression.

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