PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd may now be enjoying overwhelming control over Congress but such influence, anchored mainly on alliances forged with other parties, may not last beyond 2014 due to massive political realignments in preparation for the 2016 presidential elections.
While the recent elections revealed a political landscape that is advantageous to the Aquino administration, analysts offered different views on the fate of its legislative agenda.
Political analyst Prospero de Vera, to start with, said, “Aquino is entering the second half of his term with high approval rating and significantly strong support from the House and the Senate.”
He said that the cited period should be devoted to “legacy building.”
“A lot of the political promises of 2010 are going to happen in the second half, especially [those involving]health care and education,” De Vera noted.
He explained that strong congressional support would facilitate the mobilization of resources to the “big ticket” programs of the Aquino administration such the K-to-12 program in education and the controversial Conditional Cash Transfer program.
Among the measures that De Vera urged the administration to pursue are the freedom of information (FOI) bill and the proposed measure to rationalize fiscal incentives.
Bobby Tuazon, director for policy studies of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (Cenpeg), said that the current political context could be favorable for the people if Malacañang commits itself to ushering social and economic reforms.
“So long as the ruling administration has a legitimate agenda and a list of legislations responsive to the people’s social and economic expectations then there could be an ideal combination of a chief executive and a Congress ready to support him,” he said.
However, Tuazon said, “No such thing exists, however. Congress, for one, is elite-dominated and so is Malacañang.”
“The next three years before the 2016 presidential race will see Malacañang preoccupied with maintaining congressional support by political patronage, trade-offs, and compromises in aid of the next election,” the Cenpeg director said.
He added: “What the people can do is to keep on challenging both institutions to act decisively on pending bills such as the FOI and an enabling law on the anti-dynasty provision of the charter as well as legislate for substantive social and economic reforms.”
“The strong vested interest blocs in Congress are, however, expected to make such measures a pipedream,” Tuazon lamented.
He also posited that the composition of Congress does not automatically mean that all is clear for the administration.
Bound to rust
Both analysts agree that the well-oiled legislative machine of President Benigno Aquino 3rd is bound to rust in about a year as alliances crumble to pave the way for political ambitions in 2016.
“Technically the Aquino administration coalition now has a 16-seat majority in the Senate. Still, Aquino’s party [the Liberal Party]will only have four members compared to five for the NP, the rest representing other parties like [the]Nationalist People’s Coalition and Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban,” Tuazon said.
“Just like the Lower House, the Senate is not known to function, deliberate, and vote based on party affiliations,” he explained.
De Vera, meanwhile, foresees that a realignment of alliances within Congress will happen during the middle or end of 2014, when pairings for the 2016 presidential and vice-presidential race will be set.
Tuazon, for his part, noted, “Controversial issues confronting the Senate will eventually lead to cracks in any coalition and maneuverings for the 2016 presidential derby will also trigger polarization. The Senate is the launching pad for the presidency and vice presidency and the new Senate is simply filled with too many aspirants and wannabes.”
De Vera, on the other hand, projected that prior to the posturing for the presidential polls, the opposition, led by the camp of Vice-President Jejomar Binay, will be “cooperative.”
“In a sense, there will be no ‘opposition’ but there will be a realignment in preparation for 2016. Everybody will be cooperative,” he said.