Makabayan

Trapo Alert! Detecting political pandering, part 5

Panderometer

Featuring Teddy Casiño, Democratic Party of the Philippines and Ang Kapitiran candidates.

This is the fifth part in a series on the candidates for the senate in 2013. Just a recap: I am attempting through this series to have a serious discussion of the aspirants and their political platforms (or lack thereof). These are put through what I call the pander-o-meter to determine whether the policy detail they have released so far places them in either the reformist or populist columns. The following table details the range of possible scores a candidate can get and the equivalent meaning of each reading:

Introducing: the ‘Pander-o-meter’ or Trapo Scale

A reading of… …is equivalent to…

1-2

Low levels of pandering detected, generally reformist in nature

3

A mixed bag of proposals aimed at both pandering and reforming

4

Trapo alert! Approaching dangerous levels of pandering

5

Could be likened to a vote buying trapo

In part 1, I covered Juan Edgardo Angara, JrBenigno Aquino IV and Alan Peter Cayetano. In part 2, I covered Francis Escudero, Risa Hontiveros and Loren Legarda. In part 3, I covered Aquilino Pimentel III,Joseph Victor Ejercito and Juan Ponce Enrile, Jr. In part 4, I covered Gregorio Honasan, Ernesto Maceda and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

In this edition, I will be covering Teodoro Casiño, the candidates of the Democratic Party of the Philippines and the Ang Kapatiran Party.

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Teodoro “Teddy” Casiño (Makabayan) is the lone candidate of his party which has adopted a “ten point agenda”. This agenda reads more like a vision statement, similar to the Liberal Party’s social contract formulated for the 2010 elections.

The party-list representative is seeking to offer an alternative to the two main coalitions whom he portrays as being cut from the same cloth, but his stand on issues tends to reflect what he is opposed to rather than what he would affirm as a senator. Perhaps this is the luxury of being in the minority—you don’t need to present a detailed policy position, just simply oppose things.  I will highlight a few of these positions below:

  • His opposition for instance to the Pantawid Pamilya or 4P’s program, deriding it as a “dole out” is surprising, given that it was patterned after reforms developed in Mexico and Brazil and supported by left-leaning governments. He asserts that providing employment or teaching people to fish rather than giving them fish should be the priority. The problem is that people who are locked in a poverty trap aren’t able to earn enough to sustain their families due to low educational attainment. This leads their children to have low levels of health and education which perpetuates the cycle. The 4P’s helps break people out of that trap.
  • His opposition to the sin taxes bill, which he characterises as simply revenue generating, not a real solution to the health problems associated with vices, is also quite puzzling given that part of the revenues raised will be used to support disease prevention and treatment. I suppose he would also oppose my proposal of imposing a “fat tax” on unhealthy food and drinks on the same grounds, despite the evidence which shows that it influences eating behaviour.
  • He opposes the kindergarten to Year 12 or K+12 reforms, saying it is an added burden to families. He wants the government to focus on addressing the classroom deficit instead (which by the way, the government is saying will be addressed by the time K+12 is fully implemented). Unfortunately, he fails to realise that part of the reason employers demand at least two years of college these days for entry level positions is because a Year 10 secondary qualification simply is not enough.
  • It actually costs less to deliver two extra years of secondary education than two years of university. What in fact we ought to do is extend the 4P’s program so that youths stay in school and finish high school as was the findings of a recent review of the program. Our unemployment problem is largely due to the fact that youths are forced to work at age 15 or even younger. Very little in terms of future career opportunities arise for them if they do.
  • He wants to put a cap on fees charged by higher education institutions to prevent “excessive profiteering” and seeks to uphold student’s rights to free education (translation: no tuition fees should be charged by state universities and colleges or SUCs). The country’s high participation rate in tertiary education relative to other lower middle income countries reveals we are already punching above our weight.
  • We don’t need to incentivise this further by offering tuition free studies. What we need to do is help families finance the cost of it (through 4P’s and student loans), improve quality and ensure that people are equipped with the right skills that are in demand by industry, and that could mean encouraging vocational education and training, which is what the K+12 reform seeks to do. If the country is to rapidly industrialise as per Makabayan’s platform, greater focus needs to be placed on technical training and vocational education.
  • Makabayan supports the growth of small and medium sized enterprise, and yet it would raise minimum wages to levels which would put many of them out of business. These are contradictory statements. The way Mr Casiño would solve this problem is to have government subsidise electricity and other costs of business. He hasn’t specified at what cost to the government and taxpayer, though. This reflects policy thinking that is disjointed and not well-thought through.

