• Anonymized and analyzed: breaking down the 2016 policy agendas


    I applaud the Inquirer for successfully forcing all of the Philippine presidential candidates to submit their concrete plans to address 10 entrenched issues facing our country. Seeing the positions, tone of voice, and priorities of each candidate side-by-side and published verbatim—in exactly the format in which the Inquirer received them—has been deeply helpful given our mainstream political discourse that far too often lacks specificity and substance. Moreover, for electoral and political systems that are too often premised on personality-politics, I thought it would be helpful to: dissect the agendas to see what we can lift from them to further a policy-based election discussion; and obscure, at first pass, the candidates’ names to neutralize the highly charged reactions the various camps have already primed in us. In this article, I take on the agendas for foreign policy, anonymizing and aggregating them to see what results.

    • 3/5 candidates support reopening bilateral dialogue with China within a frame of multilateralism

    • 5/5 reaffirm adherence to international law and pursuit of all available legal options to advance our claim

    • 1/5 candidates seek to revise the Philippines’ relationship with the United States

    • 3/5 candidates cite more specific actions to be undertaken rather than merely providing general statements of position and priority

    • 3/5 candidates prioritize issues of foreign policy other than the Spratlys Islands dispute in their statements

    Candidate A
    • Reopen bilateral dialogue with China with the involvement of Asean, while also supporting our use of international law mechanisms to back our Spratlys claim

    • Support inter-Asean trade, particularly through industrialization of Mindanao and utilization of Mindanao’s geographic location

    • Frames foreign policy in terms of domestic economic development, particularly in Mindanao

    Candidate B
    • Protect overseas Filipino workers and encourage foreign investors through the pursuit of double taxation with other states, while also reviewing Philippine participation in trade deals to maximize benefit without forsaking national interest

    • Reopen bilateral dialogue with China as a second level of diplomacy in the resolution of the Spratlys dispute while relying on international law conventions

    • Frames the Spratlys issue in terms of Philippine national territorial integrity and rights, which extends to include the protection of the marine environment in Philippine waters

    • Frames other issues of foreign policy in terms of domestic gain and the rights of Filipino citizens

    Candidate C
    • Continue with current international law options pursued and endeavor to draft a Binding Code of Conduct for the West Philippine Sea in relation to the Spratlys dispute

    • Frames the Spratlys issue in terms of Philippine integrity and the need for stability

    Candidate D
    • Place primacy on global cooperation and multilateralism in the protection of the sovereign rights of the Philippines, including the resolution of the Spratlys dispute

    • Reopen bilateral dialogue with China and pursue all international law options available to back our Spratlys claim while also courting support from the international community and allies toward a resolution that rests on dialogue and rule of law

    • Frames the Spratlys issue in terms of internationalism given most of the disputed areas are in international waters and feature international sea and air lanes

    Candidate E
    • Use international law mechanisms to support the Philippines’ international claims and resolve its international disputes, while allying with nations that support our values

    • Strengthen the Philippines’ position internationally through increased leadership in Asean and stronger economic ties to other nations by joining free-trade blocs

    • Frames the Spratlys issue in terms of values

    Perhaps this exercise of anonymized comparison has not taught us very much, but at the very least it helps us begin to distinguish the policy platforms of the candidates from one another. The truth is that they do not vary very widely—the only true policy outliers are Candidate A’s emphasis on Mindanao and Candidate B’s stance regarding the Philippines’ military relationship with the United States. The only other way to differentiate the candidates is through their willingness to engage China in bilateral dialogue while simultaneously pursuing other forms of resolution and diplomacy, for which we receive a 3-2 split. If nothing else, we see that all of our candidates support the rule of international law. A relief, for sure!

    (Candidate code: A is Rody Duterte; B is Miriam Defensor-Santiago; C is Mar Roxas; D Jojo Binay)

    Nicole Del Rosario CuUnjieng is a PhD Candidate in Southeast Asian and International History at Yale University and co-founder of PAMPUBLIKO.com


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    1. Does not matter what they say they will do, What matters is what they have done and what they will do after elected. Who knows what anyone will actually do.

      Look at Aquino, didn’t do much if anything he said he would if elected.

      What happened to the Freedom of Information bill he promised ?
      What happened to the Anti dynasty law ?
      The land returned to the farmers ?
      The fight against corruption ?

    2. Hija, sa Candidate Code mo, walang pangalan ang E. Does it mean that you believe that the presumptuous candidate does not need to be mentioned since her case is still hanging in the balance pending the SC decision?

      That tabloid (masquerading as a broadsheet) questionnaire does not include how the respective candidates plan to raise the revenues to finance their advocacies?