Snap Elections in the Philippines?

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Several sectors in Philippine society are mulling about snap elections. I hate to say it but many Filipinos are really thinking hard about this considering the many perceived missteps of the Duterte administration in the handling of the pandemic as well as other issues like the Sulu incident, continued killings, illegal arrests made by law enforcement agencies against activists and community leaders and the slowdown of the Philippine economy that already cost us more than a trillion pesos worth of lost economic opportunities.

The last time the Filipino people called for a snap elections was during the last days of the Marcos dictatorial regime. Former president Ferdinand Marcos was losing the political game after a series of big demonstrations by the opposition further heightened dissent against the conjugal dictatorship. Rallies went without letup even three years after the brutal assassination of main opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr.

Taking a look at our history, and there are uncanny similarities indeed between the condition of Marcos at that time and that of Mr. Duterte in these present times. Marcos was ailing and issues about succession hounded the Marcos regime so much, the former dictator had no choice but to call for a snap elections to prove to all that he still got the public’s trust and confidence. That decision was actually influenced by the United States when former president Ronald Reagan, a staunch political ally of Marcos, himself called the dictator and gave him the real situation.

Marcos called on the challenge and the rest is history. Cory Aquino won, a coup launched by close Marcos associates failed and the people organized by the Catholic Church under the able tutelage of Manila archbishop Cardinal Sin went to Camps Aguinaldo and Crame to join the so-called “rebels.” Marcos and his cronies fled the country only to come back a few years later.

While similarities are there, certain conditions unfortunately are not. First, Marcos was ailing when he took on the challenge. While reports of his health condition indicate that he suffers from some kind of disease, the former mayor of Davao is much healthier than Marcos. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says Duterte is as healthy or even healthier than an average seventy five year old.

Marcos led a dictatorship that never saw any elections conducted during those tumultuous fourteen years. Duterte is enjoying a six-year term guaranteed to him by a constitution that his close political allies want to change.

Several environmental factors make their situation almost similar. Marcos was leading a bankrupt economy, made worse by several decades of insurgencies, mismanagement and graft and corruption. The small intensity conflicts that Marcos ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to wage in the countrysides debilitated the rural economy so much that poverty worsened and masses of people supported the Communists New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas. Public coffers went dry, raided allegedly by close Marcos associates that severely affected the remaining political leverage of the Marcoses with their close friends from the oligarchs.

Duterte faces several problems: first, a shrinking economy that teeters towards a possible collapse due to failed management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, a psychologically and morally brutalized local business community whose members dread the passage of the Anti-Terror Bill shortly after witnessing how the administration and its allies treated ABS-CBN channel 2. Third, the possibility of this administration failing to extend support to impoverished Filipino families whose members lost their jobs due to the draconian policies made by the Duterte administration. And lastly, growing public discontent over highly publicized abuses of people of authority close to the Palace.

Come August, the government would finally know the full impact of the economy’s status, and probably would be in the better position to look for solutions. What Duterte is really thinking about is how to eventually use the police powers of the state to quell possible social unrest. The problem really is, Mr. Duterte leads a bankrupt government. He cannot anymore fund projects that would secure his position in power. He would try mustering revenues thru loans and possibly enact or pass new tax measures but these things would all the more exacerbate the already deteriorating social conditions.

The fact is— the public does not need to go out of their homes to see this government fall. Without funds to finance operations of the bureaucracy, Mr. Duterte would have to scramble for foreign aid and loans from local and foreign lending institutions just to make the economy a-float. These, however, are just stop-gap measures or what we call “band-aid” solutions. There simply is no way out of this. Everyone knows that the more Mr. Duterte use strong-arm tactics to wiggle his way out of this economic mess, the more the situation becomes untenable to him.

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