Overall comments:

Some of the positions that Mr Casiño holds are quite surprising. Motherhood statements and muddled policy prescriptions that seek to please different sectors while at the same time undermining them.

In addition, Makabayan fails to provide us with an alternative program of government. They say they want to promote the growth of industry through a kind of state sponsored capitalism. Their platform however fails to specify how that will come about. What will be the framework for promoting industry in the country? Which industries will they target? How will they steer investments that way? What kind of economic bureaucracy will they foster? These are questions that remain unanswered.

This demonstrates that Makabayan is perhaps not quite ready to rule the country yet. Sometimes I wish they would be given a chance to do so, so that they could then realise just how untenable their positions are.

Pander-o-meter: 4 out 5

Note: while drafting this piece, Makabayan’s webpages that contained their 10 point agenda and stand on issues was replaced with two infographics presentations. The simplification of their message has softened the tone. The commentary provided above reflects the detailed policy statements present in the previous versions of the web pages.

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DPPCandidates

The Democratic Party of the Philippines (DPP) has fielded three candidates (from L-R as seen above): Bal Falcone, Christian Señeres and Greco Belgica. On its website, the party has published a 12 point platform. Space does not allow me to cover all of them, but there are a few interesting bits that include.

  • Funding of political parties during elections
  • Moving to a federalist, parliamentary form of government
  • Adopting the jury system

Unfortunately, their website does not provide any policy detail beyond perfunctory statements. In addition, Mr Belgica has a four point plan which is listed on his personal Facebook page, which includes:

  • Imposing a flat tax of “not more than 10% for individuals or corporations.” The current tax system which collects less than 20% of GDP he calls “excessive”.

These proposals from the DPP focus much on the political system. They probably see the design of constitution as problematic. They do have economic policy statements too, but they tend to be quite general in nature. The most specific economic policy they have is to promote the export of halal food.

Overall comments:

The DPP wants to overhaul our political system and one of their candidates wants to overhaul our tax system. These policy positions reflect a kind of high-brow intellectual approach to our country’s development needs. Although they have been supported by academics and policy elites  there really isn’t a strong push either from the business community or civil society for them. They run the risk of becoming locked up in their ivory towers.

There also needs to be more detail. We cannot read their minds or interpret much from the statements they have released so far. Although the major parties are themselves not clear on their agenda, it is incumbent on minor parties to be more forthright and transparent about their policies and programs.

Pander-o-meter: 3 out of 5

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AKPCandidates

Ang Kapatiran Party has fielded three candidates (from L-R as seen above):  John Carlos “JC” delos Reyes, Lito David, and Mars Llasos. It has published a 50-point platform that begins with the “spiritual dimension” which involves “seeking the kingdom of god” as its first point. This party represents the social conservative movement in the Philippines, with its Pro-Life and opposition to violence portrayed in video games and the media. Unlike conservatives in the US however it also supports gun control.

Among its political advocacies are enacting a freedom of information law, the banning of political dynasties and the abolition of pork barrel.

Overall comments: 

The Kapatiran Party raises questions about the role of faith in politics. They should however exercise some caution that in promoting their religious convictions to society through public policy not to infringe on the rights of their fellow citizens in exercising personal choice. According to most religious beliefs, we are endowed with free will. What this party has sought to do is pander to the wishes of those who want to impose religious and moral codes of conduct on others who may not subscribe to them. That is the essence of “brotherhood” or solidarity among men (and women)  in a free and open society.

Pander-o-meter: 4 out of 5

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Up next: Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Eddie Villanueva and Richard Gordon.

The ruling parties’ (lack of) platforms

To guide voters in the upcoming 2013 elections of the upper house, I decided to study the campaign platforms of the major parties. This in a way is a follow-up to a previous post in which I detailed Five Ways to Elevate Political Discourse in the Philippines.

The first of the five points I made in that post was for the parties and/or their coalitions to publish their official platforms. I decided to do a web search to find out what these parties/coalitions have stated to voters as their policy directions once voted into office. Here is what I found.

