Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Being "Matulungin sa Mahihirap" is the Ticket to Malacanang

Yesterday I went to the Senate to observe the hearing of the Committee on Local Government chaired by Senator Noynoy Aquino on several redistricting bills. Although the agenda did not include the Iloilo City redistricting bill, I was interested to get a "feel" on how hearings are being conducted by Senator Aquino. Senators Mar Roxas, Dick Gordon and Chiz Escudero were also present during the hearing along with several congressmen who were lobbying for the approval of their respective bills.

There were four (4) redistricting bills up for discussion that day: Puerto Princesa City, Iligan City, Lapu-Lapu City (Cebu) and Pangasinan. Right off, the proponents argued that since their local population have increased they are now entitled to more representation. Pangasinan for example, as Congressman Aguedo Agbayani pointed out, now has 2.7 million inhabitants but only six (6) representatives in Congress. If the Constitutional provision of one congressman per 250,000 Filipinos is to be followed, then Pangasinan he claimed should have ten (10) congressmen. Congresswoman Nerissa Soon-Ruiz likewise said that her district is one of the largest in the country, comprised of two highly-urbanized cities (Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu) plus Consolacion and Cordova towns. Thus, she is sponsoring a bill to give Lapu-Lapu City (where the Mactan Export Processing Zone is located) its own district representative.

The proponents for Iligan and Puerto Princesa likewise argued along "our population has increased" line and added that the P70 million-a-year pork barrel allocated for each district would go a long way to improve their area's infrastructure and services.


Pulse Asia released its Ulat ng Bayan survey on presidentiables yesterday and it basically revealed the following:

1. The top presidential contenders are Noli de Castro (18%), Chiz Escudero, (17%) Erap Estrada (15%), Manny Villar (14%) and Mar Roxas (13%). Since surveys have a plus or minus 3% margin of error, the five are in a statistical tie. In other words, the 2010 election is "anybody's ballgame" and the winner in 2010 will most likely be the one who is able to consistently make the "correct" campaign decisions in the next twelve months.

2. Mar Roxas was the biggest gainer while Loren Legarda was the biggest loser. Pulse Asia notes that Noli de Castro, Erap Estrada and Manny Villar each lost a percentage point since their February 2009 poll. Whether this is just a fluke or an initial sign that they have "plateaud" Pulse Asia did not say. But one thing is clear from the survey: Mar Roxas must be doing something right for him to jump by 5 percentage points.

3. Traits that Filipinos look for in the next president. The Pulse Asia survey also tried to gauge what qualities the people are looking for in the next president and "Pagtulong/Pagsuporta/Pagtingin sa Mahihirap" easily was the most important trait because it got 27.3% of the respondents. On the other hand, traits like "Hindi Corrupt, Sinusugpo ang Nangungurakot," "Mabait/Mabuti/Disente," and "Matalino" got only 7.1%, 6.6% and 5% respectively. This might explain why Erap, despite having been convicted of plunder, continues to figure prominently in the surveys while Senator Ping Lacson, who has pegged himself as a no-nonsense anti-corruption champion, suffered a 2%-drop in his rating. This also partly explains why Legarda, who is trying to paint herself as the "green" candidate, suffered a tremendous drop - Filipinos simply don't care enough about the environment for them to decide their votes on the basis of whether the candidate is "makakalikasan" or not.

So it seems being perceived to be "matulungin sa mahihirap" is the next ticket to Malacanang. The presidentiables will now try to "out-Erap" Erap and people can expect to be deluged by another round of "TV infomercials" depicting concern for the poor and downtrodden in the coming months.

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