2016, to PNoy’s grief, will be a rerun of 1998


Political junkies are often struck by a lingering sense of deja vu on the details of the 1998 presidential elections. With reason. The general elections that year were held under conditions that remind people of the conditions now, especially with 2016 fast approaching. Here is a brief rundown of those (uncannily and eerily familiar) conditions.

Fidel V. Ramos, the incumbent president and titular head of the Lakas-NUCD, then the ruling political coalition, endorsed the coalition’s overwhelming choice for the presidency – then Speaker Jose de Venecia.

Mr. de Venecia was a laggard in the surveys except the ones conducted by the fake, survey-for-a-fee entities that showed him winning by a slight margin over Erap. But that was no reason for the party stalwarts not to enthusiastically campaign for the former speaker.

The ruling coalition chose a popular running mate for Mr. de Venecia, then Senator Gloria Arroyo, with hopes that the running mate would pull the main man up.

The Lakas-NUCD was a truly dominant coalition then, with more grassroots reach than today’s Liberal Party (LP). Left unsaid was its enormous campaign resources.

So what happened in the polls? Despite the endorsement of Mr. Ramos and the dominance of the Lakas-NUCD, Mr. de Venecia lost. Rather, he lost miserably.

Now, let us look at the present, less than a year before general elections take place.

Mr. Aquino, the incumbent president, is about to officially announce his endorsement of Mr. Roxas’s presidential run under the LP, now the ruling political coalition. Mr. Roxas has been a laggard in the polls but has deep ties to the party. His grandfather, Manuel Roxas, was the first president of the new Republic and he ran under the LP.

Mr. Roxas is wooing Senator Grace Poe, a popular senator, to be his running mate with the hope that Ms. Poe can pull the main man up.

Mr. Drilon, the party heavyweight and senate president and also the most credible spokesman on matters related to politics, says it is Mr. Roxas. In the words of Mr. Drilon, no interloper would be named LP presidential candidate.

The LP is the dominant ruling coalition, with massive resources for 2016 to boot.

On the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections, the popular verdict, vetted by numbers and man-on-the-street opinion, is this: 2016 will be a repeat of 1998. Mr. Aquino’s wildly enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Roxas and the dominance of the LP will not be worth, in the words of former US VP John Nance Garner, “ a pitcher of warm spit.”

This real possibility, that 2016 will just be a rerun of the 1998 general elections is amplified by the striking parallels between the two presidents, Mr. Ramos and Mr. Aquino. They both governed as technocrats. They were obsessed with growth charts. They got puff pieces from foreign journalists who credited Mr. Ramos for making the Philippine economy into an “ emerging tiger.” Mr. Aquino has gotten more puffery, first for his sustained growth figures and second, for his technocratic rule. In addition, the Davos crowd has been showering Mr. Aquino with platitudes.

Like Mr. Ramos before him, Mr. Aquino has not developed a real bond with ordinary people, the target demographic of presidential candidates with the intention to win. Even in the midst of the platitudes from the Davos crowd, Mr. Aquino’s trust and appreciation ratings have been plummeting. Tragically, all the alleluias from Klaus Schwab and company cannot endear Mr. Aquino with ordinary Filipinos. A level of endearment that is enough to follow Mr. Aquino’s guidance on the 2016 election.

Surely, Mr. Aquino had moments of doubt about the winning ability of Mr. Roxas . The one-on-one meeting between Mr. Aquino and Ms. Poe revealed the president’s frustration with the “ loser” tag of Mr. Roxas. But an earnest search for an alternative to Mr. Roxas has run through several gauntlets, primarily the collective sense of the LP leaders that it should be Mr. Roxas and not an outsider.

So the LP will have to face the 2016 elections with this status – severely handicapped. And no amount of pleading from Mr. Aquino to his avowed “ bosses” can reverse the hopelessness of the LP presidential candidate.

On the day, Senator Osmena categorically stated that Mr. Aquino cannot sway Filipino voters on their choice for president, a news item just magnified how stuck the LP is to its losing status. The piece said that the so-called “Sugar Bloc” is working to resurrect its pre-eminent role in Philippine politics and this would be done via the candidacy of Mr. Roxas.

