Oct 25

The Great Referendum: The national election of 2016

The Great Referendum: The national election of 2016

by Manuel L. Quezon III

25 October 2015

Philippine Daily Inquirer


AN AMERICAN CLERGYMAN, James Freeman Clarke, famously said, “A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation.” But I would add: even a statesman must be a politician, if he or she is to win an election, without which you cannot be in a position to put in place policies with the next generation in mind.

As the country prepares for what I call a Great Referendum in May, 2016, it would be useful to take a step back and look at the big picture: what is at stake, what factors will be in play, and how will we, the people, be approached to render our verdict.

As always, it will be a combination of the old and the new, the familiar and unfamiliar, and of trends that have endured for generations with a generous mix of circumstances unique to this coming national election.


Since this is a continuation of my two-part series, “The Great Divide: The midterm election of 2013” (see Part 1 and Part 2) for Inquirer.net in May, 2013, let me begin where I left off.


I. 2016 began in 2013


JUST as the 2013 campaign began in 2012 (President Aquino had framed 2013 in his 2012 SONA), the 2016 campaign began in 2013, when the results of the 2013 mid-terms became known. As President Aquino summarized it in his 2013 SONA: “I asked for allies that would help steer the country in one direction, and you delivered.”


First, the results of the 2013 midterm were thus a referendum on the incumbent administration, a purpose all mid-terms have served for all administrations since the first mid-term election in 1938. (Since the restoration of bicameralism in 1941, it is the Senate, not the House, that has determined the results of the mid-term referendum, since no administration, ever, has lost the House.


Figure 1.

Mid-term results, 1938-2013



[1] Quezon M. L. III (2013), The Great Divide: The midterm election of 2013, Part 2, From http://www.quezon.ph/2013/05/12/the-great-divide-the-midterm-election-of-2013-part-2/

Second, only presidents and vice-presidents (elected separately, so each point to a mandate wholly their own, which meant that the Vice-President was automatically a contender for the presidency), and senators have a national constituency. Since mid-terms are a referendum on the sitting administration, a victory would boost the prospects of re-election for a president (before martial law) while a defeat would diminish the chances by turing the president into a lame duck (this is the purpose it serves post-Edsa). But as a national election, the mid-term results since 1987 also put the senatorial topnotcher in pole position to be a candidate for the presidency or the vice-presidency. (Before martial law, when senators had no term limits, the topnotcher was more likely to end up Senate President, so only in 1951, with Jose P. Laurel, who gave way to Magsaysay in 1953, and in 1963 when Gerardo Roxas ran for Vice-President with Macapagal, did mid-term topnotchers contest the presidency or vice-presidency; after EDSA, however, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (1995), Manuel de Castro Jr. (2001), Mar Roxas (2004), Loren Legarda (1998 and 2007), and Grace Poe (2013) all became presidential or vice-presidential candidates.)

And third, since the election had been framed as a decision between those for or against the administration, the mid-terms also marked the beginning of the realignment of parties and factions in preparation for the 2016 polls. Here, the factor of the incumbent president becomes significant.

Consider this chart in the context of the chart above.


Table 1. Philippine Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates (listed in order of electoral results).

 Incumbents are in bold. Candidates not belonging to a ticket are in italics. Senators or former senators have an asterisk* after their name.

Election Year Presidential Candidates Vice Presidential Candidates Notes
1935 1.     Manuel L. Quezon* (Nacionalista)

2.     Emilio Aguinaldo (National Socialist)

3.     Gregorio Aglipay (Republican)

1.     Sergio Osmeña* (Nacionalista)

2.     Raymundo Melliza (National Socialist)

3.     Norberto Nabong (Republican)

·       First national elections in the Philippines
1941 1.     Manuel L. Quezon (NP)

2.     Juan Sumulong (Popular Front)

3.     Hilario Moncado (Partido Modernista)

1.     Sergio Osmeña (NP)

2.     Emilio Javier (Popular Front)

·       Terms of president and vice president were changed from 6 years without re-election to 4 years with the possibility of re-election.

·       First time a president and vice-president were reelected

1946 1.     Manuel Roxas* (NP-Liberal Wing)

2.     Sergio Osmeña (NP)

3.     Hilario Moncado (Partido Modernista)

1.     Elpidio Quirino* (NP-Liberal Wing)

2.     Eulogio Rodriguez* (NP)

3.     Luis Salvador (Partido Modernista)

·       Roxas launched the first “modern” campaign, actively campaigning
1949 1.     Elpidio Quirino* (LP-Quirino Wing)

2.     Jose P. Laurel* (NP)

3.     Jose Avelino* (LP-Avelino Wing)

1.     Fernando Lopez* (LP-Quirino Wing)

2.     Manuel Briones* (NP)

3.     Vicente J. Francisco* (LP-Avelino Wing)

1953 1.     Ramon Magsaysay (NP)

2.     Elpidio Quirino (LP)

3.     Carlos P. Romulo (Democratic Party)

4.     Gaudencio Bueno (independent)

1.     Carlos P. Garcia (NP)*

2.     Jose Yulo* (LP)

3.     Fernando Lopez* (Democratic Party)

·       Biggest first-term landslide in the history of Philippine presidential elections
1957 1.     Carlos P. Garcia* (NP)

2.     Jose Yulo* (LP)

3.     Manuel Manahan (Progressive Party of the Philippines)

4.     Claro M. Recto* (Nationalist Citizens’ Party)

5.     Antonio Quirino (LP-Quirino Wing)

6.     Valentin Santos (Lapiang Malaya)

7.     Alfredo Abcede (Federal Party)

1.     Diosdado Macapagal (LP)

2.     Jose B. Laurel Jr. (NP)

3.     Vicente Araneta (PPP)

4.     Lorenzo Tañada* (NCP)

5.     Restituto Fresto (Lapiang Malaya)

·       First time that there were 4 serious contenders for president

·       First time that the elected president and vice president came from different parties

·       First time president was elected by plurality instead of majority

1961 1.     Diosdado Macapagal (LP)

2.     Carlos P. Garcia* (NP)

3.     Alfredo Abcede (Federal Party)

4.     German P. Villanueva (independent)

5.     Gregorio L. Llanza (independent)

6.     Praxedes Floro (independent)

1.     Emmanuel Pelaez* (LP)

2.     Sergio “Serging” Osmeña Jr. (independent)

3.     Jose B. Laurel Jr. (NP)

·       Matinee idol Rogelio de la Rosa wanted to run for president as an independent, but later withdrew to run for a Senate seat instead.

·       First time the Iglesia ni Cristo endorsed a set of candidates (Garcia and Osmeña)

·       Praxedes Floro became the only candidate in the history of Philippine presidential elections to receive no votes.

1965 1.     Ferdinand E. Marcos (NP)*

2.     Diosdado Macapagal (LP)

3.     Raul Manglapus* (Party for Philippine Progress)

4.     Gaudencio Bueno (New Leaf Party)

5.     Ancieto A. Hidalgo (NLP)

6.     Segundo B. Baldovi (Partido ng Bansa)

7.     Nic V. Garces (People’s Progressive Democratic Party)

8.     German F. Villanueva (independent)

9.     Guillermo M. Mercado (Labor)

10.  Antonio Nicolas Jr. (Allied Party)

11.  Blandino P. Ruan (Philippine Pro-Socialist Party)

12.  Praxedes Floro (Independent)

1.     Fernando Lopez (NP)*

2.     Gerardo “Gerry” Roxas* (LP)

3.     Manuel Manahan* (PPP)

·       Slimmest margin of victory ever recorded for a national post in Philippine history (Lopez by 0.4% or 27,000 votes)
1969 1.     Ferdinand E. Marcos (NP)

2.     Sergio Osmeña Jr. (LP)*

3.     Pascual Racuyal (independent)

4.     Segundo Baldovi (Partido ng Bansa)

5.     Pantaleon Panelo (independent)

6.     German Villanueva (independent)

7.     Gaudencio Bueno (New Leaf Party)

8.     Angel Comagon (independent)

9.     Cesar Bulacan (independent)

10.  Espiridion Buencamino (NP)

11.  Nic Garces (Philippine Pro-Socialist Party)

12.  Benilo Jose (independent)

1.     Fernando Lopez (NP)

2.     Genaro Magsaysay* (LP)

·       Marcos and Lopez became second president and vice-president to be reelected (Lopez won the vice-presidency three times)
1981 1.     Ferdinand E. Marcos (KBL)

2.     Alejo Santos (NP)

3.     Bartolome Cabangbang (Federal Party)

4.     Delfin Manapaz (independent)

5.     Ursula Dajao (independent)

6.     Benito Valdez (independent)

7.     Lope Rimando (independent)

8.     Lucio Hinigpit (Sovereign Citizen Party)

9.     Pacifico Morelos (independent)

10.  Jose Igtobay (independent)

11.  Simeon del Rosario (independent)

12.  Salvador Enage (independent)

13.  Florencio Tipano (independent)

N/A ·       Most lopsided “victory” in the history of Philippine presidential elections (Marcos won with 18 million votes against Santos’ 1.7 million and Cabangbang’s 700,000)

·       Most number of presidential candidates in an election

1986 1.     Corazon C. Aquino (UNIDO)

