Philippine Presidential Election Comes To Guam

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Duterte poses US ‘heartburn’ with unconventional stances

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 8, 2016) – "Everything we have worked so hard to achieve is at stake."

The Philippine presidential palace issued that statement Saturday, May 7, in an effort to encourage Filipinos to think deep on their selection of the country’s next president.

Guam’s several thousand Filipino-Americans, "green-card" residents and overseas workers, and almost 180,000 across the United States, can vote in this Monday’s Philippine Presidential election.

Registered voters can cast their ballots from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Philippine Consulate, on the sixth floor of the International Trade Center building in Tamuning.

By Monday night, if an automated ballot counting system that is being used for the first time works without a glitch, Guam would be among the first to know who won, at least in this part of the world, in the presidential race.

The number of Filipino registered voters in the United States represents around 5 percent of 3.5 million Filipinos who call the U.S. home, according to U.S. and Philippine statistics.

Across the globe, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs stated there are 1.376 million overseas voters in this Philippine election, the most number of registered Filipinos casting their votes from foreign lands.

Frontrunner has wide lead

There could be power in that number to sway the outcome of the election, experts said, if at least two candidates in a tight race for second and third manage to catch up with frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte, a mayor of Mindanao region’s Davao City.

Filipino overseas voter turnout is expected at 80 percent, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency.

Philippines’ Trump?

Duterte has been nicknamed the Philippines’ Donald Trump for his off-the-cuff public remarks, curses that degrade moms, and for having made a joke about the rape and killing of an Australian missionary. However, he is beloved by the poor, and those weary about the Philippines’ drug and violent crimes.

Pulse Asia Research’s survey two weeks before the election showed Duterte had the support of 33 percent of surveyed voters.

A former president’s grandson, Mar Roxas, who has an Ivy League education from the Wharton School of Business, had the support of 22 percent of the surveyed voters. Grace Poe, daughter of a former presidential candidate and a Philippine movie legend, had 21 percent, according to Pulse Asia.

Two other candidates, former Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, and career politician Miriam Defensor Santiago are in far fourth- and fifth-places in two surveys.

Social Weather Survey’s latest poll also had Duterte in the lead with 33 percent, but this pollster’s results showed Poe, not Roxas, in the second spot. Roxas, the administration’s bet and a grandson of a former Philippine president, placed third in the Social Weather Survey’s recent poll.

Poe, who was a U.S. citizen prior to giving that up to run in the Philippine elections, is perceived as the candidate who will be among the most friendly to the United States, said Luz Suplico-Jeong, a Filipino marketing professor from Manila’s Dela Salle University, who gave a recent talk at the University of Guam on "marketing Philippine politicians."

She said Roxas is perceived as the candidate with the best education, with his Ivy League degree from the Wharton School of Business in the United States. Roxas also is a former U.S.-based investment banker.

She said Duterte appeals to voters who struggle economically and are tired of rampant crime and illegal drugs.

An American ‘heartburn?’

The prospect of a Duterte presidency is giving the United States "heartburn," according to a recent report by the Associated Press.

AP has reported that Duterte’s position on the South China Sea has been unconventional. He has said he would initiate talks with the Chinese, and if those fail he’d go to one of the disputed Chinese-made islands by Jet Ski and plant a Philippine flag.

He told a televised debate it would be up to the Chinese if they want to shoot him and make him a national hero, according to AP.

Duterte has also said in televised speeches he will give more multinational corporations’ tax money to far-flung Mindanao and has said he would consider some form of self-governance for the indigenous Moro people, who mostly live in Mindanao and are primarily united with the Muslim faith.

President Benigno Aquino III hasn’t shied about calling out Duterte a potential dictator.

"Now that the world’s eyes are on us, do we want them to see us vote for the kind of one-man rule we ousted only a generation ago?" Aquino said, in a prepared statement, referring to the dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

Marcos was overthrown when millions of people took to the streets in a "People Power" revolution, and the current president’s mom, Corazon Aquino, became president.

A Marcos son, Ferdinand Jr., is running for vice president in this race.

"There was a time when we feared our government, when we didn’t dare speak against those in power. There was a time when we feared our neighbors, of what they—or the people they know—might do to us should we happen to have a difference of opinion. Those days are long gone, and we must unite as a people to ensure that they never return." according to Aquino.

The president’s dad was assassinated during the Marcos regime as he arrived at Manila’s international airport following years of exile in the United States.

This election comes on the heels of a newly crafted Philippine-U.S. agreement, finalized earlier this year, which allows U.S. troops to stay, on a rotational basis, within Philippine military bases.

Two decades after the Philippine government evicted U.S. military bases at Clark air field and at the massive Subic waterfront, strong, nationalist opposition to U.S. military presence in the Philippines thawed as China engaged in territorial sea expansions within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

Richard Lugar, former chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and who was a key U.S. watcher during the 1986 "People Power" revolution in the Philippines, emphasized at a recent U.S.-Philippine forum in Washington, D.C., that the strengthened ties between the United States and its former commonwealth must survive President Obama’s departure and the end of the current Philippine president’s term.

"Democracy prevailed over time, so the Filipino people should be proud that they have kept their democracy, even as they have worked to correct what they would agree are its many flaws," Lugar said, according to a written text of his speech from the Philippine Embassy in Washington.

"While personalities are important, countries’ relationships with one another are also shaped by their interests, and those won’t change just because of the elections," according to a text of Lugar’s speech on May 1.

"I am hopeful that whoever the new American president is, he or she will appoint experienced foreign policy advisers who will evaluate U.S.-Philippine relations on the basis of our shared interests, and not through an ideological lens," Lugar said.

 

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