Let’s start with the administration ticket. We have recently learned from the Comelec that Team PNoy was not officially registered as a formal coalition. It is to be treated as merely a “tagline”. So as far as having a formal platform on which to launch their candidates, I went to the Liberal Party website where the Team PNoy candidates are hosted.

Here I found very little regarding the legislative agenda the administration is presenting to the people. All that I found was the same old “platform” that the LP took to the electorate in 2010, which is really a kind of “party principles” or motherhood statements. There really isn’t any detailed policy agenda here.

Three years after taking charge of Malacañang Palace, I was expecting a bit more. If we as voters are being told to treat these elections as a referendum on PNoy’s presidency, there should at least be a list of his achievements and what he plans to carry forward towards the remainder of his term in office, with the team that bears his name.

I then did a web search of UNA (United Nationalist Alliance), the only officially registered coalition with the Comelec, an alliance comprised of the parties headed by the vice president, the senate president and a former president. Again I was disappointed, as all I found was a Facebook page with a brief mission and description of the coalition. It does not really provide any detailed platform or policies for the 2013 election.

So in terms of providing a detailed set of platforms, both major coalitions failed to even provide some kind of agenda for the Filipino people. That speaks volumes about our political system.

Next, I decided to go to the political parties that comprise these major coalitions. I already went to the Liberal Party’s website, as mentioned above. I then decided to visit the website of the Nacianalista Party (NP), the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), the Partido ng Demokratikong Piliono-Laban (PDP-Laban) and the Partido ng Masang Pilino (PMP). It was a dead end as most of these sites were empty shells or sites for their party heads. The NP site had some information regarding their three nominees, but most of the content was on the spouse of its president (the spouse is running to join him in the senate) and the foundation which they run.

Makabayan, which is fielding one senatorial candidate (it has dissolved its alliance with the NP), probably has the most detailed policy platform of all the major parties competing in this election. Their 10-point platform is discussed in detail in a document that you can download from their site.

The Democratic Party of the Philippines website contains a 12-point agenda that its three candidates support. Very little detail however is provided on this platform.

Ang Kapatiran’s website provides voters with their stand on 5 major issues, reproductive health, gun control, pork barrel, political dynasties and freedom of information. It also provides detailed policy positions on each of these issues. It also has a 50-point plan for the nation. It is fielding three candidates.

I couldn’t find anything on the Social Justice Society, which is fielding one candidate.

As far as I can tell from this quick web search, it is the alternative political parties which are more serious about developing policy platforms from which to launch their candidates. It is perhaps a sad feature of our democracy that the parties that respect voters enough by providing them with detailed information about their platforms are the ones lagging behind in the polls.

Undeterred by this dismal outcome, I then decided to look at the individual candidates themselves and here I found a bit more information regarding their policy stances and platforms. Off hand, I found eleven (UPDATE: as of 14 March 2013, it is now fourteen) who have outlined some sort of platform. These are Bam Aquino, Chiz EscuderoRisa HontiverosLoren Legarda and Koko Pimentel of Team PNoy, JV Ejercito, Gringo HonasanErnesto Maceda and Migz Zubiri of UNA, Teddy Casiño of Makabayan, and Greco Belgica of the DPP. (UPDATE: to this list we can now add Sonny Angara, Jack Enrile and Peter Cayetano)

I am not saying the other candidates don’t have platforms. They might not have released them yet or published them online. A lot of candidates have policy positions or advocacies listed on their personal pages. Some incumbent or former legislators provide detailed information regarding their priority bills. So the implied message here is that we should re-elect them based on their previous performance. It is preferable that they tell us why we should re-elect them. What is the work that remains for them to complete?

The absence of consolidated party platforms puts the burden of selecting the candidates based on their individual platforms onto the voter. This is made even harder by the scant or incomplete information that can be found regarding their positions and personal legislative agenda.  The following is a run-down of what I found on the individual candidates.