2.     Ferdinand E. Marcos (KBL)

3.     Reuben Canoy (Mindanao Alliance)

4.     Narciso Padilla (independent)

1.     Salvador “Doy” H. Laurel* (UNIDO)

2.     Arturo M. Tolentino* (KBL)

3.     Eva Estrada-Kalaw* (LP-Kalaw Wing)

1992 1.     Fidel V. Ramos (Lakas-NUCD)

2.     Miriam Defensor-Santiago (PRP)

3.     Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr. (NPC)

4.     Ramon Mitra Jr. (LDP)

5.     Imelda Marcos (KBL)

6.     Jovito Salonga* (LP)

7.     Salvador H.Laurel (NP)

1.     Joseph Ejercito Estrada* (NPC)

2.     Marcelo Fernan* (LDP)

3.     Emilio Osmeña (Lakas-NUCD)

4.     Ramon Magsaysay Jr. (PRP)

5.     Aquilino Pimentel Jr. (LP)

6.     Vicente Magsaysay (KBL)

7.     Eva Estrada-Kalaw (NP)

1998 1.     Joseph Ejercito Estrada (PMP)

2.     Jose de Venecia Jr. (Lakas-NUCD)

3.     Raul Roco (Aksyon Demokratiko)

4.     Emilio Osmeña (PROMDI)

5.     Alfredo Lim (LP)

6.     Renato de Villa (Reporma-LM)

7.     Miriam Defensor-Santiago* (PRP)

8.     Juan Ponce Enrile* (independent)

9.     Santiago Dumlao (Kilusan para sa Pambansang Pagpapanibago)

10.  Manuel L. Morato (Partido Bansang Marangal)

1.     Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo* (Lakas-NUCD)

2.     Edgardo Angara* (PMP)

3.     Oscar Orbos (Reporma-LM)

4.     Sergio Osmeña III* (LP)

5.     Francisco Tatad (PRP)

6.     Ismael Sueño (PROMDI)

7.     Irene Santiago (Aksyon Demokratiko)

2004 1.     Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Lakas-KAMPI-CMD)

2.     Fernando Poe Jr. (LDP-KNP)

3.     Panfilo Lacson* (independent)

4.     Raul Roco* (Aksyon Demokratiko)

5.     Eddie Villanueva (Bangon Pilipinas)

1.     Noli De Castro* (Allied with Lakas-Kampi-CMD)

2.     Loren Legarda* (KNP)

3.     Herminio Aquino (Aksyon Demokratiko)

4.     Rodolfo Pajo (Isang Bansa, Isang Diwa)

2010 1.     Benigno S. Aquino III* (LP)

2.     Joseph Ejercito Estrada (PMP)

3.     Manuel Villar* (NP)

4.     Gilbert Teodoro (Lakas-KAMPI-CMD)

5.     Eddie Villanueva (Bagong Pilipinas)

6.     Richard Gordon* (Bagumbayan)

7.     Nicanor Perlas (independent)

8.     Jamby Madrigal* (independent)

9.     John Carlos de los Reyes (Ang Kapatiran)

10.  Vetellano Acosta (Disqualified) (KBL)

1.     Jejomar C. Binay (PDP-LABAN)

2.     Mar Roxas* (LP)

3.     Loren Legarda* (NPC)

4.     Bayani Fernando (Bagumbayan)

5.     Edu Manzano (Lakas-KAMPI-CMD)

6.     Perfecto Yasay (Bangon Pilipinas)

7.     Jay Sonza (KBL)

8.     Dominador Chipeco (Ang Kapatiran)

·       Most number of vice presidential candidates in an election


You can identify a few trends. Back when presidents could run for reelection, presidents who won the midterms succeeded in seeking reelection (had Roxas and Magsaysay not died, they would probably have been reelected). Presidents who lost the midterms lost their bid for reelection. Another is that the Senate has proven to be what it was intended to be –a “training ground” for future presidents. Before martial law, only two presidents never served in the Senate: Magsaysay and Macapagal; and only House Speakers who later on joined the Senate actually succeeded. A third is that candidates with no running mate do fairly badly, and that applies to independents as well; a fourth is that the more candidates there are (particularly post-Edsa) the more susceptible preexisting coalitions become to being overtaken by other candidates.

Presidents, then, who did well in the mid-terms had excellent prospects of being re-elected before 1972, unless death intervened; post-Edsa, the mid-terms have been more important in determining if the incumbent will be a lame duck or not; with the possible exception of Corazon C. Aquino in 1992, no post-Edsa president was considered popular enough at the end of their term, to have much of an endorsement power in the election of their successor.


 Presidents’ Satisfaction Ratings


This brings us to President Benigno S. Aquino III, who cannot seek reelection but who is uniquely positioned, as we will see, to be a formidable player in the 2016 election.

A brief word on the difference between conventional wisdom and black swans. Conventional wisdom is how past experiences, hunches, and patterns that emerge from past experiences combine to form recipes for success. But there are times when something or someone comes along to disrupt conventional thinking and behavior: Nasseem Nicholas Taleb put it forward as the “black swan theory” in 2001.

The conventional wisdom is that a president who is popular boosts, while an unpopular president can can diminish, the mid-term prospects of his or her coalition (which is, after all, competing in an election that is a referendum on the incumbent president). However, the same president, who cannot seek reelection, becomes irrelevant in the election of his or her successor. Like all conventional wisdom, there is plenty of past evidence to support this. Consider the following chart, which tracks the ratings of presidents by SWS, with elections, mid-term and presidential, marked in the same chart (both gross and net figures are represented: personally, I prefer gross numbers for surveys; gross numbers are put forward as they require media and the public to recall one number instead of digesting approve, disapprove, and no opinion numbers).


Figure 2A.

Presidential Ratings from SWS (1986 – 2015)

Figure 02a - SWS Ratings



While President Corazon C. Aquino had no mid-term election per se, she was at her most popular when local and legislative elections were held in 1987, resulting in a massive sweep. By the end of her term, her popularity and thus influence was far diminished, although in the close election of 1992 it could have helped Ramos eke out a victory. Ramos with a diminished standing in 1998 could not help his candidate, De Venecia. Aquino III was at one of his highest points in the mid-terms in 2013 and at present is at the highest point of any post-Edsa president going into a national election to choose a successor.

Now let us take a look at another firm’s findings. This provides a guide to follow the ups and downs that took place in the events of 2013 to the present. We know the biggest controversies of the period: PDAF and DAP, Typhoon Yolanda, and Mamasapano.


Figure 2B.

Presidential Ratings from Pulse (1998 – 2015)

Figure 02b - Pulse Ratings


Each of these events had the biggest effect on the President’s performance and trust ratings. Each provided a challenge to the President’s effectivity and credibility, and to the disappointment of his critics he recovered from each.

But there are two other things that ought to be factored in, related to 2016. They were: the proposal in some quarters to extend the President’s term, and the reaction of Vice President Binay to the proposal.

From 2013-2014, the proposal from some quarters to extend President Aquino’s term obsessed the political class, and what is relevant here is that it served to further deepen the divide that had been made public in 2013—that the Vice-President was head of the opposition, and was bent on consolidating the anti-Aquino forces in a coalition under his leadership. After all, as the only obvious candidate, the possibility of extending President Aquino’s term was a direct challenge to Binay’s putting himself forward for the job.

The President, then, had to think long-term while temporarily giving in to his supporters clamoring for a term extension out of fear that reforms might end in 2016. This was short-term thinking (looking at the Vice-President’s ratings at the time, and not the situation as it might be down the line). It was certainly a political high-wire act, potentially as much lose-lose as it might be win-win, without making any allowances for intervening events. The President, who might afford to take a hit in popularity so long as term extension was in the air, might not recover, even if he or the public could be convinced to go along with a term extension; and even if it was attempted, failure would leave him the lamest of lame ducks: a lose-lose.

But, on the other hand, by drawing fire to himself, and taking a temporary hit he could afford, term extension speculation would draw out fair-weather friends and show, beyond the shadow of a doubt, who was only pretending to be cooperating with the administration. And an eventual recovery, which would come after dropping the idea and thus reassuring people, would result in a sharpening of the battle lines, and thus, a win-win.

The end result in this battle of nerves was that the Vice-President lost his. The public knows very little of what vice presidents actually do, or even why the position exists; but they do expect vice presidents to be loyal; and when they break away, they suffer a loss in public esteem.



By his 2014 SONA President Aquino was thus prepared to frame the 2016 campaign, when he said, “It is you who will face a fork in the road; it is you who will decide if change will continue… In 2016, you will be choosing new leaders of our country. What I can tell you is this: if you wish continue and even accelerate the transformation of society, there can only be one basis for choosing my successor: Who will, without a shred of doubt, continue the transformation we are achieving?”

Some observers took the same speech to mark a dividing line between President Aquino and the Vice President. The Vice President, of course, denied any such division; but actions speak for themselves, and by 2015, he had had enough, and decided not only to formally break with the President, but to go on the attack.

By doing so the Vice-President broke with conventional wisdom: No Vice President has ever gained from quarreling with an incumbent President, with the exception of Diosdado Macapagal, the first veep elected from a party different from a president elected in the same year (President Garcia systematically deprived his opposition veep of the traditional cabinet seat, and was niggardly with things like official cars, giving Macapagal four years to campaign against the incumbent). Every Vice President who broke off from the administration suffered a plunge in popularity as a result (think Laurel, Macapagal-Arroyo, and Guingona). Having been, essentially, the only declared candidate for president since 2013, the Vice President had ridden high in the ratings until his standing began to be eroded by revelations about his finances. His breaking with the President made things worse.

