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FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

Should trends hold, we on track to the most lopsided presidential elections ever.

Bongbong Marcos’ commissioned “strategic survey” shows him enjoying a 62 percent voter preference. Isko Moreno’s commissioned survey gives Marcos a 59 percent rating.

Until today, no presidential candidate in the (admittedly flawed) multiparty framework of the 1987 Constitution ever came close to winning close to half of voter preference at this point in the campaign. We are on track to seeing our first post-EDSA majority president. Marcos enjoys a lead that is very difficult to dismantle – especially as the same surveys show a high voter commitment among his voters.

Furthermore, the Marcos campaign is not entirely reliant on personal popularity alone. It is surfing the large trends in voter disposition that will be very difficult to reverse by May.

First, despite the pandemic and the deep recession we suffered, more of our voters (59 percent) think the country is moving in the right direction. That number was 48 percent in April 2021 and just 31 percent in April 2016.

Furthermore, notwithstanding concerns over employment and infection, 45 percent of our voters think they are better off today compared to 35 percent who think they were better off the year before. The number was only 19 percent in 2010.

Second, although slightly diminished, President Rodrigo Duterte enjoys a 77 percent favorability rating among voters.  Duterte’s favorability rating was only 64 percent in April 2016, on the eve of his landslide election to the presidency.

Bongbong, who most voters perceive as the one best to carry on Dutrete’s leadership, enjoys an 81 percent favorability rating among voters. This is nearly double Leni Robredo’s favorability rating. His favorability ratings are even higher in southern Mindanao than in the Marcos bailiwick of Northern Luzon.

Voters are nearly evenly split on whether to continue with country’s present direction or take a new direction. On both sides, however, Bongbong remarkably leads all his other rivals.

Third, former president Ferdinand E. Marcos has a favorability rating of 72 percent. This is up from 65 percent in April 2021 and 55 percent in April 2016.

F. E. Marcos’ 72 percent compares quite well with Joseph Estrada’s 46 percent, Noynoy Aquino’s 41 percent and Gloria Arroyo’s 25 percent. Clearly, nearly three-fourths of voters have a positive appreciation of the leadership provided by Marcos Sr. This trend benefits the candidacy of the son.

Furthermore, Bongbong’s total favorability ratings have solidified significantly. In December 2021, 34 percent were “very favorable” to the candidate. This compares with 24 percent in April 2021 and 17 percent in April 2016.

By contrast, Leni Robredo has only 42 percent favorability ratings. That is 12 points less than the 54 percent who said they viewed her unfavorably.

These are the strong undercurrents producing the waves on which the Marcos campaign surfs. These are very difficult to reverse with just over three months before elections.

The task is made doubly more difficult by the fact that the more Marcos is attacked with negative campaigning, the more his supporters perceive him as “strong,” even “heroic.”

Migrant Workers

President Rodrigo Duterte fulfilled a campaign promise when he signed into law a bill creating the Department of Migrant Workers.

The new department will bring together all the agencies attending to the needs of our migrant workers. We have millions of migrant workers deployed. Despite the pandemic induced global economic slowdown, remittances from our overseas workers continue to rise.

Over $30 billion in remittances flow through formal channels, including the newly formed, all-digital Overseas Filipino Bank. Including flows through informal channels, such as savings brought home in cold cash, remittances should add up to well over $40 billion. This is a massive amount by any measure and has kept our economy afloat through the most difficult of times.

Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano was Duterte’s running mate in 2016 and therefore party to the promise to create a Department of Migrant Workers. He is, of course, happy that Republic Act 11641 was signed. But he cautions the work is far from over.

So far, Cayetano points out, the Department of Migrant Workers exists only on paper. It will continue to be so until a secretary is appointed to head it and work begins putting all the agencies and offices relating to migrant workers’ affairs are finally brought together.

Cayetano expressed hope that the legendary political will of President Duterte can get the process going. Having previously served as secretary of foreign affairs, he warned that setting up a new department in the executive branch could take at least a year. This timeline could be complicated by the May presidential elections.

He recommends that a “father or mother” be appointed to the post as soon as possible to oversee the formation of the newest department. That will ensure that someone will be working full-time to keep the process of organization going.

The new Department of Migrant Workers, says Cayetano, adds to Duterte’s legacy of forming functional agencies with clear mandates. Along with the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, the newest department will complete a quartet of agencies focused on the merging concerns of modern governance.

The task of forming the Department of Migrant Workers is made easier by the fact that the components of the new agency are already up and running. These include the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and a slew of offices dealing with OFW concerns. These offices are currently under the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

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