And if you elect him, he’ll give you the moon, too

19

THE campaign promise of government largesse offered up by Vice President Jejomar Binay about a week ago is the sort of stuff that makes political opponents cringe. It should make anyone with an interest in effective, socially healthy policy cringe, too.

As he “officially” opened his campaign in Mandaluyong last Wednesday, Binay made an immediate splash by declaring that, if elected, he would see to it that workers earning P30,000 per month or less are exempted from paying income tax. In addition, he promised to replicate a couple of his popular Makati programs on a national scale and allocate P65 billion for the provision of free school supplies and medicines, and expand the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program. His Liberal Party opponent, whose name I will not state here, has been using this program as a dishonest threat to lower-class voters – to include people aged 60 to 64, as well as “many of our countrymen,” a demographic he did not describe in detail.

To more sophisticated voters, or interested non-voters like myself, that slate of promises sounded completely over the top, and maybe even a little desperate – “Vote for me, and I’ll give you the moon. With chocolate frosting on it, if that helps you make up your mind.” But of course, that message was not intended for the thoughtful. The ability to get elected and stay elected is not an insignificant skill set in this sort of political system, and in that respect Binay is probably peerless; in terms of substance (regardless of its actual value), Binay showed up at the gunfight with an actual gun, while his opponents have yet to equip themselves with anything more potent than swear words and a dog-eared script to a canceled telenovela.

Going beyond campaign mechanics, Binay’s declaration encourages two substantial questions: Is his plan feasible, and is it a good idea? In terms of feasibility, it probably is manageable, despite the Liberal Party’s dispatching one of its army of apparatchiks (the same ninny who took a picture of the nameless candidate and his opportunistic running mate in a helicopter and tried to tell everyone they were in a bus) to loudly protest that Binay’s plan would lead to financial ruin. Binay explained – briefly, which is understandable given the context in which he made the promises – that funding could be easily gathered from improved tax collection procedures, cleaning up wasteful government spending, and cracking down on smuggling. None of those things are exactly original ideas, but again, considering the circumstances and target audience, they were the right things to say; and to be fair to Binay, making a fair accomplishment of even just one of those objectives would be a welcome first.


As to whether or not following through on Binay’s plans is actually a good idea for the country, that depends on whether or not the country’s medium- to long-term needs will be best served by a socialized, big government nanny-state or applying effort to building a sustainable framework of social administration that encourages and supports greater individual self-reliance – or “empowerment,” if you prefer touchy-feely 21st-century buzzwords.

If the sarcasm dripping out of that last sentence wasn’t enough of a clue, I believe the latter approach is eminently more productive.

With the understanding that a campaign-launch speech really does not provide the space for a great amount of detail (details that I would be pleased to give a fair hearing to, should the Vice President wish to discuss them at length – an open invitation that is, for the record, extended to all the candidates), expanding tax exemptions is not nearly enough to fix what has become a comprehensively disfigured tax system, and risks creating unintended consequences – one can easily imagine, for instance, an increase in contractualization and overall decline in wages resulting from it.

The other suggestions simply aggravate conditions that have made the Philippines so politically dysfunctional in the first place by institutionalizing vote-buying on a grander scale. “Democracy” in this country has become very transactional; instead of creating conditions in which the entire economic spectrum is gradually shifting upward and providing people at every level with greater control over their own standards of living, government has instead progressively institutionalized dependency.

The only thing that really distinguishes and gives the competitive edge to Binay’s promises over the naked bribery of something like “bottom-up budgeting” is that he is going directly to the people with them, rather than making the voters subordinate to another level of political middlemen. The consequences are much the same: Rather than offering opportunity, Binay is merely offering a different kind of social crutch, and it is difficult to see where the underlying details necessarily left out of the campaign speech due to space constraints could make that a palatable idea without completely contradicting his public message.

If this is the best offer being put to the country this coming May – and for now, at least, it certainly looks like it is – there may not be much reason for optimism for the future beyond that.

ben.kritz@manilatimes.net

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19 Comments

  1. Mar has been making the same promises. He promised to give 100 Million every year until 2022 to the local Mayors that will support him. He has also been speaking in meetings for government officials like the Bottom Up Budgeting (BUB) promising hundreds of billions of funds to the barangays. That is not his to promise nor to give.
    To begin with, he should not even be allowed to join these meetings with the government officials because he is no longer a cabinet member. He has no business being there.