In reality, the Vice President was the victim of circumstances he had created in the mid-terms in 2013. It was a break inevitable because based on fundamental differences. A populist Vice President could never happily settle down in a Reform administration. Having broken conventional wisdom, one has to wonder if, on the other hand, he was also relying on the conventional wisdom that presidents at the end of their term inevitably end up unpopular and thus, politically enfeebled.

But as we’ve seen, this is far from being the case. But then, the President had one problem solved, only to be confronted with another.


In his 2015 SONA, his last, President Aquino put forward the frame, once more, making it the dominant one of the election to come: “Who in their right mind would decide to cut the tree down on a whim, when we have only begun harvesting its fruits?’ …From this perspective, the next election will be a referendum for the Straight and Righteous Path. You will decide whether the transformation we are experiencing today will be permanent, or simply a brief and lucky deviation from a long history of failure.”

The President followed this up with the announcement of whom he would support for the presidency. The President putting Roxas forward as his preferred successor, however, created another dilemma: Would the Reform constituency end up divided on the question of both Roxas and whoever might be his running mate?

Enter Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero, members of the administration coalition since 2013, along with the NP and the NPC.

Relatively fresh in people’s minds from her topping the mid-term senatatorial elections, Grace Poe had became increasingly attractive to some fearful of a Binay presidency, and who considered her a popular alternative, encouraged by those allergic to the Liberals but who could no longer back Binay because he seemed not only increasingly vulnerable, but also because they dared not support Binay lest they incur the wrath of the President. Whether one likes the President or not, one thing is sure: When he takes the plunge, he’s all in –which discombobulates friends and foes alike who are used to more flexible presidents.

Poe could, of course, opt to run for the vice presidency. But even if Poe would consider a tandem, what to do about Escudero? Here his hand was weaker, in the sense that his viability, such as it was, was in terms of being Veep. Poe, on the other hand, was viable as either.

Very publicly, the President expressed a preference for keeping his coalition as intact as possible, particularly as conventional wisdom was blinding many of his own supporters to the uniqueness of the situation going into 2016: First, the Vice President had hogged the ratings because only he was seriously–and openly—seeking the presidency; second, the President had not explicitly endorsed a candidate, with the boost this would provide; third, the Liberal Party would go with the President, while neither Poe nor Escudero had a party.

The President kept the door open until it was Poe and Escudero, and not the President or Roxas, who shut it. The best that either Poe and Escudero would be able to do, in the future, in the face of a popular incumbent on whom they turned their back, is to insist that they’re the “loyal opposition”–but, still, opposition.

Here, the Nacionalistas, and the NPC, who have been in coalition with the Liberals since 2013, exhibited interesting behavior during this whole episode. Essentially, they stalled on making a decision—deciding, instead, not to decide (in parliamentary parlance, an abstention, which can be as politically meaningful as an explicit yes or no). When Escudero, who seems to be the political brain for the Poe-Escudero tandem, tried to engineer the impression that the NPC was poised to declare for Poe, party boss Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. stepped in and said all candidates should be talked to, preventing a stampede. When it was mentioned that the NPC was poised to coalesce with the NP, again to give the impression of a rising tide, Cynthia Villar sharply put an end to the rumor. Again, heading off the impression of a stampede.

Instead of enjoying a rising tide, Poe and Escudero found themselves becalmed in increasingly still waters. Eventually—not together, but symbolically apart, but not so apart as to totally belie that they are a tandem—each declared they would seek higher office, but with no party and no firm commitments as to a senatorial slate.

This allowed the President to fulfill his obligations as a politician and gentleman, without conceding anything. He would remain a force to reckon with; his party remained the administration party; his frame for the coming polls would be the dominant frame –the best Poe and Escudero being able to do is insist “me, too,” as far as general principles are concerned. But since the President framed—and Roxas took on the frame—of the election being fought on the basis of a referendum on his leadership, and a continuity in governance by the ruling coalition, “me, too” isn’t the same thing at all. Proclaiming yourself Beer na Beer is no substitute for being the original Pale Pilsen, however tasty you say you are. The President, in advertising parlance, enjoys the biggest brand recognition, remains the market leader, and a “me, too” challenge to that is the weakest form of contesting a market.


II. A Unique Election

We can still all remember how 2010 was fought along the lines of 1986 and 1953–as one senior Inquirer editor told me at the time, referring to then-Senator Aquino, “the last time I saw a candidacy like this wasn’t even in 1986, it was in 1953,” when Magsaysay ran for the presidency. Like 1953 and 1986, 2010 was a campaign to replace a discredited administration.

The 2016 election, to find a parallel, is unique. The closest analogies would be from before martial law: what should have been the reelection campaigns of Manuel Roxas in 1949 and Ramon Magsaysay in 1957, except both had died in office, and their successor–their vice-presidents—ran on the record of the predecessor. Both Manuel Roxas and Ramon Magsaysay would easily have been reelected had they not died in office; both Elpidio Quirino and Carlos P. Garcia were veteran leaders known for competence, running on platforms of continuity.

The same perils were present in 1949 and 1957, too: With Jose Avelino having split the party, Quirino eked out a victory so slim it allowed the partisans of Laurel to cast doubts on the results; while in the case of Garcia, Manuel Manahan put himself forward as a more authentic torch bearer of the Magsaysay legacy, resulting in Garcia being the first plurality president in our history; furthermore, Garcia, who kept together the party by placating party bigwigs by running with the unpopular Speaker Jose B. Laurel Jr. as his running mate, essentially conceded the vice presidency to an oppositionist, Diosdado Macapagal, who spent his entire term campaigning to defeat Garcia in 1961.

If the 1949 and 1957 elections were the last elections where the administration candidates ran on the record and achievements of the predecessor, the circumstances are different today because President Aquino can actually campaign for his chosen successor. Still, a further similarity is that during those times, the country was experiencing a stabilizing economy and had improving GDP figures. Put another way, the economy was such that campaigning on a platform of continuity was viable. But good economic numbers do not necessarily translate to electoral success, if a government has lost public confidence (as Quirino and Garcia would find out the next time around, in 1953 and 1961, respectively, when they lost, hounded by political controversy).



Figure 3.

Figure 03 - GDP 19461960


If perception is reality, then numbers, however impressive, have to be accompanied by the perception that the economy is being handled well. Historical GDP growth rates show that prior to 1949, the Philippine economy was experiencing low growth rates after the initial burst of activity when the country, basically flattened by World War II, had nowhere to go but up, resulting in stratospheric rates of growth compared to the devastation of the war.


Figure 4.

A closer look at the 1947 to 1960 and 2008-2015 GDP Rates      


Figure 04 - GDP 19471960



The readjustment to normality after the initial frenzy of rebuilding after the war meant there was a dip in growth, but after the economy returned to an even keel, it went on an upward trend in time for Quirino to be elected in 1949. It was also stable enough for Garcia to succeed in 1957. Before 2010, the economy also dipped due to the global economic crisis and depressed confidence, but was able to recover, buoyed as much by people regaining their optimism in expectation in a change of administrations, as the eventual outcome of that change. During President Aquino’s term, after an initial period of adjustment, when government reviewed its priorities and processes, the economy has bucked the regional trend and continued to grow.

Highest average GDP growth for the past 40 and 60 years

Which leads to a development conducive to an administration earning electoral goodwill:

According to NEDA Sec. Balisacan, at 6.2%, we currently have the highest 5-year average GDP growth for the past 40 years.



Figure 5.

Figure 05 - GDP 5 6 year averages


This is of course an inconvenient truth not only for Marcos loyalists (the Aquino they hate matched their idol), but equally so, for candidates who cannot put forward credentials either in economics or finance.


The “Demographic Sweet Spot” and “Daang Matuwid”


The NEDA projects that if “Daang Matuwid” continues (meaning its economic policies), the country’s GDP per capita will continue to increase. The projection was based on the 2014 GDP growth rate, assuming a GDP growth of 6.7% from 2015 onwards (See yellow bars on Figure 6).[1] On the other hand, if “Daang Tiwali” will take place starting 2016, meaning an economy riddled by corruption, instability and erratic growth due to changing policies, the economy will remain stagnant and we would see a very small increase in our economic growth for many decades to come (Red bars on Figure 6). This is also based on the 2014 GDP growth rate and the projected deceleration of 0.01 percentage points per year after the 2016 elections.[2]


Figure 6. GDP per Capita 1960-2014 at current prices in USD with NEDA projected 2015-2044 if “Daang Matuwid” continues and projected 2010-2044 w/ “Daang Tiwali”


figure 6


[1] NEDA Graphs for the 2015 SONA

[2] NEDA Graphs for the 2015 SONA

At the same time, there is a “demographic sweet spot,” which is essentially the potential benefits that come with having a larger percentage of the population entering working age, just when other countries we compete against will start having a bigger percentage of their populations retiring and leaving the workforce. The premise of the country Getting competitive, as the Inquirer editorial last October 3 discussed, in political terms, is who will be best positioned to navigate an increasingly interconnected and complicated world? Both in terms of integrity and competence, characteristics that have real-world consequences for people and nations, as Solita Collas-Monsod discussed last September 5 and September 12.

