Friday, March 13, 2015

Worrying about 2016

There have been many burning issues that have engrossed us in the last months. Now we are nearing the start of the 2016 election campaigns. October is the month for the filing of candidacies. But as of today, the only declared presidential candidate is Vice-President Jejomar Binay.  Presumably by June of this year, the other serious candidates must already declare their intention. The choice of a presidential candidate will begin to become the more dominant topic in the next few months.
The business sector has done very well in the past 56 months, and more investments – domestic and foreign – are poised to come into the Philippines, now internationally acknowledged as the possible second fastest growing economy in the world. Since business investments are based on forecasts over the next five to ten years or more, the election of the next president has become a major factor as a basis for long term investments in the country. This concern was recently articulated by one of the major business leaders in the country.
Ramon del Rosario Jr. has been accepted as one of the preeminent spokesmen and leaders of the business sector in the last three decades. It is his courage to speak frankly on national issues and his advocacy for reforms that are actually beneficial to the whole country. His voice represents the more responsible sectors of society in business, education and civil society.
At the recently held fourth Arangkada Forum, he again addressed the leaders of all the major Philippine Business Groups – Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry – and all the major Foreign Chambers of Commerce. Again, he did not mince words and spoke his views on the major issues confronting the nation today and the immediate future.
He first gave credit to the Aquino administration for its excellent handling of our economic fundamentals; for its transparency initiatives; and, in international affairs, for its very principled position in resolving maritime disputes with China through the rule of law.
Again, he pointed out that this country is in much better shape than we have been for the last 16 years, and that he looks forward to a “very dynamic 2015.” I should add that international economic and media organizations have recently said that the Philippines will be the SECOND fastest growing economy in the world.
Together with other voices like Cardinal Chito Tagle and the Catholic Educational Association, Del Rosario reiterated the call of leaders of the business community to resume the Bangsamoro Peace Process, especially the hearings on the BBL. These initiatives have been unfortunately sidetracked because of the recent tragic events in Mamasapano. Certain politicians and media commentators have pounced on this tragedy to issue a call for all out war with the distorted logic that violence is the path to lasting peace. Part of this hysteria has been attributed to the media coverage of the subsequent events.
A group called the Professors for Peace included in their public stand the following statement: “We are alarmed by the hatred and bigotry surfacing in both the traditional and social media; and we call on all media to pursue more stringent fact-based reporting at this critical point in the peace process and in the nation’s history.”
In terms of legislative priorities, Del Rosario highlighted the passage of the Freedom of Information bill and the amendment of restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution which will give Congress the right to determine which areas of the economy should be opened to increased foreign participation.
In his address, however, Del Rosario, however, stated that “what is perhaps the most critical test for this administration in terms of preserving its gains is the choice of the presidential candidate who will continue the good governance and development agenda who will enjoy the endorsement of what I still believe is a respected and popular president, and who will have the support of the administration’s political party and machinery. That challenge remains and is something that cannot be taken lightly.”
What was interesting was the historical perspective of this statement when Del Rosario said: “We have already had previous experience where an incumbent president was unable to gather a consensus among his allies for a winnable and worthy successor and the result was ultimately more than a decade of lost opportunities for our country.” Although he did not explicitly say what election he was referring to, Del Rosario was probably referring to the 1998 presidential elections.
The final political scenery has not yet been set in stone. Aside from Vice-President Binay, the other presidential candidate is expected to be DILG Secretary Mar Roxas. There are other names that keep floating every time presidential politics is discussed. One such name is former presidential candidate and business tycoon Manny Villar. The other names include Speaker Sonny Belmonte, Senator Grace Poe, former Senator Ping Lacson, and the indefatigable Senator Miriam Santiago.
I believe that the greatest challenge for P-Noy in the remaining period of his presidential term is to institutionalize the reforms he has introduced especially in the realm of the rule of law. This will be his legacy: a nation that will be allowed to continue to move forward — whoever the next President may be — and no longer take steps in the opposite direction because of those who believe they are above the rule of law. 
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