Sugar is a sunset industry. It occasionally breaks from its rustbelt status once in every ten years mostly due to weather-related disasters in other sugar-producing areas. For all intents and purposes, it has been written off as marginal. Even if the US were to augment the current export quota, or double it for that matter, the sugar industry would not return to the period when the Philippines shipped more than one million metric tons of sugar per year to markets across the globe and at premium prices.

The resurrection of the “Sugar Bloc” as a political force, just like the imaginings of an LP victory in 2016, is pulp and fiction.



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  1. PLs don’t insult ex-President Ramos.
    He was hardworking and smart.
    He was also diplomatic and well respected.

  2. Wolfgang Struck on

    Excuse me, mvronq,

    Rerun of 1998? Cannot be! You forgot to tell us who won in 1998 and won by a landslide. CIA, Ramos, the Cardinal had calculated a clear win over Erap, the drinker, gambler, womanizer. They forgot: Those are the beloved vices of the Filipino. There are only so many “good people” in the Philippines. They should have a President for the Republic of Makati, mostly foreign oriented. Many girls like foreigners.

    For the rest of the country, scattered rain showers, the equation is almost the opposite, Filipinos like Filipinos, that is why Grace cannot win and why Erap will always win (he was badly cheated in the 2010 Halanan). Add some Marcos spice. Imelda was badly cheated in the 1992 election when Filipino people overwhelmingly chose the returning Imelda (cleared in court in New York) over Ramon Mitra/FVR. Now in 1998, Imelda announced two days before election that she will not run but back up Erap. 1998 was a Marcos vote. In 2016 he would not have that, would he not? Intriguing question, noh, who would get more Marcos votes in 2016, Erap or Bongbong?

    Wolfgang Struck

  3. Having seen the 1998 Presidential fiasco of the administration and learned, the question is what rabbit shall this administration take from its sleeve in order to prevent a repeat of 1998?

  4. Bert O. Romero on

    Ha ha ha. While I am generally impressed by your 1998- 2016 comparison, I wonder how FVR , an action president -technocrat, will react to his being compared to BS Aquino, a so-called technocrat whose style of management is analysis by paralysis. FVR solved the energy scarcity problem he inherited from Cory Aquino; it was during his term that the Philippines discarded the label of being the sick man of Asia and started to record positive growth rates thru his policies of privatization, deregulation , etc. and utilizing build-operate-transfer as a vehicle for infrastructure development; his visits to other countries has elevated him to an international statesman at the same time that the Philippines gained broadened exposure in the international community for investment, trade and tourism purposes; he took the lead, with the competent mediation of Indonesia, in the forging of the final peace agreement with the MNLF without the peace process being stigmatized by a Mamasapano- like massacre generally believed to have been brought about by the intervention of a president who was play acting as a warrior- general; in short, a president who ended his term of office with a high approval and popular rating of 55 percent compared to a measly 32 per cent when elected in 1992.

    How about BS Aquino? Let’s assume (hopefully without making an ass of u and me) that he indeed is a technocrat, what has he done for the Philippines and her people? Not the economy. It is generally believed that the favorable economic growth rates now being enjoyed by the Philippines is more a product of the policies adopted by the previous GMA administration complemented by the benign international climate of depressed oil prices, very low interest rates in the global market, and the prevailing generally peaceful geo- strategic situation. Indeed what economic, monetary and fiscal initiative can we point out as distinctive and peculiarly BS Aquino’s that have propelled the Philippine economy to soar to such heights as 5.2 to 7.2 percent growth rates? Nothing! The robust Philippine stock exchange index that sometimes reaches 7,900 is more a result of low interest rates in the US, Europe and Japan which ranges from 0.01 to 0.25 percent thereby attracting foreign capital to the Philippines with its 1.5 to 2 percent rates. Anyway, its not foreign direct investment (FDI) with its accompanying factories and workers that we are attracting : it’s foreign portfolio investment (FPI) that is temporarily parked in our shores and which of course can be withdrawn and repatriated back to their countries of origin anytime the presently favorable conditions in the PH mentioned above cease to exist. As to FDI, the Philippines, with its $2.5 to $3 billion annual FDI lags behind all other ASEAN countries , with Laos as the exception, as FDI destination. Compare our country’s FDI with that of Singapore’s $55billion or Myanmar’s $4 billion and one can see the discrepancy. And who is responsible for this dismally low Philippine FDI? Of course, our technocrat President BS Aquino. How?