It is this question that the electorate will have to answer. Which brings up another question: just who, actually, are we, the voters?



III. We, The People as Voters

The first divide is between those old enough to vote, and those too young to vote. The next divide is between those registered to vote, and those who aren’t. Let’s slice and dice the figures.


A. 75% of registered voters will vote in 2016


There were 74.98% registered voters who voted in 2010, while 77.2% of those who registered voted in 2013. Similarly, COMELEC is projecting a 75% turnout in 2016 with an estimate of 40.5 million votes out of the 54 million projected registrants


Figure 7.

Figure 07 - Reg vs Actual

[1] COMELEC Spokesperson Dir. James Jimenez at DZBB Interview, April 22, 2015, 9 AM


B. The voters are roughly 41% of the population


In 2010, only 41% of the total population voted while 59% did not. Based on the population projections by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the percentage of voters in 2013 was still about 41%. Based on COMELEC and PSA estimates, the same percentage of voters out of the total population is also expected in 2016 at around 40.5 million.


Figure 08 - Percentage over population


C. Almost equal male-to-female voter ratio

Of the 38 million who voted in 2010, though almost equal, slightly more females (50%) voted than the males (47%). COMELEC was unable to record the gender of 3% of the actual votes.


Figure 9.

Figure 09 - Turnout by Gender

D. The Youth Vote


This is the vote that candidates projecting themselves as being on the wings of change like to brag about. We are a young country, it’s true. And a new crop of voters is entering the scene.


1. Incoming voters: Population growth from 1996 to 1998


In terms of additional voters, it would be more relevant to look at the 1996-1998 population growth because it will be the youth voters ages 13 to 15 (born between 1996-1998) in the last 2013 midterm elections who would turn 18 and will be the new additions to the voting population in 2016. They are estimated to be an additional 3.2 Million voting-eligible population by 2016.

  • 1996 NSO projected population: 69,946,205[1]
  • 1998 NSO projected population: 73,130,985[2]
  • Total additional population from 1996-1998: 3,184,780


2. Increasing Young Population


The 2010 census and 2013 PSA estimate reveals that the country’s young people (ages 15 to 30) account for 41% to 42% of the total population.


Figure 10.

Figure 10 - Pop by age group


[1] https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/attachments/hsd/article/PDPOPPROJdt1.pdf

[2] https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/attachments/hsd/article/PDPOPPROJdt1.pdf


In 2013, the young eligible voters (18 to 30) comprised 39% of the total number of registrants (Figure 11).



Figure 11.

Figure 11 - Reg by age group


However, based on the estimated voter turnout from the 2010 SWS, the youth (ages 18-30) comprised only 31% of the total number of actual votes, while those ages 31-48 largely constitute the voter turnout (37%) (Figure12).


Figure 12.

Figure 12 - Voter Turnout



According to Pulse Asia, the largest group of potential voters are those ages 35 to 54 at 40%, while only 36% of the potential voters are ages 18 – 34.


Figure 13.

Figure 13 - Voting Population Pulse Asia 2015




Hence, these graphs show that the youth population (ages 18 – 30) are roughly 41% of the population, 39% of the total registered voters, and 31% of the actual voters.


Population projections also reveal that as the young population will continue to increase, the potential youth voters is also likely to increase in the coming years. According to an AIM study, the youth voters (ages 18-30) will rise from about 21 million in 2010 to almost 30 million by 2040. In each presidential election between 2010 and 2040, there will be roughly 10 to 14 million potential new youth voters.[1]


Figure 14.

Figure 14 - Youth

[1] Mendoza, R., et. al., 2014, AIM Policy Center: Insights from the Pinoy Youth Barometer on the Youth Vote

3. A different message

In 2013, the University of the Philippines conducted an online senatorial and party-list mock election. With the polls running for 5 days and an added extension, the voters’ turnout was only 4.82% for all UP campuses. This sends a different message that although there is a huge number of young people, youth voter turnout could be low, given that an expected socially and politically involved university such as UP had such a turnout. There is also the fact that Election Day is a holiday, making for a long weekend that will be tempting for young people to make plans to be with friends or go on vacation.

So here is a kind of irony. We are a young country, but in terms of elections, older voters are more active. It may be that one has to have worked for a while, and dealt with real-world problems, including having something to gain and lose, not just for one’s self, but family, to be motivated to take the time to vote. And here is a kind of cautionary possibility: if, however, an increasingly young population also becomes increasingly prosperous, as they get older, will they be as motivated to vote? We have had periodic boom-and-bust cycles which serve as a wakeup call for citizens to participate in elections to change the leadership which sets policies; if these boom-and-bust cycles happen less and less or disappear, would we face a situation like the developed world, where voter participation in elections is low? That would create a different set of problems, to be sure, in terms of democratic governance.


E. A nation in demographic transition: An increasing working age population


An increasing youth population becomes an increasing working population over time. In 2010, the percentage of the working population (ages 15 to 64) was 57.8 Million. By 2045, it will be almost twice at 95.9 Million, while the number of dependents will eventually decrease.


Figure 15.

Figure 15 - Demographic Transition


Economists predict that the Philippines will enter into a demographic transition by 2015 as the working age population grows at a much faster pace and the dependency ratio continues to decrease.


In 2010, there were about 61 dependents for every 100 working-age population. According to Dr. Juan Antonio A. Perez III, Executive Director of the Commission on Population, by 2040, it is projected that there will only be 50 dependents for every 100 working age population.[1]


The Philippines, currently, has the second youngest population in Southeast Asia.[2]


It will be some time before the reforms in the educational system, such as K-12 and closer integration of the efforts of DepEd, CHED and TESDA are felt. In the meantime, even as young Filipinos in the educational system have a greater chance of being more educated and enjoying wider opportunities than their elders, the majority of potential voters, according to Pulse Asia’s socio-demographic analysis, are working and a large number of them have only completed high school.[3]


Figure 16.

Figure 16 - Pulse Working vs Not Working

[1] Perez, J., III, 2014, Demographic Dividend: Demographic Aspect (presented during the NAST Philippines Roundtable Discussion on Demographic Sweet Spot in November 2014)

[2] United Nations, 2015, World Population Prospects: 2015 Revision, http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Publications/Files/Key_Findings_WPP_2015.pdf

[3]Pulse Asia Research U&B (2015)


Figure 17.

Figure 17 - Pulse Educational Attainment

Their choices, then, should take into consideration their current prospects as far as work is concerned, and their views on who can offer a compelling vision for the future, for themselves and their families.

Comparing with other Southeast Asian countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam), the Philippines has the highest labor force growth rate.[1]


[1] Perez, J., III, 2014, Demographic Dividend: Demographic Aspect (presented during the NAST Philippines Roundtable Discussion on Demographic Sweet Spot in November 2014)


Figure 18.

Figure 18 - Labor Force Growth


As the working age population increases, this is the “demographic sweet spot” I mentioned earlier. This brings to the fore other issues, primarily of security: in terms of services from the government (health, education, safety) and measures meant to provide a greater chance for families and individuals to take advantage of opportunities—consider CCT, for example, and how people not only feel about it now, but feel about those who would either discontinue it, or drastically change it, putting those currently benefitting from it in a potentially precarious situation.


F. Filipinos Abroad: A large portion but small participation


According to the Commission on Filipino overseas, there are 10,489,628 estimate Filipinos outside the country (all over the world). However, only a small portion of the overseas Filipinos registered and even fewer voted in 2010 and in 2013.


In 2010, the overseas Filipino votes totalled 153,323 and covered only 0.4% of the total 38,090,090 voter turnout in the Philippines, while in 2013, the overseas Filipino votes only covered 0.3% of the total actual votes.[1]

Figure 19.

Figure 19

[1]Philippine Statistics Authority, 2014 Survey on Overseas Filipinos


But common sense suggests this is a misleading number, because it doesn’t account for those at home. They range from underage dependents (who don’t vote), voting age family members who are young (so, like other young people, perhaps less inclined to actually vote), siblings and spouses and parents and grandparents who are inclined to vote, and who will therefore factor in the candidates’ views and track record in terms of protecting the interests of Filipinos abroad.

 G. Increasing number of IT-BPO employees but probable small percentage of BPO voters


This brings a case similar to Overseas Filipinos: those working in IT and BPOs here at home, many of whom follow foreign time. The number of IT-BPO employees has been significantly increasing. From 527,000 direct employees in 2010, the number of direct employees nearly doubled to 1.07 million individuals in 2014. By 2015, the industry is expected to employ 1.19 million individuals while in 2016, the projected number of IT-BPO direct employees will be 1.3 million.


Figure 20.

Figure 20 - BPO A



Although there is an increasing number of IT-BPO employees, it is estimated that only a small percentage of them actually vote, assuming that most IT-BPO workers fall within the ages of 18 to 39.

Based on the estimated 2010 voter turnouts from the 2010 SWS Exit Poll, there were more than 18 million actual voters aged 18 to 39. In other words, in 2010, the actual voters aged 18 to 39 actually comprised 50% of the total actual voting population. During the same year, DTI and IBPAP recorded that there were 527,000 IT-BPO direct employees. Of the 18 million (ages 18-39) who voted in 2010, only 2.78% IT-BPO employees probably voted on election day.

