ADMINISTRATION candidate Mar Roxas, to the casual observer, says all the right things, cites seemingly unimpeachable figures and stats and promises a coherent way forward. During the last debate, answering a softball question from Senator Defensor-Santiago, he was even able to tout his resume which has spanned long years in the legislative and executive branches. And, of course, the Wharton training often mocked by Digong Duterte.
Yet, polling shows that most of the Filipino voters don’t trust Mr. Roxas and the candidate who mocks him most – Mr. Duterte – is very much preferred. With the elections just a few days away, the polling lead of Mr. Duterte over Mr. Roxas is such that The Digong can even invoke superior polling and make fun of Mr. Roxas’s ranking in the presidential polls. With mischief on his face, The Digong taunted Mr. Roxas on live television and asked him, “Bakit mababa ang ratings mo?” That’s a code phrase for “loser.”
Do Filipino voters have a screwed-up sense of presidential preference? The candidate who has predicated his presidential run on the verb “kill” and its various iterations – and is unapologetic about his intemperance and colorful personal life – gets more favored than the one promising the best of governance.
Addressing the business elite recently, Digong, the anti-Roxas, did not bother about economic policy. He joked of Viagra and his manhood. So is the presidential preference of most screwed up and unreasonable?
On deeper analysis, no. Voters see Mr. Duterte, with all his intemperance and propensity for the verb “ kill, ” as more humane than Mr. Roxas. I will explain.
Mr. Roxas, as it has been for the close to six years of the Aquino administration, stands for the governing philosophy of efficiency that is 99 percent laced with cruelty – and lack of sensitivity on how that governing philosophy would impact on the underclass. Efficiency is very much desired in running a private enterprise but not a society of slave wage workers and millions of families suffering from involuntary hunger. And millions of metropolitan commuters caught in horrific traffic gridlocks. Now, let us go to the proposed approaches of the two on the metropolitan gridlocks.
In an off-the-cuff remark reportedly uttered outside of the debate, Mr. Duterte reportedly vowed to “burn all those cars.” Leaders don’t say that because it is illegal. You can’t burn private property even if you were the President. But then, Mr. Duterte, if you know your math and basic concepts of traffic management, has the right approach. If you want to ease metropolitan traffic, give the free rein to mass transport, which right now are the buses, and allow them to have priority use of the roads. And improve the MRT/LRT. That is the math-based policy.
The MRT, despite the neglect of the urban rail system by the Aquino-Roxas Bros, carries more than 500,000 metro commuters a day.
The efficacy of mass transport is the reason the Prime Minister of Singapore and his convoy give way to buses. He realizes that mobility of people is now the fourth rail of democracy and the Prime Minister has to give way to mass carriers.
Mr. Roxas, the son of privilege, does not know anything about commuting. He sees buses as filthy, reckless and irresponsible carriers of people. The Aquino-Roxas duo has promoted cars, not mass transport. Even with the crippling gridlocks at EDSA, the Aquino-Roxas duo promoted the CARS program. His government neglected the MRT, which improvement could have eased the metropolitan gridlocks.
More, look at this promise of Mr. Roxas. After the election, he said, I will award the operations of metropolitan buses to a single entity. Meaning, a single franchisee, somebody in the social and economic sphere of Mr. Roxas. Big Business. He will just use the traffic crisis as an excuse to vest the transport business to a member of the top 1 percent. To guarantee bigness and monopoly without the attendant relief to commuters.
Looking at the profiles of metropolitan bus operators, you already know where they came from. The operator with buses called “Arabia” must probably be an ex-OFW with 20 to 30 bus franchises. Others were former schoolteachers who started with one or two buses. They now have 30 to 50 units. The common denominator is “middle class.”
Why would a President, even under the name of efficiency, disenfranchise these small operators in favor of a billionaire single operator? And use a crisis to favor a crony. It is like the PPP all over again. Give the PPP contracts – the whole caboodle – to the dollar billionaires and the corporate giants. Nothing left to the AA contractors, nothing left to the struggling Filipino contractors that need a boost from the state. The major state-supported contracts have to go to the dollar billionaires.
The preference for Big Business is the root of the vast inequality in the country where 60 percent of GDP gains go straight to the 1 percent. The 99 percent have to fight it out to get a share of the crumbs left. It is the country’s social cancer but the Aquino-Roxas duo, with the help of Big Media, has muted the problem and successfully obscured it by portraying the second-biggest problem – official corruption – as the one and only evil.
Corruption is pure and unalloyed evil, yes, but placing it as the No. 1 problem of the country, and obscuring the vast economic chasm in the country, is not, and will not be, the context for the crafting and the implementing pro-people and humane policies. In six years, we have not heard the Aquino-Roxas duo argue for redistributionist policies. Even with all the corruption removed, the flow of GDP gains into the 1 percent will not budge by a single percentage point.
Sure, the heartless technocracy of the Aquino-Roxas duo has turned out six years of GDP growth and credit upgrades. But the rising tide lifted the yachts of the rich and the super rich exclusively. And those not in that category are finding solace in the intemperance and damn-the-technocrats approach of Mr. Duterte.