Team PNoy

  1. Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Jr – has a website that provides his profile and accomplishments as a legislator in the lower house. At the bottom of his home page, there is a video clip labelled, “Agenda ni Rep. Sonny Angara sa Senado” from a TV interview presumably, but it was not working at the time of this publication. (Update: he has been steadily updating his site with news from the trail which details his legislative agenda.)
  2. Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV – from his Facebook page you can read his policy prescriptions for encouraging entrepreneurship and skills matching. There are a few news releases which feature his statements and advocacies.
  3. Allan Peter Cayetano – has a Facebook page which shows him going out into the community but provides very little in terms of the sort of laws he has either sponsored as a senator or plans to push for if re-elected. (UPDATE: he has recently launched his platform here)
  4. Francis “Chiz”Escurdero – buried deep in his website is a 7-point agenda with no date.
  5. Risa Hontiveros – has Facebook page which provides some of her recent policy pronouncements particularly on making healthcare “more universal” and that of her Akbayan partylist members.
  6. Loren Legarda – has a website that lists her advocacies in the form of a useful acronym called L.O.R.E.N. From here you can read the sort of bills she has filed as senator some of which have been turned into law.
  7. Jamby Madrigal – has a website which details her policy stance on a number of issues and her past accomplishments as a senator. There is a non-functioning tab on her site for “Platform”.
  8. Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay, Jr. – does not have a web presence, but his profile in the senate website provides his bio and his legislative agenda while serving there.
  9. Aquilino “Koko”Pimentel III – has a Facebook page which provides some policy positions the senator has taken on infrastructure and governance.
  10. Grace Poe Llamanzares – has a Facebook page which does not really provide much in terms of a legislative agenda or her position on any relevant policy issues.
  11. Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV – has a website  which provides information on the bills and resolutions he filed in two sessions of congress and some policy, research material mostly on national security issues which date back to 2001 and 2002.
  12. Cynthia Villar – has a website which details her accomplishments as a congresswoman and as the head of the Villar Foundation. Very little in terms of policy detail on how she intends to pursue her tagline “Hanep Buhay”.

UNA

  1. Nancy Binay – as a colleague from this site has said, she does not have a web presence at all.
  2. Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco – has a Facebook page which shows her two video advertisements. Unfortunately, apart from the endorsements of her three celebrity daughters and a few throw away lines about her advocacy, there is hardly any detail regarding what she plans to push for as senator.
  3. JV Ejercito – has a website which lists a 13-point agenda which the mayor of San Juan plans to pursue in the senate.
  4. Jack Enrile – has a Facebook page which contains a video of his campaign speech. He details the problem of hunger which he intends to focus on and nominates the bill he sponsored as congressman, which he claims will address it.
  5. Richard “Dick” Gordon – has a web Facebook page, but has very little information about why he is running.
  6. Gregoria “Gringo” Honasan – has a website which lists his platform as senator.
  7. Ernesto Maceda – has a website which lists a 13-point agenda which the former senate president intends to pursue if returned to the senate.
  8. Mitos Magsaysay – has an “official Facebook fanpage” which shows her touring as a candidate, but there does not seem to be any content devoted to policy detail.
  9. Miguel “Migz” Zubiri – has a website which details his platform around five themes.

Other parties/candidates

  1. Sammy Alcantara (Social Justice Society) – has a Facebook page, which contains a short video clip in which he answers a few shallow media questions, nothing with regards to policies.
  2. Greco Belgica  (Democratic Party of the Philippines) – has a four-point platform found in an image in his Facebook page.
  3. Teodoro “Teddy” Casiño (Makabayan) – has a website which contains a platform and policy positions on several issues.
  4. Lito Yap David (Kapatiran) – has a Facebook page but has nothing about his candidacy.
  5. Baldomero Falcone (Democratic Party of the Philippines) – has a Facebook page with hardly anything on it.
  6. Edward Hagedorn (Independent) – has a website but the vision and initiatives shown there deal with the city of Puerto Princesa where he is the mayor.
  7. Mars Llasos (Kapatiran) – has a blog  which seems to be regularly updated.
  8. Ricardo Penson (Independent) – has a Facebook page which shows his anti-political dynasty advocacy. It seems he is campaigning mainly on this issue.
  9. John Carlos “JC” delos Reyes (Kapatiran) – has a Facebook page with no platform or policy positions.
  10. Christian Señeres (DPP) – has a Facebook page which has a video which shows his profile as a former partylist lawmaker and some policy positions.
  11. Eduardo “Eddie” Villanueva (Bangon Pilipinas) – has a website but it does not contain a platform or policy positions of any kind.

I am happy to be proven wrong. So should any of the candidates or their representatives wish to make corrections to this, the Comments page is most welcome for them to do so.