Assuming that there will be an increase in total voter turnouts (as per COMELEC) and that the 18-39 actual voters will also be 50% of the projected actual voting population in 2016, there will be 20 million who would actually vote from the same age group. Out of the estimated 20 million 18-39 voters, only 6.64% IT-BPO employees would probably vote in 2016.

At the same time, most employees in the IT-BPO sector work during graveyard hours and are less likely not to vote come election day. Like Filipinos abroad, chances are their parents and grandparents will be the ones to vote.



Figure 21.


Figure 21 - BPO B

H. Religion and Voters


Aside from the Youth Vote, and appealing to Filipinos abroad and their families, candidates take pains to court the support of sectors in a position to pledge their members’ support. This includes religious groups.


1. The INC Vote


In the Philippines, the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) is open to, and has proven numbers for, undertaking command voting especially for local elections. According to Mahar Mangahas, from their SWS/TV5 Exit Poll in 2010, 4.23% of the valid votes for President were cast by people who declared their religion to be INC.[1] This adds up to an estimated 1.53 million votes from INC in 2010. Currently, Mangahas predicts that there will be around 1.7 million votes from the INC in 2016 in terms of Presidential and Vice Presidential posts.


2. The Catholic Vote


Although the Catholic Church does not endorse candidates, Catholic voters comprise most of the total voting population, with more than 80% of Filipinos being Catholics.[2] During the peak of the RH bill issue, the question of whether there will be a Catholic vote in the 2013 elections suddenly erupted.[3]


Mahar Mangahas indicated that in all his experience with election surveys, he has never seen a Catholic vote or any charismatic group vote; the only solid religious vote, so far, has been the Iglesia ni Cristo Vote.[4]


Still, several Catholic bishops and movements publicly endorsed anti-RH candidates in 2013. The Diocese of Bacolod even put up a large tarpaulin bearing the names of candidates who opposed the RH bill and branded them as “Team Buhay” while those who voted for it as “Team Patay.”[5] However, after the elections, the Catholic Church leaders were disappointed that their campaign did not have much impact in the senatorial elections.[6]


Antonio Montalvan, on the other hand, questioned that if indeed there was no Catholic vote, why did 6 of the 12 senatorial candidates and 55 of the 100 plus congressmen who were against the RH Bill still win? But the RH bill was voted on by the Senate and the House in December, 2012 (it passed by 13-8 in the Senate, and by 113-104 in the crucial 2nd reading vote and 133-79 in the final reading vote—not to mention that the hierarchy itself was divided among moderates and hard-liners), giving enough time for tempers to subside by the time of the midterm elections.


Reality may lie somewhere in the middle: in tight local races, interventionist bishops can rely on committed groups of the lay faithful to use their influence on family members and thereby affect the outcome. This is why the battle over the RH Bill was toughest in the House, where congressmen worried about the impact of bishops campaigning against them.


Nationally, however, the Catholic Church can exercise what is called a “negative vote” but only moderately so: this also explains why some senators were generally unafraid to support the RH Bill, while others aligned their position on the measure with the stand of the Catholic hierarchy.


3. The Moro Vote


There is an estimated 6% Muslims out of the total population, slightly larger than the INC group, which constitutes only 2% of the population. While there is no “Muslim vote,” the habit of perpetuating political dynasties to support the interests of particular national politicians has been known to persist in Mindanao.[7] According to the pre-election survey of SWS in April 2010, the command votes tend to be more visible in areas farther away from the capital, mostly in Mindanao (22%).[8]


The ARMM provinces, in particular, have been known for several election controversies such as the famous “Hello Garci” scandal in 2004 and the “Lintang Bedol” case in the 2007 elections. In 2004, Arroyo had a contentious high turnout compared to that of FPJ. In fact, 17% of Arroyo’s total votes obtained in Mindanao came from ARMM.[9] This was fostered by ARMM elections taking place outside the schedule for national elections. ARMM votes in the hands of unscrupulous local and national leaders, then, could be put up for sale to change the outcomes of national contests.


In 2011, ARMM elections were synchronized with national elections, and few noticed that for the first time in many elections, the absence of a lag or even of controversies regarding the ARMM outcome resulted in a relatively controversy-free result. The elections of 2016 will mark the first time ARMM and presidential elections are synchronized, which means Moro leaders and the Christian politicians who used them are fighting their own contests and will have little time or opportunity to revert to old habits.


They will be voting on the same day as everyone else; leaders with committed (or at least obedient) followers will have to throw in their lot with national candidates without knowing what the outcome will be. It remains to be seen if the candidates’ opinions on the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will form a Moro bloc vote.


HAVING TAKEN A LOOK at demographics–some aspects of our population in terms of sex, age, education, for example—we need to look at geography and the things that allow candidates to reach the most number of people in the most efficient yet effective way possible.


IV. Where are the voters?


BEFORE 1986, tickets were geographically-balanced, on the basis of appealing to the North and the South. In 1986, however, for the first time, the contending tandems were both Luzon-centered: Marcos and Tolentino were from the Ilocos and Manila, and Aquino-Laurel were from Tarlac and Batangas, respectively. The waning of a geographically-balanced ticket is a reflection of where the voters are.


  1. More than half of the voting population are in Luzon


  • At 56% in 2010, more than half of the registered voters came from Luzon, with 24% in Mindanao, and 20% in the Visayas. The case was similar in 2013, where 56% of registered voters were from Luzon, 23% in Mindanao, and 21% in the Visayas.
  • Luzon increased by 904,809 registrants. Visayas increased by 444,934 registrants. While Mindanao decreased by 66,566 registrants in 2013.


Figure 22[10].

Figure 22 - LuzViMin A

[1] Mahar Mangahas, September 5, 2015, SWS Statistics about the INC, http://opinion.inquirer.net/88241/sws-statistics-about-the-inc

[2] PSA 2010 Census

[3] Inquirer, December 14, 2012, Will there be a Catholic vote in 2013, http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/323803/will-there-be-a-catholic-vote-in-2013

[4] Mahar Mangahas, January 23, 2010, Tolerance of diverse opinions, http://www.sws.org.ph/PDI%2010-04%20Jan%2023%20Tolerance%20of%20diverse%20opinions.pdf

[5] Inquirer, May 14, 2013, Bishops accept Catholic vote not yet at its full strength in elections, http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/409265/bishops-accept-catholic-vote-not-yet-at-its-full-strength-in-elections

[6] Inquirer, May 15, 2013, What happened to Catholic vote?, http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/409411/what-happened-to-catholic-vote

[7] Tadem, T., November 10, 2012, Beyond structures of Moro autonomy, http://opinion.inquirer.net/40576/beyond-structures-of-moro-autonomy

[8] SWS, May 9, 2010, SWS April 2010 Pre-Election Survey, http://www.sws.org.ph/pr20100509b.htm

[9] PCIJ, May 17, 2007, The Maguindanao Vote: Working ‘miracles’ again in ARMM?, http://pcij.org/blog/2007/05/17/the-maguindanao-vote-working-miracles-again-in-armm

[10] 2015 estimates subject to finalization, as of writing time.


Figure 23.

Registered Voters by Philippine Main Group of Islands (2010)

Figure 23 - LuzViMin B


Source: COMELEC 2010 Election Results


  1. Highest number of registered voters are in the Lingayen-Lucena corridor


In both the 2010 and 2013 presidential elections, the Lingayen-Lucena Corridor comprised almost 40% of the total 50.7 million registered voters in the Philippines.


Figure 24.

Figure 24 - Lingayen Lucena A


Figure 25.

Figure 25 - Lingayen Lucena B

  1. Provinces with the most number of voters: Cebu, Cavite, and Pangasinan


Data suggests that the highest voter turnout actually occurred in highly urbanized cities such as Metro Manila and Cebu. Apart from NCR, the number of registered voters remained highest in Cebu, Cavite, Pangasinan, and Negros Occidental both in 2010 and 2013.


In contrast to 2010, in 2013, more people from Laguna registered to vote in 2013 than those from Bulacan, while there were more registered voters in Rizal than those in Nueva Ecija.


Figure 26.

Figure 26



Figure 27.

Figure 27 - Top 10 Provinces



You will notice from the above, that the old “Solid North” is no longer “vote-rich” the way it used to be. The map does not show, on the other hand, regions that are considered to vote as a bloc for national candidates from their regionBicol is the most famous example. Nor do these maps take into consideration the shifts in population in the country (Ilocanos in Aurora and other provinces, for example). But on the whole, in terms of the sheer number of votes, NCR, Balance Luzon (specifically the Lingayen-Lucena Corridor), Cebu, Negros Occidental, and Davao del Sur are the plum prizes in seeking votes.

  1. The Urban vs. Rural Divide


The classification of an “urban” area is based on meeting a required population density. This means that a highly urbanized province always has more people/voters. The table below shows the % population of urban versus rural areas in the Philippines and the household ownership of TV and personal computersthis tells us “where the people are” and “the equipment they own”:


Figure 28.

Figure 28


The majority of the population, therefore, lives in rural areas and own more television sets than personal computers.


This allows us to zero in on a few things: while there are more rural residents than urban residents, turnout is higher in urban areas. Internet access is highest in urban areas, which could potentially affect turnout for candidatesbut dwarfed in comparison to access to television, which can affect turnout for all candidates everywhere that there’s TV.


