The Philippines Presidential Election and Women, Millennials, Social Media, Political Maturity, Economic and Socioeconomic Growth

From the perspective of the international community, this year’s Philippines presidential elections will crystalize two aspects of interest that countries around the world are also contending with: 1) the role of women in politics at the highest level; and 2) the influence that the huge millennial generation and the internet are having on national races.

Women in Philippines politics
With the Philippines already having had two female presidents in the past (Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), the conventional wisdom and likely assumption is that women in politics in that country is faring far better than other parts of the world. In Asia, Japan has never had a female prime minister.

Even as the very popular Shinzo Abe retired from his post last year and endorsed Sanae Takaichi, who would have been the first woman prime minister of Japan, the country apparently wasn’t ready for such a change as Takaichi finished third, even though she represented the ruling party.

China has only had one woman honorary head of state, appointed and served for only 12 days in Soong Ching-ling in 1981. Other parts of Asia have had one true head of state: South Korea, the former Hong Kong as independent from China, Thailand, Taiwan. In South Asia, based on the number of heads of state in India and Bangladesh at two like in the Philippines, the assumption is these three countries are Asia’s leading progressives in electing women.

This year, the Philippines could outshine Asia and the entire world as the only country to have elected three women heads of state in history should leading opposition presidential candidate Leni Robredo (only woman candidate in 2022) win.

What’s unique about Robredo compared to Aquino and Macapagal-Arroyo is that she is not from a powerful family political dynasty in the Philippines; and that she rose to the highest level of government based on sheer merit, determination and character.

Aquino’s presidency was largely due to the assassination of her husband Benigno Aquino, Jr. and the subsequent EDSA Revolution.

Macapagal-Arroyo’s presidency came about in the impeachment and resignation of former President Joseph Estrada (another circumstance of national crisis known as EDSA II); then her first real election victory came against another actor (Estrada was an actor) in Fernando Poe that worked against him in timing with Estrada just having been embroiled in charges of corruption.

So besides not being a heir of dynastic privilege, a Lobredo win in a non-crisis (assassination or impeachment) situation would be truly special. And Lobredo is more than qualified for the presidency, independent of her sex.

Rise of Millennials and social media
With the aging of the Baby Boomer and Baby Boomer II generations, we now see Generation X taking over in world leadership. Currently, the heads of state in England, Japan, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand are Generation X leaders (ages 42-57).

But the rising generational bloc showing massive influence worldwide is the emergence of millennials (19-41) and their mass media technology influencing elections both nationally and locally. According to political analysts, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.’s early lead in the presidential election is largely due to his army of social media (where most millennials get their news and information) spinning facts and reality.

Robredo is said to be late on the social media information wars of which her campaign and supporters are only now catching up and strategizing.

Whether Robredo will have had enough time to get her message across and undo much of the campaigning and misinformation her opponent Bongbong has advanced – has yet to be determined in the final outcome. But going forward, candidates can no longer ignore or underestimate the new election strategy of social media campaigning to reach the massive millennial generation in order to win a national election.

Political maturity
Should Bongbong eventually win the presidency, it’s encouraging that economists and political analysts have confidence that the Philippines economic and political infrastructure are sound enough and strong enough to withstand less than exceptional leadership that Bongbong most likely would offer (based on his average political career spanning four decades).

There is confidence that Bongbong most likely could not possibly, even if he tried, to get away with crony capitalism that critics fear, and certainly not to the level that his father has done. It’s a different time and the Philippines political system is far more matured with multiple checks and balances in place. Former President Joseph Estrada back in the late 1990s couldn’t even get away with his alleged corruption and bribery.

But this is the hope, assumption and positive outlook some have. We see, as what occurred in the U.S. under President Donald Trump, all systems of democracy are fragile. What’s encouraging is the Philippines has survived the strongman governing of President Rodrigo Duterte and during the worse phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With Bongbong certainly not the pillar of strength as neither a Trump or Duterte, the Philippines should be fine. Marcos, Jr. is more like the privileged heir who had everything handed to him, but is not really taken seriously as what his tenure in the Senate has shown.

It’s likely as some political analysts have said, Bongbong would not be too disruptive in changing much. If elected, he will pursue what Nonoy Aquino III and Duterte have started with regard to expanding economic growth in the country.

Economic growth and Socio-economic growth
But the Philippines deserves better than just a non-disruptive, mediocre president. And we know that economic growth on its own in terms of GDP (what Duterte had accomplished before the pandemic) is not telling of true prosperity that trickles down to the middle class and poor. A nation could have phenomenal growth like China and have mass poverty. In comparison, a country can have modest growth, but less poverty and a solid middle class like in Japan. Which is preferred? Certainly, for a majority of citizens to benefit like in Japan.

A president who can accomplish both economic growth and socio-economic expansion is clearly the ideal candidate. In other words, investment in people (like education, affordable healthcare, their environment, etc) should also be given attention just as much as attracting investment that register as economic growth.

We encourage all Filipinos eligible to vote to go to the polls this May 9, 2022.  Peace and prosperity to our Motherland and Filipino brothers and sisters in the Philippines.

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