Thursday, May 13, 2010

Whew! The Philippines Elects a President

The tension was ratcheted up about as high as one would ever want by media reports of potential trouble with the May 10 Philippine Presidential election. The new, automated machines might not work, the military might intervene, the current president might declare a "failure of elections" and try to hang onto power, with daily revelations and accusations among the leading candidates.

Then, as with the feared Y2K bug, nothing happened.

Or, more accurately, a lot happened: 45 million or so people showed up at crowded polls, stood in the blazing sun for as long as four or five hours, and voted. Then the election commission announced 38% of the vote only two hours after the polls closed. It was clear by then that Benigno "Noynoy" Acquino III had won.

By the next morning, the man who was thought to be his primary competition, Manny Villar, conceded. This was a supreme act of statesmanship, in that it closed off the possibility of a serious challenge to the results. The Philippine Senate actually has the right to announce the official results in a few weeks, but Villar's announcement etched those results in stone.

Villar actually finished third, and only had about a third of the votes of Aquino. Former movie star and Philippine President Joseph "Erap" Estrada finished second, earning his redemption in his eyes. He refused to concede, but he also said he wouldn't mount a challenge to Noynoy's presumed victory. He also "forgot" to vote for his running mate (President and VP are chosen separately here), because of a recent feud. It was just Erap being Erap.

Villar's very disappointing finish was a major shock for a candidate was thought to be neck and neck in polls taken a few months ago. But allegations of corruption--that Philippine evergreen--dogged him. Villar will return to the Senate; maybe his statesmanship had an element of "pagasa" (hope) that Aquino won't press any investigatory efforts against him.

Aquino has said his administration will prosecute members of the current administration who he thinks are dirty. The strong implication is that he means the current President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and especially, her husband. But GMA, as she's called, was herself a winner in this election, having easily gained a seat in the House of Representatives from her home province of Pampanga (just north of Manila).

GMA may also have the votes to become the Speaker of the House, and rumors have had it for months that she will lobby for a constitutional change that would establish said speaker as Prime Minister at the government's head. Oy. Welcome to the bigs, Noynoy. How'dja like that first fastball behind your ear?

Certain of us remember Peter Boyle and Robert Redford exchanging panicked looks at the conclusion of the great movie, "The Candidate," when newly minted President of the United States Redford asked his top adviser "now what?"

One can only hope the placid, seemingly unflappable Noynoy is more aware of the tremendous challenges he now faces to break this beautiful country's feudal mentality and unleash its tremendous potential upon the world.


Post a Comment