And it tells us, most of all, why the political class speak of an “Air War” and a “Ground War” in elections.


V. At the starting line


And so, this is the moment when all is revealed: Filing Day, when the candidates declare themselves as such and, without any doubt, throw their hats in the ring. Consider this projection, which is simply based on my observations at present.

Even if, as we saw earlier, voters pondering their choices in the local and national races can practice what is called “strategic voting,” there is a loophole, so to speak, i.e. ethnic votes or bailiwicks: most famously, the so-called “Solid North” and the Bicol vote.

The long road to October 2015, which began in June 2013, had as its goal, obtaining, for a candidate, that other factor often described as “winnability,” which is the perception that popularity will attract all the other conditionsfunding, machinery through a party or coalition, volunteersnecessary to mount a viable campaign.

But this calculus can be upset by the calculus of others. Since everyone is looking at the loopholes, the different candidates can cancel each other’s advantages out. They can fracture a constituency to the extent that the rival constituency can win. The strength of one candidate in ethnic terms, can be cancelled out by greater strength in the same region by another. Effectivity in the “air war” –pitching for votes in media and online—can be challenged by the “ground war” –the hard, door-to-door, village-to-village slog by candidates, party members, and volunteers.

At present, you could slice and dice the “winnability” stakes –the respective strengths of candidates they can build on—as follows.


Figure 29.

Projected Region and Class where candidates are strong




Contending for President
Binay NCR ABC, E
Duterte NCR, Mindanao ABC
Poe NCR, BL (Bicol) ABC, D, E
Roxas Visayas ABC, E
Contending for VP
Cayetano NCR, Visayas (western), Mindanao (western) ABC
Escudero NCR, BL, Visayas, Mindanao ABC, D, E
Honasan BL (Bicol), Visayas, Mindanao
Marcos NCR, BL (Ilocos), Visayas (Leyte) ABC, D
Robredo BL (Bicol)
Trillanes NCR, BL (Bicol) ABC


If you look at my projection, above, 2016 may turn out to be something along these linesat least based on where I think the candidates are at the starting line.

Only two candidates can claim to dominate a crucial region: Roxas in the Visayas and Duterte in Christian Mindanao, respectively. Roxas-Robredo has a strong claim on Bicol, but this puts them in direct competition with Poe-Escudero (with the complication that Poe and Escudero were at first, downplaying their running as a tandem). At present, Poe and Binay can claim an advantage in NCR, but they are in competition with, and cannot count the administration out, in this regard. Poe might claim an advantage in BL (Balance Luzon) but this ignores the lingering historical bailiwicks of the Liberals, such as Quezon Provincewhile Binay’s assiduous courtship of Arroyo and the Marcoses, and his settling on Honasan, showed his geographical instincts.

Vice-Presidential candidates also add to the geographical calculus of presidential candidates. It seems the most hotly-contested region will be the Bicol regionwith Escudero, Honasan Robredo, and Trillanes all putting a claim on the votes of the region. Marcos can claim the “Solid North,” and can put in a claim to the loyalty of Leyte. As senators, Cayetano and Honasan can also claim regional bailiwicks based on their previous electoral records.

What is particularly interesting is the number of candidates with nothing to lose. Poe, Trillanes, Cayetano, Escudero, Honasan can all return to the Senate, if they end up losing in 2016. They remain viable as candidates after that. The only candidates who are really taking a risk are Roxas (out of office, but who could have played safe and returned to the Senate), Bongbong Marcos (who could have sought a safe reelection to the Senate), and Leni Robredo (who could also have safely sought reelection to the House).

Note that I haven’t included Miriam Defensor Santiago, who’s sudden entry into the race –and who’s declaration that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would be her running mate—came as a surprise to nearly everyone. It’s simply too soon to tell how her double-barrel declarations will affect her existing constituency (though her tying up with Marcos it seems to have left her vocal supporters speechless). If, however, one assumes it was Marcos Jr. who got her to run, then there can be three probable reasons: to cause maximum disruption in the Visayas for Roxas; to inflict Santiago’s trademark stream of consciousness showmanship into future presidential debates; and to further weaken Cayetano (left orphaned after nailing his colors to the mast of the never-launched Duterte campaign) and Trillanes (supportive of Poe), his erstwhile partymates. And Marcos Jr. gets to out-Marcos the candidate who admires, and has tried to duplicate, the old Marcos (Senior) mystique the most: Escudero.

Nor can we factor in the cliffhanger over whether or not Duterte will or won’t run: or where his votes will go, now that it seems he will concentrate on running for mayor of Davao City. His party, PDP-Laban, is in alliance with the administration and it may be that this alliance will continue.

The continuing silence, as of this writing, of the Nacionalistas and the NPC suggests that they will concentrate on maintaining their seats in the House and their local bailiwicks, thus making themselves parties to court once a new administration is elected.

If either party declares, in the end, that they will not endorse any of the presidential candidates, then the net advantage will be for the administration; and the net disadvantage, to Poe, who was unable to prove either she or her (unofficial) running mate could attract a party enough to take a stand in her cornerunless she, or one of the other candidates, can scoop up the local party bigwigs of the NP or NPC.

But they can afford to hold out beyond Election Day. Granted, once a winner is proclaimed, another realignment will take place, which is why even in the past, although no administrationeven the ones that lost the presidencyever lost the House; every new administration soon enough puts together a new ruling coalition in the House, too (the Senate is equally susceptible, but slightly less so, during midterms). An organized party, which, regardless of the outcome of the presidential and vice-presidential polls, holds on to, or expands its bloc in the House, is a force to reckon withand one to court for support.

But that’s another story.


VI. How we decide on whom to vote for

HAVING seen who we are, and where we are, as voters, we now come to the two ways our votes will be courted. The “Ground War,” creates, to use a newish term, “content” both for TV (and other traditional media) and online. People take screenshots of news; they post videos of things they see around them, and what they see can go viral, and by going viral, become part of the news cycle. Unlike the news (remember the old saying that only bad news sells), something touching, or cute, has as much of a chance of going viral as something disgusting, or shocking.


The most efficient way to reach the voter also happens to be the way voters like to be reached –through television. To be sure, a growing number of people are not only also online, but look at different screens at the same time: they will watch a show on TV, and react to what they see on Twitter and Facebook, for example.


  1. More Filipinos today use the Internet and social media


As of 2014, 57% of the population uses the Internet, which is equivalent to 58,690,221 internet users in the Philippines.[1]


According to Nielsen,

  • There are 54,053 Filipino Facebook users;
  • 11,914,115 Filipino Twitter users; and
  • 7,336, 277 Filipino Tumblr users.[2]


In another survey, results show that mobile internet users is now becoming a fast growing group of people[3]:

  • 96% of mobile internet users in the Philippines use Facebook while 54% in the US do; and
  • 42% of total screen time in the Philippines is on social media. Filipino social media users are number 1 in the Asia Pacific region, spending 4 hours a day in all social channels, while Chinese only spend 1.5 hours a day and Indonesians spend 2.9 hours a day.


But even as we all explore this brave new world, the current reality is that TV is still King. There are other screens, though, that, together with TV, contribute to the “Air War,” and can become a factor in the “Ground War.” For example, if you still remember Farmville, then you’ll remember that besides the youth, among the busiest people online are senior citizens, who are more likely to vote, and who can influence others to vote. A young person unlikely to vote can still gleefully help a positive or a negative go viral, which in turn can be spotted on the net, on a phone, or on TV by someone older and more likely to vote. It’s an infinite feedback loop all the way to Election Day.


  1. TV is the primary source of information for most Filipinos.


So although there is an increasingly large number of Internet users today, according to a survey in 2013, TV is still the primary source of information for most Filipinos. In particular, most Filipino voters still rely on TV ads as their sources of information concerning the candidates.


In 2013, a study on the youth vote by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), which conducted a mock election, showed that a quarter of the student sample indicated that their votes were influenced by the candidates’ last name, while 28.13 percent of the student sample voted on the basis of the candidates’ television ads. Only two percent of the respondents based their vote on the platforms of the 12 senatorial candidates.[4] In 2010, I posted the platforms of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates online. You can access them here: it’s interesting to see the readership (views) for each.


That being the case, are advertisements “epal” behavior, or a legitimate means for the public to get to know candidates in an era when the speeches in the plaza aren’t community events anymore?


My view is that if someone were to ask in a survey if the public considered advertisements as “premature campaigning,” I doubt if the results would be against ads. One reason is ingrained behavioras I pointed out at the start of this article, speculation and jockeying for a presidential election begins the moment the mid-term results are known; and when it comes to an electorate that has long foregone the public plaza as the place to find out about candidates (prospective or otherwise), TV is the widest and easiest means to get to know who is running and why.


Which brings us to that marvelous and mysterious document, the “Platform.” They have been a feature of every presidential election in the same manner that coalitions have featured in our presidential elections from the start: see the Coalition Platform for 1935.


  1. Platform, Personality, and Parties in choosing a President

For parties and coalitions composed of parties, and individual candidates, there are two documents that serve to bind together those committed to the common cause: the coalition or party platform, and the sample ballot.

