The country is grappling with the might of pandemic since March 2020. After 12 long months, we are still not in good shape. In fact, our situation is getting worse as gleaned from our overwhelmed healthcare system that is struggling to address the influx of patients. Simply put, the recent surge overtakes and undermines all our efforts to be on top of the Covid situation in the Philippines.
At the onset of these problems, presumptive presidential contenders are positioning themselves as the possible 17th President of the Republic. A political group from the south has organized a “RunXRun” tarpaulin and posters operations all over the country. Another presidentiable scores over his strenuous social media revisionism campaign. A sports champion, on the other hand, claims his monicker as the “people’s champ” to be used as his main narrative to be the next President. The other one is a local official with a budding administration hat, scoring over his “ang naISKO sa 2022” propaganda all over. A long-time aide turned legislator is throwing his hat in the fray by doing rounds all over the country, and once called “President” by his boss. Yet, none of these presidentiables is discussing a plan to get us out from where we are now.
Meanwhile, the opposition (1Sambayan) has started to muster political energy to mount-up billions-worth of campaign by outlining its qualifications and selection process for their common candidate. Their selection process includes interviews where the candidates are detailing their plans to better the lives of our countrymen.
The sad truth is that no one discusses his/her plans for the country openly, and the substance of the elections seems to be reduced to mere popularity race filled with social media gimmicks to boost popularity. Guess where these camps are spending their attentions: manufacturing demand or urgencies for them to run – an insensitive move in the middle of crisis.
We need to know if these presumptive candidates have plans for our country because we are in one ship, and if the Filipinos fail again in the next administration, we will sink all together. That ship is what we call Philippines. Choosing the captain of our ship is more than imperative, in fact, for some, it’s a matter of life and survival.
It has been said that “it is lonely at the top” because the ship’s captain will face the gargantuan task of rebuilding the economy, providing the much needed comprehensive and affordable healthcare system, and basically restoring the consensus of the promise of our young democracy. So, what’s waiting for the 17th?
Recovering from this pandemic is the most obvious task that requires the next President’s full attention (because the sitting one failed on it). It is no-brainer that we’re suffering. Figures of cases, and related deaths attributed to this virus are stratospheric. After a year, we have suffered more as evidenced by the recent surge coupled with shortage of beds, and increasing number of deaths despite having rolled up vaccination – an unbelievable feat that only highlights the incompetence of the rulers and glaring lack of grasp on the fundamentals of this crisis.
Inoculation is at the heart of the recovery in this pandemic. The government is targeting a herd immunity by 2023. But the DOH is suffering in a chronic delay of roll out, thus, herd immunity. As of this writing, the Philippines has just administered half of its supply vaccines with around 1.4 million people vaccinated with first dose and a total of 0.02% of its entire population or around 192,000 with two doses. Around 3 million vaccines have been delivered to the country.
Lack of trust in the vaccine, especially to Sinovac is the chief problem of the roll out. With the on going rate, a campaign for herd immunity will surely overlap with the election season. Thus, it is safe to say that the vaccines will affect or even control the tempo of the local and national elections.
Another health sector problem is the overwhelming corruption in the country’s health insurance agency. Recently, Philhealth is accused of upcasing wherein health-care providers allegedly collude with patients to claim higher benefits. Delay in reimbursements of hospital payments is also a critical cause in our response to virus. Philippine Red Cross has been complaining Philhealth for months because of piling up debts that already affects the operations of humanitarian organization’s response to Covid-19.
A pale budget for health sector with overwhelming challenges, on top of landmark laws to be realized like Universal Health Care – is waiting for the next president.
It is a fact that economy improves if citizens are healthy. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce. The challenge of the next administration is to target our workforce as priorities in testing, inoculation and even contact tracing in order to immediately make a positive dent on our economy.
In January it was reported that the Philippine economy in 2020 has contracted to 9.5%, the worst since 1947. This GDP contraction was relatively attributed to the long community quarantine that bars workforce to contribute to the national output. In consequence, this translated into a record-high 10.3% unemployment rate in 2020, — which means there are 4.5 Million Filipinos actively looking for jobs, versus the 5.1% in 2019. In relation to this, there are 6.4 million Filipinos who are underemployed or working but are looking for more work or longer working hours. The poverty rate is projected to average between 15.5% and 17.5% in 2021. The current administration wishes to end their term with a more relax poverty rate of 14%.
The plight of the distressed micro, small and medium enterprises and strategically important companies (SICs) are bleeding because of a “drop in the bucket” Php 10-B rescue package being allocated by the government, compared to P19.5 anti-red funds.
The Build Build Build is yet to be realized. Lastly, our national debt is swelling at Php 11 Trillion and we need to manage it. We need to redound the economy. In order to rebuild the economy, an apparent pile of work and strategic decisions awaits the next President.
Making Democracy felt
Our democratic institutions paid a lot in this populist administration which eventually led to erosion of public consensus to democracy in general. The permutation of traditional politics in all fronts made our polity a weak state where personality and dynastical politics unwaveringly dominate local politics. The lack of political party system in the country exacerbated this.
At the level of local politics, the next President will have to enforce full devolution of powers to LGUs according to Mandanas ruling, made by the Supreme Court in 2019, which will be implemented in 2022. This eventuality will totally change the local governance set up in the county— which can either lead to more powerful or corrupt LGUs bagging the bacons.
Corruption is still plaguing (and obviously didn’t stop within the first 3-6 months as promised by the President). In fact, this administration enabled big fish corrupts to easily evade the justice. The collapse of a strong internal control environment in bureaucracy explains the persistence of corruption – which has to be rebuilt again. So much to has be done to rebuild our democratic institutions in the next administration and it is imperative to ask the current presidentiables, how they are supposed to do it?
These contenders should start to explain their plans on how to make things better for our country. We cannot allow 2022 elections to be reduced into a mere popularity race. We need plans of action not tarps and placards full of their names and faces. The country needs actual leaders, not traditional politicians.
So, you want to govern, how?