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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: 042 - (28/06/07)

After the ball is over
It is now more than a month since the Philippines went to the polls and while election season is officially over, the final poll results are not yet known. Still under contest is the twelfth senatorial position which, not unexpectedly, is turning into a tussle between Genuine Opposition candidate, Aquilino Pimentel III (son of sitting Senator "Nene" Pimentel) and Team Unity (pro-administration) candidate, Miguel Zubriri-both candidates are from Mindanao. Who gets the nod will depend on the final tally in the province of Maguindanao, where the election returns appear highly suspect. Defying dominant voting trends in the rest of the country pro-administration candidates garnered a 12-0 sweep for Team unity (TU) in that province, wiping the opposition totally.

Administration strategists claim that the poll result in Maguindanao showed the power of the political machine able to deliver the "command" vote as against the free exercise of discretion in other parts of the country. Many people, including a number of official observers expressed alarm at the rampant cheating in the poll. Sadly the full story may never come to light since the one person who blew the whistle on the cheating was gunned down before she had a chance to formally testify as to what she saw. Violence and death were hallmarks of the election in many other parts of the country. More than 130 deaths were reported before the police stopped counting-or at least stopped announcing the death toll.

The national vote for 12 senators-there are 24 senators, each elected for a six-year term and with half the Senate retiring every three years-was the only nation-wide poll. All other elections were for local officials. The Senate race, because of its national character, was widely seen as a referendum on the Arroyo presidency and her Administration. Within the overall election scene it was the area where the free vote counted most of all and where those contesting the Senate seats were most careful to guard their vote. 

And it was in this race that the pro-Administration candidates got badly bruised.

As of writing, the Genuine Opposition has scored seven Senate victories while the pro-Administration team has scored only two. Two independent candidates have also been declared. Even the two Administration supporters are seasoned politicians who are known for their relatively independent stance. Those who opportunistically climbed onto the government bandwagon or who had little by way of track record were left by the wayside. The result was much better for the opposition than the 6-4-2 result predicted by most pollsters before the election. 

International poll observers commented to the press that they felt safer in Afghanistan than in the Philippines at election time, especially those who had been assigned to Mindanao. In a statement to the media after the poll had closed, a team of 21 foreign observers from the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) said that while the government claimed the balloting was generally peaceful, it was not so in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao where polling was manipulated by outsiders, including the military.

Yet despite the many faults, many observers do see some change for the better this time round and point out the role that technology is now played in election monitoring. If violence and intimidation has not been eliminated; at least in many instances this time around, citizens and poll observers were able to capture it on their cell phone cameras. Even the TV stations encouraged citizens to text in observed poll irregularities and many did so complete with photos and videos. This time some fraudsters were caught in the act and it was shown on national television. As a result, it appears that many candidates were much more careful than they were before 

There were some encouraging signs that the electorate is becoming more discriminating in its choice for office, the command vote notwithstanding.

In Pampanga province, a Catholic priest, Father Ed Panlilo, who late in the day threw his hat into the ring in the gubanatorial race won the election against traditional politicians representing local gambling and quarrying interests.

In General Santos City in Mindanao, boxing star Manny Pacquiao, who was guiled into being a candidate for a seat in the lower house for the Administration was trounced by incumbent representative Darline Antonino-Custodio. Pacquiao had bulldozed his way into local politics relying on his popularity as a fighter but proved to be no match for Custodio. He trailed heavily throughout the counting.

In the Senate race, former Senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, who allegedly had been the mastermind behind the 2003 Oakwood mutiny was returned to the Senate together with the ring-leader of the mutineers, Navy lieutenant, Antonio Trillanes who remained in military custody throughout the campaign. Trillanes was a dark horse who did not feature in any of the poll predictions for the so-called "magic 12"-those most likely to win a coveted Senate seat. His win-in 11th place-surprised just about the entire country and sent the military high command into something of a panic with demands for an investigation as to whether the rank and file of the military had cast their vote for their "errant" comrade.

Overall, entertainers who won heavily in earlier elections, lost heavily in this poll.

The President, of course, has tried to put the best possible gloss on the situation by harping on the "power of the machine" to deliver votes at the local level and, naturally, in many areas the Administration team won handsomely. In many population areas the Opposition was unable to field a candidate at all and the administration candidate ran unopposed. 

Analysts and commentators saw the poll results as a salutary warning to the Administration that the country was unhappy with the conduct of the government. Very few commented on the fact that mid-term elections (such as this was) rarely favour the government in power. But that belies the fact that command vote notwithstanding, where the vote was free and relatively fair, the administration candidates were invariably trounced-even though many of them were among the biggest campaign spenders.

In the period since the election there has been little to suggest that President Arroyo and her team of close advisors have taken the warning to heart. An early announcement that the president was calling for the customary resignation of all her appointed officials-thereby giving the opportunity for some much needed house cleaning-was quickly watered down to include only the resignation of those in charge of government corporations and financial institutions. Her Cabinet remains intact suggesting that there will be no change of heart in terms of transparency and accountability. Government will continue to be based on what officials can get away with. With the President's State of the Nation Address due in July, there will be a better opportunity to review what she sees to be her legacy as she enters the final three years of her presidential term. So far the omens are not exactly encouraging. 

Sadly, the opposition seems to be faring no better. Despite its massive win in the Senate (and ability to now command a majority in that house) fragmentation of allegiances, arguments over division of the spoils and horse-trading have already set in.

Our prediction for the next three years: it will be politics as usual for the Philippines.

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