Critical issues in the 2022 elections

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

It is less than 180 days from the filing of the certificates of candidacy for the 2022 national elections and less than 13 months from election day. This is surely near enough for potential candidates to firm up their plans and scan the horizon for the factors and issues that will affect their candidacies and probabilities of winning or losing. Except for a few localities, where the dominant incumbent politicians will surely win or may not even have an opponent, most local, regional, and national candidates will have to contend with national issues or take sides with the platforms/policies/performance of the national candidates. They have to do this to bolster their candidacies, stay relevant and enjoy the support of the winning national officials.

At this time, there are four critical issues that will affect the candidates in the 2022 elections, given the economics, demographics, politics, geographic dispersion, and information dynamics/dissemination. These will be ranked in the order of importance and voter influence, whether positive or negative.

The state and future of the Philippine economy will be the first major factor. Historically, incumbent officials do better in elections during times of robust and growing economy. When people have adequate income and are optimistic of a better future, they tend to stay with the one in power. Economic recessions and depressions create dissatisfaction, making people want change. Marcos’ downfall and the People Power revolution, while inevitable, was accelerated by the steep economic decline or negative GDP in the years before the revolution. This is also true in all democratic countries and even non-democratic countries like the breakup of the USSR and in the ongoing revolution in Myanmar. The economic conditions in the Philippines which will be anemic in 2021 and 2022 will negatively affect the current administration and party. The C and D economic classes will vote with their stomach, and this is 40% of the electorate. Even with the “command”, money-influenced votes of the local politicians, these votes will be evenly divided.

The Chinese encroachment on Philippine territories will be the second biggest factor. While some media pundits tend to make this as a nationalistic stance that is only concerning the A and B economic classes, there’s great awareness of this issue and incidents among the C economic class. The strong objections of all the business chamber, social and civic organizations, and the labor unions on the intrusions and its implications are all over main and social media. Some Cabinet members are publicly voicing their contrarian stance and those silent ones are also against Chinese intrusion. Overall public opinion is against Chinese encroachment and the government’s inept actions, that this will be an albatross or a heavy weight for the candidates of the current administration. There’s even a cultural dimension of this issue, as Filipinos view this like their guest stealing from their house.

The third major issue is the COVID pandemic. While Filipinos will not fault the government for the pandemic, they find the management of the pandemic by the government as wanting and inadequate. From the delayed border closure with China, the lockdowns, inadequate testing and tracing, vaccine procurement and vaccination, we pale in comparison to countries of similar size and economic status. The public health management, social alleviation, and even the messaging was barely forgivable. This will affect both national and local candidates as to the extent of their actions during this crisis.

The fourth issue is the illegal drug problem. It is still around and unsolved. Only the small fish are arrested or killed, while the big-time suppliers are still doing business. Legalization may be the eventual solution like what they are doing with marijuana in many countries, and to address this as a medical problem like alcoholism and smoking. This is a minor election issue.


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