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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 80,574 77,076 71,400 43
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,080 1,020 1,050 135
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on The Philippines



Update No: 104 - (26/03/13)

Only in the Philippines

Filipinos will be going to the polls again on May 13. More than 18,000 elected positions at national and local levels are up for grabs. At the national level, the Catholic Church has once again sought to demonstrate that it wishes to influence the election outcome by urging voters to reject candidates who support the Reproductive Health Bill that passed into law last December but which has yet to be implemented. At the behest of pro-life legislators – and with the backing of the Church – the Supreme Court has issued an order to restore the status quo ante and delay the implementation of the law until after the election. The Church may be hoping to get the law reversed but the most likely outcome is that the bishops will end up with egg on their faces.

According to one local wit, despite being a tropical country, the Philippines has four distinct seasons: it has a dry season, a wet season, the world’s longest Christmas season (starting in September and going through until January of the following year) and then there is the election season, which starts in January and ends in mid-May. By having two of these seasons back-to-back (Christmas and elections), the Philippines is able to be in party mood for nine months of the year.

Actually, elections are held only once every three years but this does not stop incumbent politicians campaigning each and every year dispensing their largesse to their constituents. Some of this generosity is derived from public funds given over to incumbent politicians as ‘discretionary’ expenses while a significant portion is dispensed through a benevolent fund with income accrued from the sideline consulting activities of these politicians. Any business or construction company seeking to do business with government usually employs a local politician as their consultant and pays a ‘levy’ for their services. Elsewhere, these consulting activities are known as corrupt practices. Here in the Philippines they are called ‘par for the course’.

Individuals too contribute to this levy every time they visit a government department for a stamp or permit. This is because most politicians are able to place their relatives in key local government positions, especially those positions that front the public and collect money from them. During election season many of the servants of the public are absent from their posts having been press-ganged in campaigning activities; usually a healthy monetary contribution will encourage them back to their desks for as long as it takes to deal with your problem.

So elections in the Philippines represent a serious business and make a measurable contribution to GDP growth, which spikes every time an election is held. The 2013 elections are actually mid-term elections and the duly elected national legislators will join with those elected at the 2010 polls to make up the 16th Congress of the Philippines.

Even though it is only a ‘mid-term election’, a total of 18,053 elective posts will be up for grabs. Only 303 positions are for the national Congress (12 senatorial posts and 291 members of the lower house). In addition there are 80 provincial governors and vice-governors to be elected; 143 city mayors and vice mayors as well as 1,491 municipal mayors and vice mayors. The remaining positions are for seats on provincial, city and municipal boards.

Although the Philippine Constitution provides for a multi-party system, most political parties exist in name only and candidates switch allegiances regularly depending on who is in power or from whom they can gain the greatest advantage. In many instances, candidates are drawn from the political dynasties that hold sway in different regions of the country. Basically, you can think of it as warlordism with a respectable face. It is not unusual for elected positions to be passed around between family members as each one reaches their term limits. Often you will see full-term elected representatives replaced by their spouse on the ballot paper and in turn by their sons and daughters.
Because of the ‘consultancy’ activities of politicians in this country, elections are all treated as a family business. If you have any doubt about this, look what happened in Maguindanao back on the morning of November 23, 2009 in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao Province on the island of Mindanao. The incumbent political family (at least so it is alleged) kidnapped and brutally murdered members of a rival clan who had the temerity to want to challenge the incumbents in the 2010 election. IT MADE WORLD HEADLINES. A total of 58 people including many journalists accompanying the party were murdered in what was to become the worst massacre of civilians in the recent history of the Philippines. A total of 198 suspects, including a number of members of the Ampatuan clan have been charged with murder.

As of 23 November 2011, two years after the massacre, only two clan members had been charged, and some 100 of the 197 persons listed on the charge sheet are now unaccounted for. The US-based NGO Human Rights Watch has been able to link the Ampatuan clan to at least 56 other killings over the past 20 years aside from the 2009 massacre.

Because the entire election process is personality — rather than policy — based, any meaningful predictive analysis of the 2013 elections ahead of declaration of the actual poll is difficult. However, one litmus test of the mood of the electorate is worth a mention.

We reported earlier that, contrary to many expectations, the Reproductive Health Bill passed into law in December 2012. However, faced with ongoing fierce opposition to the bill from the Roman Catholic Church of the Philippines, implementation of the law has suffered a setback.

On March 15, the Department of Health released the implementing rules and regulations of the reproductive health law, which was to have taken effect on Easter Sunday 2013, March 31. However, that announcement proved to be premature. Four days later, on March 19, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a status quo ante order against the law preventing its implementation for at least four months. It is claimed that the worthy justices needed time to study the ‘constitutionality’ of the law. That is the official position but there is more to it than that.

The Catholic Church has made reversal of the law an issue in the forthcoming election. Is the Catholic Church supporting those politicians that want a corruption-free Philippines? No, it is not. Is the Catholic Church supporting those politicians in favour of ending political dynasties? No, it is not. Well then, surely the Catholic Church must be in favour of ending child malnutrition that affects around 40 per cent of impoverished families? Nope, total silence on that one too. So what is the Catholic Church supporting? It is going full bore to unseat pro-RH legislators in the upcoming election so that the new legislature will ensure that the law is reversed.

So, barring any other dominant issue surfacing, the upcoming election will be a test of the ongoing influence of the Catholic bishops over government. With most Filipinos supporting the right of choice, the good bishops are once again likely to demonstrate their irrelevance.

There may be a new man at the helm in Rome; but in the Philippines it is business as usual.

Oh yes, and with the hot summer season underway in the Philippines, the Church has begun campaigning against the wearing of two-piece swimsuits by females because ‘they subject women to the lustful eyes of men’. [Sigh.] Only in the Philippines (AND Saudi Arabia)!

The release today of Australian Warren Rodwell after being held captive in the jungles of Mindanao by the Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf, is a welcome development. According to published reports the initial ransom of US$2million was negotiated down to around $100,000. However, it has also been reported that a further Php3 million (approx. $73,000) was paid to local government officials in order to secure his release. Consulting by politicians now includes hostage mediation.

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