Two-week warning

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. - The Philippine Star

Feel deserving enough to be considered for a vote in the 2022 General Elections? Oct. 8 is your deadline to file a certificate of candidacy. The catchphrase is from Inspector Harry Callahan: Go ahead... make my day!

The pandemic will be the main litmus test for both incumbents and challengers for the 18,180 elective positions. “What have you done?” as against “What can you do better?” This is especially true for local positions constituting the bulk of what’s at stake.

The announcements by the major candidates has galvanized national attention. The variety and the quality on offer has managed to beguile us from COVID paranoia, however fleetingly. There is also the fascinating twist of rediscovered convictions. The monopoly of dissent was once proudly held by progressive voices and the Liberal Party who, alone, bore the brunt of administrative enmity. Today, that group has gotten bigger. It will remind you of the scene in Cinderella when her carriage horses transform back to their original rodentian forms.

This same dynamic energy is electrifying the local scene. Our local officials have mattered more for their presence (or absence) in how our communities have borne the COVID cross. As difficult as it has been for governors, mayors and their vices; board members, councilors and their bureaucracies to fully exhaust autonomous power due to the limits of the whole of nation approach, we’re still seeing an inordinate interest in local office.

Windfalls. Why the uptick in sense of civic duty? There are more wannabes this coming May because of the Supreme Court’s Mandanas ruling. Beginning 2022, local government units will be receiving, in some cases, up to 50 percent more of their budgets owing to increased shares in their Internal Revenue Allotments. An additional P234.59 billion will be turned over to LGUs around the country. The IRA share to total GDP increases from 3.72 to 4.75 percent.

With more cash and more power to spend the same at the LGU, there might be less incentive for officials to consider a seat in the House. Arguably, it’s no longer a “promotion.” This could be good or bad, depending on perspective. We may be gifted or handicapped with a resultant profile change in congressional representation.

In Senate races, always the interesting slates. There is a strong cohort of comebacking household names, together with a slew of neophytes that would inject new blood and new energy into an institution suffering from an identity crisis these past years. The mix between the personal allure of the candidate and the osmosis from their ticket and presidential bets is a sliding value.

But the main event or court No. 1 belongs to the presidentiables.

Inside the beltway. Vice President Leni Robredo has been the de facto opposition candidate since 2016. She has followed the Diosdado Macapagal model. VP Dadong of the Liberal Party was shut out from any role in the Nacionalista administration. The traditional Cabinet portfolio was committed to him if he would shift party allegiance. He said no. He ended up campaigning around the country, untethered from loyalty considerations, for his entire term. The result was an upset victory against incumbent Carlos P. Garcia in his re-election bid.

So far, however, VP Leni’s investment has not translated into a first mover advantage as the swell for her candidacy has not reached crescendo. Also, executive experience is limited to her five months as HUDCC head and her stewardship of the OVP of 116 employees as “prototype.”

Experience is the strong point of Senator Panfilo Lacson. With runningmate Senate President Vicente Sotto III, they are the two most senior members of the Senate. As such, they possess immense institutional knowledge. They know the ins and outs of the bureaucracy which they spent a career improving. Senator Ping has also had previous executive experience as director general of the Philippine National Police and as PAOCTF chief under the administration of president Joseph E. Estrada; as Yolanda Rehabilitation Czar under president Benigno C. Aquino III. He speaks of the huge amounts saved us through his various exposès and oversight efforts. He has consistently eschewed a pork barrel (by any other name) as senator.

Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao is also considered an insider, having served nationally as both congressman and senator. The Pac-Man is not only the most popular of all the candidates. Globally, he is the most popular Filipino – in history. He conquered the world but can he conquer Malacañang? As surveys go, his popularity as the Pac-Man has not warranted an automatic transference to his popularity as candidate. He can box, he can debate. But can he lead? Senator Manny also has no track record to speak of, yet, when it comes to administrative experience.

Of course, no one comes to the position of president with prior experience in the job. One who came closest is senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who learned by proximity to power. He is also an acclaimed former provincial governor of Ilocos Norte as well as a former congressman. Early surveys place him at a virtual dead heat with Mayors Sara Duterte and Isko Moreno for 2022.

Next week, we consider the outliers Isko Moreno and Sara Duterte, plus any other “Black or White Swan” candidates that may emerge.

Slow road to recovery. We are relieved to read the positive news that Metro Manila’s reproduction number is down to 0.99 (per OCTA). The DOH has NCR’s “effective reproduction number” at 1.0052. It was highest in mid-August, peaking at 1.90. The positivity rate also continues its downturn. Analytics guru Edson Guido notes that the NCR growth rate in cases is at -1 percent, the first negative reading since July 14.

The problem is that the vaccination rate is also slowing down. In early August, we hit more than 702,000 vaccinations daily. But the figures for the past week have us averaging over 375,000 only. It was supposed to be a race to outpace the virus with vaccine protection. We should step up and recover lost ground while there is ground left to recover.


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