As investors and analysts ponder whether the Philippines would remain in a sweet spot beyond 2016 when the country elects its next President, New York-based think tank Global Source listed four “viable” presidential contenders from the administration party who could challenge incumbent Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Binay has been touted by his political party, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), as the man to beat in 2016. “I’m saying he will be the next President,” UNA campaign manager Toby Tiangco told the Inquirer this week.
In a May 16 commentary on the midterm elections titled “Vote of Confidence,” Global Source named Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Senators Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano and recent senatorial race topnotcher Grace Poe as the four potential standard-bearers within the Liberal Party (LP).
“We agree with the prognosis that the results are a vote of confidence on a highly popular President, which means that President Aquino will continue to have tremendous political capital going forward,” said the report written by economists Romeo Bernardo and Marie-Christine Tang.
“This will be very important as [President Aquino] will need to hit the ground running when the next Congress starts and show results quickly, to enable the economy to build on current momentum and translate the high business optimism into investments in hard assets that will sustain growth,” the commentary added.
Global Source said key pieces of legislation—such as the fiscal incentives reform that affects all sectors—would still be difficult to pass, but may stand a better chance with [Mr. Aquino’s] election clout still fresh in the winners’ minds.
“We also think there is very little risk of President Aquino’s becoming a lame duck executive in the near-term,” the report said. “The administration likely has a two-year window to initiate priority reforms before uncertainty and nervousness creep in with the approach of 2016,” it added.
Global Source added that President Aquino’s ability to influence the outcome of the 2016 election would hinge on the economy. The report said everyone would be looking for solid signs that the President was delivering on his promise of more jobs, investments and a sustained high economic growth.
“On the other hand, failure to bring the economy forward will hurt the President’s party in the final year, resulting in handing over [the] reins [of government] to the opposition led by the Vice President, who has demonstrated his own clout with his daughter’s fifth-place win in the Senate race,” the report said.
“In the meantime, the conduct of the election, as orderly and peaceful as the first automated one in 2010, has itself been a confidence booster,” the commentary said.
Within the LP, the research said Interior Secretary Roxas, who yielded to Mr. Aquino as the party’s nominee for the presidency in 2010, was “currently the likely anointed one.” But if, for some reason, Roxas drops out of the race, Global Source said the other “viable” candidates included reelected Senators Escudero and Cayetano.
The report noted that “one cannot rule out the surprise topnotcher in the senatorial contest, political neophyte Grace Poe,” daughter of the late action star Fernando Poe Jr. who, many believe, won the controversial 2004 election against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Based on the results of Monday’s midterm polls, the administration’s senatorial candidates are expected to bag most of the 12 senatorial seats in contention. Global Source said members of the President’s coalition party were also likely to have won the majority of the congressional and local elective posts.
“Political observers are starting to place bets on the leadership of the two houses of Congress, with Sen. Franklin Drilon seen as the likely Senate President, and incumbent Speaker of the House, Feliciano Belmonte, holding on to his post. Both are staunch allies of the President and high-ranking members of his Liberal Party,” Global Source said.
The report noted that supporters of the administration saw President Aquino’s control of both houses as positive for the government’s reform agenda and greatly increased the chances of passing “big ticket” political and economic legislation, among them the rationalization of fiscal incentives, a new mining law, the amendment to the 20-year Bangko Sentral charter, as well as the build-operate-transfer law and the Bangsamoro basic law.
With the President’s endorsement described as a crucial factor in winning the recent election, Global Source said he was expected to continue to hold sway in the next three years which would enable him, like his mother, to handpick a suitable successor to continue his reform program.
“Naysayers, on the other hand, claim that the administration’s numbers, especially in the Senate, are of no consequence, not only because the Upper House has traditionally acted more independently of the executive branch, but also because the numbers reflect a coalition of parties that came together solely for the elections,” the report said. “The latter implies that the President’s legislative initiatives would continue to face uphill battles and, if the past were any guide, that there is no guarantee that the coalition will stay in place through 2016, much less beyond,” the think tank added.
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