    BS Aquino withheld the disbursement of already budgeted amounts of P145 billion in 2011, P157 billion in 2014 and P56 billion so far in 2015 for infrastructure projects which could have been used to spur economic growth by constructing roads, bridges , hospitals , ports, irrigation facilities, etc. thereby employing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos . And why were these amounts withheld? Because BS AQUINO, the technocrat, believed disbursing it will just go to waste because the bureaucrats who will implement the projects are all corrupt !

    Contrary to being an economic technocrat, despite being an economics major at the Ateneo, BS Aquino is in fact an economics management nincompoop. It took China, Japan,South Korea, Malaysia among others no less than 30 years of sustained economic growth rates of between 8 and 11 percent per annum to reach their present development level with substantial multitude of poor people being lifted to join the middle class. The Philippines has seen, under BS Aquino, inconsistent growth rates of between 3 and 7.2 percent for the last five years thereby falling to meet the Asian norm. Why? BS Aquino has neglected to develop agriculture , manufacturing and exports which have been the engines of development of the other Asian countries. He continues to rely on OFWs and BPO for development.

    Governance? It has taken the technocrat president BS Aquino no less tha six months to fill up the vacant positions of chairman of COMELEC and two associate commissioners. Until now or more than six months after being vacant the positions of Chief PNP, COA Chair, etc , the technocrat president has not filled them up.

    International relations ? I hope this technocrat president will not bring us to war. He continues to be provocative in his statements against China on the South China Sea issue. His statement while on a visit recently to Japan comparing China to Hitler during World War II taxes the fortitude of those listening to him. Apparently , the previous statement of a high ranking Chinese official that our techno president is ignorant of history didn’t make a dent on him.

    Lets not talk of Mamasapano and his proclivity to engage in war games without seriously appreciating that human lives would and indeed were lost, his work ethic with tardiness in official domestic and international engagements considered a normal function of good governance, his practice of sitting on matters for months and months without taking an action …

    Where is technocracy there?

  5. Amnata Pundit on

    There was no smartmatic in 1998. With smartmatic they can make a smiling dog win, and if that cheating machine is still around in 2016, another smiling dog is what we will get for sure. The people’s sentiments have nothing to do with our politics today. Only a fool believes that we have a real thriving democracy at work in this country.

  6. Elmar Chambing on

    The similarity between Binay and Roxas is like night and day. While Binay has been swamped with accusations about corruption in Makati, Sec. Roxas has a squeaky clean image of dedication to public service. That my friend will be the ultimate yardstick when the Filipino people vote for president in 2016.

  7. Eddie de Leon on

    All of you, writers of comments to this article by Mr. Tonquillo and he the writer himself, forget that until now it is not certain if the accursed PCOS machines and Smartmatic are no longer be in the 2016 elections!

    You are like people dreaming and living in blissful ignorance of whether your cancer has been cured!

  8. Comparing FVR to Ngoyngoy you must be nuts Sir.FVR is a very competent leader while the latter is a complete bust.If you are thinking like that you must be only a little saner than the incumbent pres.

  9. Ants, like voters, line up to where the sugar is. But in the 2016 elections, they are lining up to the banner of the man from the south. No not that one from Capiz, it’s the one from Davao!

  10. Dont be surprise Mr.Ronquillo. if you find LP strategy today is the same with Lakas in 1998. They are the same banana with different name called bananaQ

  11. This is it. I’m not going to take another Aquino or Mar Roxas presidency come 2016 sitting down. I will commit suicide and leave this dirty world of politics painfully to make a statement. I will drink cyanide, slit my throat and listen to the Aquino Cabinet’s rendition of “Betcha By Golly Wow.”