  2. Plenty of other countries share their wealth more equally than the Philippines, and it does not lead to social or economic collapse. Giving children school supplies is hardly communism! In fact quite the opposite. How far these proposals are achievable and over what timescale needs detailed analysis, but they are achievable

  3. “Vote for me, and I’ll give you the moon. With chocolate frosting on it,” ek ek ek…
    Hindi rin nalalayo at copycat din itong si duterte….”SUNTUK sa BUWAN” three months – six months corrupt free, gambling free, drug free ang PILIPINAS….wala ring pinagkaiba sa pamimigay ng “LANGIT at PURGATORYO” sa botante kung siya mananalo sa Presidente..

    JOKE, KATAWA-TAWA…PINAGLOLOKO lang ang mamamayang Pilipino..

  4. Between Binay and Mar, I would go for Binay of course! At least, he has a clear platform and sounds pro-people unlike Mar who said that he will continue “Daang Matuwid” which meant more profit for the 1% elite class including their KKK gangs.

  5. I still remember this one corrupt military officer that promised this adulterous wife that he will give her one uni.t of condo if she will give him what he wants. She gave what he wants but she did not get the condo unit . She believe the lie. Are we like the adulterous wife ?

  6. Kritz’s preferred approach (“building a sustainable framework of social administration that encourages and supports greater individual self-reliance”) has yielded one of the poorest countries in Asia with unrivalled income inequality. The “empowerment” he advocates is denied to poorer segments of the community. It’s about time that an alternative approach was adopted based on socialistic principles (such as that proposed by Bernie Sanders in the US) emphasizing equality of opportunity, universal education, and access to medical care and decent housing as a right – not a privilege, or something available only to those who can afford to pay. And give Binay credit for making health care and education available to the residents of the city of Makati. He has a record of accomplishment to run on, unlike most of the other candidates in the race for President.

  7. Beware of these promises made by Binay and this a trap. He is the big plunderer in our country. Are we Filipinos ready to go back to doomsday. Please to my kababayans before you write his name in the ballot think thousandths times. MABUHAY!

  8. The problem is simple: to win elections in the Philippines, you need to promise heaven to the 70% of the mass that only go with their pockets (for whatever reason!).

    So let’s forget the promises made by those guys… you know 90% of them will never materialize!

  9. What do you know about the Philippines and its people to write such comments. It would be nice to support your claims with substatial evidence to convince us….

  10. MAnilaTimes_are_fraud on

    wow what a VERY BIAS write up for BINAY!!!!! Manila Times are indeed CORRUPT!!! I hope you all go to H E L L

    • Read the whole article, the columnist has a point. The reality of the voters. We have seen in Makati that even tho they stole billions, they are still voted. Voters are blinded by cakes and Christmas bonuses. They feel the weakness of the voters. Not like Pinoy that does not feel the needs of the SENIORS. Binay addresses these needs at the same time taking in billions to satisfy his needs.

  11. Binays plan is so corrupt his family are the sole provider of school supplies in makati, this is a massive corruption if ever he became pres- supplying schools nationwide.

  12. Typical of a politician that if he does not get into a higher office he will not be able to protect his misdoings while he was holding an office in the government.He thinks that he is over the law and will always circumvent the law for his personal use and advantage.He has been fooling and lying to the same people all this time, they’ve been hearing the same promises over and over again.Wake up people,we the people want change but do not sell your votes, try to vote for a person that will represent you and your hopes for a change and something to believe in for the future of the country and the people.Don’t believe in false hopes and promises, Thank you.

  13. The problem with Binay is every time he delivers like on projects or on programs during his stint in Makati whether it impacts on its constituents or not, he makes sure that he or his family gets a share, as this practice was exposed during the Senate hearings on Binay’s alleged corruption scandals last year. Although this maybe is true or not, we don’t know yet due to our traditional court’s slow in delivering justice in our country.

  14. The pattern of campaign promises of Binay, Llamanzares and Roxas are very similar. They promise anything and everything including the moon and the stars. This is the same style which PNoy did which the fool Filipino voters accepted as gospel truth. Problem is all these politicians are promising are all motherhood promises not being explained thoroughly. The only close to sensible promises heard is that of Rody Duterte and Miriam Santiago becausse both are focusing on what their plans are. We are all in a very scary situation as voters because the quality of the top 4 candidates except Duterte is mediocre.

  15. Allowing a large portion of the population to have some extra disposable income is also a way to stimulate spending and therefore the economy. Not having to process so many applications should also allow the BIR to focus on the high-income group who are obviously fiddling their taxes.