While every coalition seeking the presidency has put forward a platform since 1935, platforms per se—meaning, a specific policy document, and not just generalized notions of what the voter gets the impression the candidate is all about—while very important, don’t seem to appeal either to voters, or even media, much less the members of the coalitions concerned (as an aside, what matters then, is if the platform matters to the candidate concerned and his or her principal lieutenants tasked with turning policy into reality).

Based on the SWS exit poll in 2010, which goes beyond people equally consider platform and personality as reasons for choosing a president.[5]


Figure 30.

Figure 30 - SWS platform personality

[1]Reports from Nielsen, Globe, show mobile web boom in the Philippines, June 30, 2014 http://www.mobext.ph/blog/reports-from-nielsen-globe-show-mobile-web-boom-in-the-philippines

[2]Reports from Nielsen, Globe, show mobile web boom in the Philippines, June 30, 2014 http://www.mobext.ph/blog/reports-from-nielsen-globe-show-mobile-web-boom-in-the-philippines

[3] On Device Research, July 2014, https://ondeviceresearch.com/blog/philippines-mobile-internet-trends

[4] Mendoza, R. et al., December 17, 2014, AIM Policy Center: Insights from the Pinoy Youth Barometer Vote, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2539924

[5]TV-SWS 2010 Exit Poll, May 11, 2010


It is important to note that, according to poll experts, respondents in general tend to give “socially desirable” answers. For example, respondents in general will answer that they do not tolerate corruptionbut when asked how many times they tried to bribe someone, results showed the opposite of the socially desirable answer.


But another thing I pointed out in 2013 suggests a simpler explanation for the above. Back then, I pointed in turn to a 2010 survey that revealed that as far as the public is concerned, “news” as a source of information had an incredibly elastic definition: “news” could come from the evening news, but it could also come from a game showand game shows, for example, have a gigantic audience compared to the news. So it may be, too, for what constitutes a “platform” for the publicslogans, speeches, anything and everything where a candidate’s opinions (and thus, position, on a question) might constitute a “platform.” Personality, then, in the survey above, could then refer to all the other intangibles—likeability and credibility, for example.


So if the platform-as-document itself is ignored, there is another document that is far less likely to be ignored –in fact, it could be considered an electoral lifesaver. This is the sample ballot.

The sample ballot cuts across classes, as it’s a simple crib sheet (case in point: survey after survey shows that most people decide on eight names for the senate, but there are twelve slots: a sample ballot is crucial to prevent the extra four names from being left blank). Parties in all countries focus on getting people to go out and vote, and having their representatives make sure that ballots are counted correctly; if voters were to show up, and leave many names blank, it would be counterproductive.

But it’s the sample ballot that is of critical importance to all candidates and coalitions. The sample ballot is what connects the local to the national; it allows local leaders to hang on to the coattails of strong candidates; it allows weaker candidates to ride on the drawing power of strong local candidates. For local candidates, it is the IOU that gives them a seat at the table of what will hopefully be the new national leadership; it is the calling card that gives national candidates access to the networks that constitute local communities.

Which brings us to political parties.

Why does a party matter, if the conventional wisdom is that parties are personal vehicles and not organized groups of like-minded people? The reality is they are both, and we are not unique in this regard. Yuko Kasuya, for example, in his book Presidential Bandwagon: Parties and Party Systems in the Philippines (Anvil, 2009) points out that Koreans follow leaders instead of parties.

Parties serve another purpose. They serve as venues where fights can be mediated, and disagreements refereed. It is in the party, and among parties, in the coalition, that authorities –party bigwigs—can be appealed to, to solve problems.

Consider these terms you often read about. For local and House elections, there are “Free Zones,” (where factions in a party or different parties agree not to put up an official candidate). You hear about the “Equity of the Incumbent,” (where, if an official candidate is to be decided on, the incumbent holder of the office has a claim to being the official bet) and for the Senate, the phenomenon of the “Guest Candidate, ” where two or more parties decide to have one candidate on their respective slates, which began with Claro M. Recto’s senatorial candidacy in 1955. All these are manifestations of party and coalition negotiations. And enormous amount of time is spent by national candidates and party leaders on these matters: whose hand will you raise, with the photo to appear in posters? Whatever your decision, someone will be unhappy.

Being able to achieve net happiness—instead of dissatisfaction—among your supporters is the first test of leadership for a presidential candidate. Your decision can deprive a rival of an ally, or drive the disaffected into the arms of your opponents. But if the result of a free zone is a lack of a genuine contest in an area, then most voters might stay away—which would benefit those unscrupulous candidates, particularly national candidates, who want to rely on machinery, whether provided by politicians, warlords, or other “leaders.”

Sergio Osmeña III, who of our national politicians, has the strongest historical appreciation of how things have evolved, made an interesting comment when he was interviewed after filing his candidacy on October 15. He says machinery in national elections is overrated. Machinery mattered, he said, before martial law, when local elections weren’t synchronized with national elections; since 1987, however, local politicos are fighting for their lives and so aren’t in much of a position to deliver.

He is alone in this point of view; the most others might go is to concede that local support must be sewn up 45 days before Election Day, when the local races kick in; but in general it’s safe to assume that what is of national importance in terms of local support, is being able to say you have local factions and parties behind you. The reason is best explained by a historian.

Historian Mina Roces in her book on kinship politics puts forward three interesting concepts: “palakasan,” and within it, the ideas of “malakas” and “mahina.” A candidate who has a party is a candidate “malakas” enough to obtain the public support of the local leaders who constitute the party network, and in turn, their followers.

A candidate unable to obtain party support immediately projects being “mahina.” In that, at best, only a loose network of individuals is pledged to support that candidate. This means discipline and cohesion, not to mention logistics, are that much more difficult to organize. On the other hand, a candidate projects strength when political heavyweights commit to your candidacy. For those outside an administration, it is a mutual pledge to achieving happier times; for those in the administration, particularly if the incumbent president remains popular and active (as I mentioned, a unique situation as far as the present incumbent is concerned), it is an attractive proposition: you can hope endorsement will give you a boost, and for the remaining year of the incumbent’s term, you retain a direct line to the Palace.

To be sure, there is a kind of amorality—not immorality—in “malakas” and “mahina.” Are they strong? Fierce? If they are, maybe they can help me.

There remains, however, an idealistic streak even in the most jaded Filipino; and as a society, we judge our candidates as we judge people. Are they good? Are they kind? If they are, maybe they can help me.

And this is where your approach determines which candidate has a chance of attracting your vote.


  1. Not corrupt/clean record as topmost reason for choosing a President

If Mina Roces described our approach to those who have, or seek, power, then there’s another useful point of view to make sense of how different points of view compete in elections.

Back in 2010 the American scholar Dr. Mark Thompson described Philippine politics as characterized by an “emergent cleavage,” by which he meant that, if you trace our political development over the past sixty years (and even earlier), there are two contending points of view in every election: those of Reformists, and Populists. Reformists (Magsaysay, Ninoy and Cory, Ramos, Aquino III) appeal to voters as an inclusive community, cutting across class, ethnic, and religious lines, on the basis of sacrifice and thus “goodness.” They campaign on a pledge not to steal, and to govern in the national (and not personal) interest. Populists (matinee idol Rogelio de la Rosa who briefly ran for president in 1961, Marcos, Estrada, FPJ), on the other hand, appeal to voters on the basis of highlighting class divisions (particularly resentment of the elite): on “us” versus “them,” and the idea that the candidate is like the voter and will thus help the voter. What reformists and populists have in common, however, is that they put themselves forward as being against clientelism (the post Edsa Dos incarnation of Arroyo, is the most recent example with its traditional use of force, bribery, and cronyism to defy public opinion and manipulate electoral results.

Past survey results showed that the topmost reasons for choosing a president is if a candidate is not corrupt or has a clean record, and if he or she cares for the poor. The same surveys, however, also suggest other traits can add to, or detract from that consideration. Those can also serve as an equally compelling reason to support a candidate. In other words, you can see a cleavage—between characteristics a Reformist would find attractive or relevant, and those someone who is a Populist would consider important. Education or even class background would be one; the ability to “deliver” might be another. A simpler way to imagine it, is that each voter has an angel and a devil whispering in each ear, one advocating idealism, the other, pragmatism –and the voter being swayed to rationalize as a result. This is the stuff of which focus group discussions, never public, but essential tools in campaigns, come in.


Figure 31.

Figure 31


The rankings above represent a snapshot of the whole. Similarly, the most frequently mentioned qualities of a good leader, based on the Institute of Philippine Culture study of the poor reported by the PCIJ in 2004, are the following[1]:

  1. God-fearing
  2. Helpful
  3. Loyal
  4. Responsible
  5. Intelligent
  6. Hardworking
  7. Principled
  8. Keeps promises
  9. Trustworthy


The same April 2004 article also examined the most frequently mentioned qualities by the poor of a bad leader and were ranked as follows[2]:

  1. Corrupt
  2. Liar
  3. Greedy
  4. Irresponsible
  5. Selfish
  6. Abusive
  7. Has vices
  8. Lazy


As the Institute of Philippine Culture found out, much as Populists might think otherwise, poor voters put a premium on positive traits, too. This makes them not very different from the community as a whole. Reformists, though, might be disappointed in that some traits they consider of paramount importance aren’t as important when considering the whole community.


  1. Small influence of election surveys on voting decision


A brief note on surveys: The SWS Pre-election Survey in 2013 found that most people are unaware of election survey news and the influence of election surveys on voting decision is weak.[3]


Figure 32.

