A year from now, it’s election time again

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

In the observance of World Press Freedom Day, Ambassador Laure Beaufils of the United Kingdom (UK) sponsored a panel discussion on “information environment in the context of elections” in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world.

In her brief remarks before the panel discussions, Ambassador Beaufils noted a lot of countries are currently holding, or have just conducted, elections like in Brazil and Russia, or soon will be having elections, like the particular situation in the Philippines in May 2025.

It is indeed forthcoming – exactly a year from now. Filipino voters will again go to the polling precincts on May 12, 2025 for the midterm elections. The results of the midterm elections supposedly reflect how the Filipino people judge the performance of the administration, if they will vote for candidates backed by the party in power.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (PBBM) and Vice President Sara Duterte won under the UniTeam of their respective political parties in the May 2022 elections. Marcos ran and won as the presidential standard bearer of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP), while his runningmate former Davao City Mayor won as the VP bet of the Lakas-Christian-Muslim Democrats (CMD). Last week, both the PFP and the Lakas-CMD formally renewed the alliance of the two parties.

The former UniTeam alliance was rechristened after the governance brand of the Marcos administration. In a declared bid to uplift the lives of the Filipino people, the new unified team-up is called “Alyansa Para sa Bagong Pilipinas.” Incidentally, the brand was actually a take-off from the “Kilusang Bagong Lipunan” political party of his late namesake father, former president Ferdinand Sr.

PBBM cited the PFP-Lakas-CMD alliance is a significant moment for Philippine politics and public service. “We mark today a significant moment not just for Philippine politics, but also for the field of public service, as members of both parties formalize and build an alliance that will propel our country towards the Bagong Pilipinas that we envision,” PBBM vowed.

“As we approach this political cycle, we will be filing already in October. The election is coming next year in May,’’ PBBM told his partymates and allies. With PBBM as the nominal chieftain of the PFP, he stood witness at the signing of the alliance attended by around 300 PFP and Lakas-CMD members.

According to PFP president and South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr., the PFP counts among its ranks the most number of local executives, estimated at 45 percent. The Lakas-CMD, headed by House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez as president, is the current dominant political party in the 19th Congress. With 100 House lawmakers as members, they constitute a third of the whole Lower Chamber.

PBBM’s UniTeam partner, VP Sara, was nowhere in sight though at the launch of the new political alliance. Concurrently the Secretary of the Department of Education, VP Sara obviously stayed out of the gathering. She is currently the head again of her own regional party in Davao City called Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP). She resigned earlier from the HNP before she joined the Lakas-CMD.

Just a year after their election into office, VP Sara resigned as chairperson of the Lakas-CMD in September 2021, following a feud with the House Speaker. In a brief statement after she resigned from the party, VP Sara explained tartly why she left the pro-administration Lakas-CMD: “I am here today because of the trust of the Filipino people in me to lead and serve them and the country, and this cannot be poisoned by political toxicity or undermined by execrable political powerplay.”

The Vice President though reassured the public that her commitment to serve the country, along with PBBM leading the way, “will be immutable.” And this, VP Sara, to her credit, has painstakingly been doing even after the sudden spicy barbs coming from PBBM’s wife, First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos.

Her resignation from the party came after Lakas-CMD chairman emeritus, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, currently Pampanga congresswoman, was demoted from House senior deputy speaker to deputy speaker. And in November last year, Mrs. Arroyo was stripped of even her deputy speaker post.

Known as a staunch ally of former president Rodrigo Duterte and his daughter VP Sara, Mrs. Arroyo was downgraded to ordinary congresswoman. She was taken to task by her Congress colleagues for not signing a House resolution to condemn the Duterte criticisms and attacks against the House and its leadership.

An astute politician, Mrs. Arroyo remains unfazed and even attended as Lakas-CMD chairman emeritus at the launch of the new Bagong Pilipinas alliance held at Manila Polo Club in Makati City last May 8.

So there will be a lot of other political developments that will further unfold as election fever sets in later this year.

Our own Commission on Elections (Comelec) are practically cramming in the preparations for the midterm elections when the new voting machines will be used. As of this writing, the seven-man Comelec is still in the process of public bidding for the other components of the new automated election system that will have its acid test in the coming 2025 elections.

At the British embassy-organized information integrity during elections discussions, we bumped into former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Luie Tito de Guia. The erstwhile Comelec commissioner is currently involved with the election watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE). De Guia, who served from 2013-2020 at the Comelec, joined in the panel discussions.

The UK embassy in Manila organized the gathering as an “event to provide a platform for the guests to share their perspectives on the challenges to media freedom and empowerment, and the difficulties and opportunities of providing robust media coverage during elections.”

Speaking after the cocktail reception she hosted at her official residence, the British Ambassador counts upon local media personalities as well as newsroom editors, media development organizations, “democracy-focused organizations,” the government and members of the diplomatic community in the promotion and protection of the integrity of information in the heat of politics come election time in the Philippines.

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