IT has often been the case that we ask learned individuals to understand the poor more, to empathize with the poor and be with them since the class D and E in the country constitute around 60 percent of the population. More and more, those with pedigrees and advanced education are not seen as being one of them. In 2016, we saw an outlier lord it over those who have prepared for the totem pole of their careers with the garish mayor from Davao being associated with ordinary Filipinos to the point. He talked, cursed and dressed like them as a presidential candidate. His speech was totally different, and he sounded different from those from Luzon.
This article was originally published in The Manila Times on September 21, 2021
Duterte's political will and audacity got everyone to look at him. Hearing him talk and cuss all those institutions that have brought the country to where it is became the contrasting element in 2016. Copying him for elections 2022 may not be the right strategy to take because if you have been known to be "unlike Duterte," why would voters support you if you are just a copycat?
We have Panfilo "Ping" Lacson-Vicente "Tito" Sotto 3rd who have been in the public eye for more than 20 years. Two decades and what have they contributed to the building of the country? That will be interesting to discover because that team is positioned ready to run on day one, having all the experience, both executive and legislative, among the individuals said to be running. Then there is the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) Cusi wing which has President Rodrigo Duterte as the VP candidate. The ticket was supposed to be for Sen. Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go-Duterte, but Go has said no. Would a directive from Duterte change the decision of Go? What is interesting about the PDP-Laban Cusi faction are the names in its Senate slate. Clearly, there are as yet no reelectionist senators, and as to local leaders, Duterte has been requesting his candidates to join the Cusi-led PDP-Laban.
And then there is the former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. who has also, of late, been cornering a lot of support. The vaunted North-South remains a possibility. Only Marcos can galvanize Luzon and weaken the hold of the soon-to-declare Mayor of Manila in the vote-rich regions of Region 4A, Region 3 and National Capital Region, or what is known today as NCR plus 8.
And the nomination and acceptance by Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao has really placed the poor in the agenda. Pacquiao, despite his weak record in the House of Representatives and the Senate, appears to focus on the poor. His plan to eliminate poverty is quite unguided and unfocused. His Round 24 platform is just a propaganda box; when asked about it, it becomes problematic for the People's Champ. But when compared to Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso, both came from destitute backgrounds. Pacquiao used his talent and skills in boxing to rise above the squalor while Domagoso, after his showbiz stint, became a politician. Not having the means to run, he relied heavily on the support of oligarchs and made sure he earned by saving enough of the donor's money to be where he is today, not in Tondo, but in some gated village in the south of Manila.
Pacquiao and Domagoso are offering not just a safety net for the poor but of ensuring there will be no poor Filipinos by the end of their term if Lady Luck smiles on their respective candidacies. Both seem to be contented in addressing the poor as if all taxes will be given to the poor when in fact there was 16.7 percent of the population that lived below the national poverty line in 2018.
With the pandemic, the class war is felt more because of the contraction of the economy by 9.6 percent in 2020. Although the national government has given ayuda (help) to 18 million Filipinos, from the beneficiaries of 4Ps and the four million additional, jobs and income are more important than the dole-outs that Pacquiao and Domagoso are known for. The pandemic has shifted the middle class. From the lower middle class to near poor. Near poor families are those "who live at the knife-edge with little or no buffer against the economic shocks such that they can easily become poor when faced with crisis." The present national poverty threshold is at P9,686, the near poor threshold will be at P12.400. Would anyone from the camps of Pacquiao and Domagoso even consider a universal basic income? How about a platform guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals? One does not need a long laundry list to claim a governance platform that is needed by the times.
Duterte has brought home a million overseas Filipino workers for free and has intensified through the Commission on Higher Education, free tertiary education. The roll out of the Universal Health Care program is dependent on the budget to be allocated by Congress. These are the areas of Duterte's safety nets for the poor and the decision to continue Build, Build, Build has given the needed inertia for the economy's growth despite the pandemic, with more and more construction workers braving the terrain to earn their keep. The decision to do granular lockdown is also based on an economic strategy as well as a localized approach to ensure economic activity.
The proposed 2022 national budget amounts to "P5.023.6 trillion, which is 11.5 percent, or P517.6 billion higher than the programmed level of P4.506 trillion this year. By regional share, Luzon (net of NCR) and NCR will still receive the highest allocation at 21 percent and 19.9 percent, respectively. Mindanao will get 13.1 percent of the total budget while the Visayas will have a 9.7 percent share." How would the likes of Pacquiao and Domagoso lay their pro-poor stance at the macro and micro levels?
As has been said before, "the doctrine of class war seems to provide a solution to the problem of poverty to people who know nothing about how wealth is created." Clearly, Pacquiao did not earn his keep from politics. His was a life story of physical strength pummeled many times to build a future. The other poor boy secured his from a largesse of benefactors. Between the two, who do you think deserves your support and vote? Who truly represents the poor and underprivileged Filipino?
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