Figure 32 - SWS Effect of survey A

[1] Institute of Philippine Culture in PCIJ, April 26, 2004, “The Poor Vote is a Thinking Vote”

[2] Institute of Philippine Culture in PCIJ, April 26, 2004, “The Poor Vote is a Thinking Vote”

[3] SWS, May 2 – 3, 2013 Pre-Election Survey, https://www.sws.org.ph/pr20130511.htm



Earlier surveys also showed that election surveys are not likely to influence one’s vote.


Figure 33.

Figure 33 - SWS Effect of survey B



But even if one accepts what the public says, there is one group for whom the surveys matter to the extent that it can alter their behaviorthe politicians. Commitments may change depending on the latest political temperature of a candidate. The behavior of the candidate can change, too; some may reach the point where they will have to decide if they will double down time, energy, and resources for a faltering campaign, or cut their losses. And that, in turn, can affect the voters.


But here’s a quick tip on reading the results of surveys. Don’t forget the margin of error the survey firm mentions in their findings. They differ when looking at national numbers and regional numbers. In addition, from survey to survey, you have to factor in a bigger number when trying to figure out what’s a significant change in numbers, or not. In the case of Pulse Asia: When comparing survey to survey, there must be at least 10 points difference between one survey and another, to be considered significant.


Otherwise in general (again for Pulse) the difference from survey to the next must be:

  • more than 5 points if National.
  • more than 10 points for NCR, BL, VIS, MIN.
  • more than 15 points for Class (ABC).
  • more than 6 points for Class D.
  • more than 10 points for Class E.


Note that in terms of these classes, Class D is the biggest class of all.


VII. Looking for patterns in past results


In part 1, we looked at past presidential elections. Let’s return to that. Having looked at who we are, today, it’s useful to return to the past, for additional insights. This is where who we are, and how our politics works and collides with the utter impossibility of predicting the future. We can, however, explore how things might turn out, based on how things did turn out in the past.


  1. Trends in Political Parties


From 1935 to 1969, only candidates from two parties, Nacionalista and Liberal, won the Presidency. In 1935, 1949, 1957 and 1965, strong third-party candidates affected the outcome by splitting or eroding, either the administration or opposition vote. But on the whole, the electorate had two choices to pick from. This was because the rules only allowed electoral observers from the top two parties in the previous election. This in turn meant there was little incentive, both for candidates and voters, to attempt to be anything other than a candidate of one of the two major parties. In his book Yuko Kasuya describes this as follows, using something called Duverger’s Law: “When only one candidate can win, voters would expect that those who have a serious chance of winning are the first and second runners and voting for a third runner means wasting votes, therefore they may eventually shift their support from third to the first or second runners. This is known as strategic voting. Politicians, anticipating this strategic behavior of voters, would refrain from entering the race unless they expect to be one of the top two candidates.”


Figure 34.

Figure 34 - a


However, starting in 1981 onwards, more and more parties were created and became involved. Each president who won from 1981 onwards came from a new party, as most administration parties failed to outlive the administrations that created them. And while most observers and the public still view presidential races as two-horse ones (meaning they often assume there is a primary contender and a leading challenger), the ability of other parties and their candidates to affect the outcome by subdividing broader constituencies, has become even greater.


Take a look at this chart.


Figure 35.

Figure 35

1992 was remarkable in that two splits affected the outcome of the election. After initially agreeing to abide by the results of a party convention, Fidel V. Ramos left the LDP when Ramon Mitra Jr. was selected to be its standard bearer. While the LDP had been the core of her ruling coalition, President Corazon C. Aquino decided to endorse Ramos as her successor. On the other hand, Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., who had previously split the Nacionalista Party (which is why his party continues to be called the Nationalist People’s Coalition, an echo of its origins), found his base of support split in turn by Imelda Marcos who decided to run for president. The result was that the two main blocs—the old Aquino coalition and the old Marcos coalition—were split, while Miriam Defensor-Santiago emerged as the strongest, essentially third-party, candidate in over a generation. But it would not be enough.


In 1998, his popularity and thus influence diminished by the failed attempt to amend the constitution and the ongoing economic crisis, the Ramos Coalition fractured, with Roco, Osmeña and Lim further weakening a weak administration candidate, de Venecia. Estrada, on the other hand, could rely on the backing of the old Marcos Coalition. A similar situation emerged in the unique 2004 election, which had an incumbent running for reelection for the first time since 1969: Lacson, Villaneuva, and Roco, all part of the EDSA Dos Coalition, launched candidacies that made the main fight between Arroyo and Poe a close election subsequently hounded by controversy.


2010, on the other hand, marked what Thompson has described as a contest between Reform and Populism, with Estrada and Villar dividing the populist vote, and Aquino, Teodoro, and Villanueva divvying-up the Reform vote. And as I pointed out in February, 2010, there was the behind-the-scenes shadow of the 1986 showdown, too: Aquino was literally the incarnation of the EDSA Coalition of 1986; ranged against him were veterans of the Marcos machine: Estrada, Villar (through his in-laws), Teodoro and Gordon had all been Marcos men.


In the upcoming election, LP and UNA will be represented by Mar Roxas, and Jejomar Binay respectively. Grace Poe is running as an independent candidate. NPC and the Nacionalistas have not yet proclaimed who they will be supporting. John Nery recently wrote about Binay[1], Poe[2] and Roxas’[3] “winnability” and threats to/opportunities for, their victory in his columns in the Inquirer. To his keen observations, I would add the following.


As it stands, 2016, then, has divisions within divisions: there is the EDSA Coalition with Roxas as its candidate, representing Reform, though the reformists are themselves split due to the candidacy of Poe, who also has Populist appeal.


But Populists themselves are split two ways, as represented by Poe and Binay (Santiago was once upon a time, allied with both; now she could provide an added complication to both). To complicate matters further, the Marcos coalition is getting long at the tooth, but still counts: its veterans include Estrada, the Villars, Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. (though it might be more accurate to say that their populist instincts are tempered by a pragmatic willingness to coalesce with Reform parties from time to time) and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself, who is caught between the twilight of his mother’s life (the drawing power in terms of living Loyalists belongs to her, not him) and a new generation of Loyalists who are active online but who haven’t been proven in terms of delivering on voting day.


Marcos Jr. needs to seek higher office now for a very practical reason: his mother has to be able to publicly pass on the Loyalist torch to her son, and the new generation of Loyalists need to be exercised at the polls; otherwise, their followers might drift into the camps of other candidates, and it will be difficult to retrieve them later on. There is also a shrewd calculation at work, that only he, of the vice-presidential candidates, can claim two geographic bailiwicks, a network of committed supporters (the goal: a repeat of the 1986 fight, with himself bearing his father’s banner, and Leni Robredo being a stand-in for Cory Aquino), an ample war chest, and a developed, durable, brand.


Which also suggests a factor in the posturing of the Old Populists and professional plotters of politics: Estrada needs to continue to demonstrate that he matters; while other elders—the Macedas, Tatads, and Enriles of this world—are reaching their expiration date; if they don’t succeed in electing a candidate, their style of politics as well as their interlinking networks of like-minded politicos, could face a genuine possibility of extinction. Honasan had to sheepishly go along with Binay, leaving people wondering what, exactly, Enrile had to say about the whole thing. The two could simply be hedging their bets, to remain relevant come what may.


The Left, which tends towards populism, senses this danger, too. Hence, it was originally supportive of Binay, but subsequently dropped him in favor of Poe.


In a sense, the Roxas-Robredo tandem bucks the post-EDSA trend of shifting alliances based on “winnability” at all costs, and harks to the Reform campaigns of the 1950s and 1980s. The other presidential candidates –and their choices of running mates (or lack of it; some vice-presidential candidates seem to be putting themselves up for consideration by presidential candidates who lack running mates) adhere to a less ideological, and more pragmatic, approach to elections. As “anointed” successors, the Liberal Tandem faces the same challenge as Poe, and even Marcos Jr.: if 2016 is a referendum on Daang Matuwid, it is also a referendum on the populist campaign of FPJ, and the future of the apologists of the New Society and martial law.


VIII. The countdown


WHAT lies ahead? For you, the voter, the deadline for registration—to make sure you can vote—at the end of the month.


For the candidates and their people, it’s time for a reassembling of parties, factions, and other groups, as they decide the politician to back, and all pitch in to convince the public to elect their candidate. The declaration of candidacies from October 12 to 16 will mark the third such reassembling, as prospective candidates either back out or slide down (with the first reassembling was the 2013 mid-term; the second was the declaration of candidacies).


Figure 36.

2016 Election Timeline
Figure 36 - Election Timeline

[1] Nery, J., August 11, 2015, Binay’s path to victory, Inquirer, http://opinion.inquirer.net/87515/binays-path-to-victory

[2] Nery, J., August 25, 2015, Grace Poe’s path to victory, Inquirer, http://opinion.inquirer.net/87901/grace-poes-path-to-victory

[3] Nery, J. August 4, 2015, Roxas’ path to victory, Inquirer, http://opinion.inquirer.net/87300/roxas-path-to-victory


And even as the Comelec schedule unfolds, the marking of political time will be represented by the surveys.


Each time a survey takes place—and once 2016 kicks in, they will most likely appear on a monthly, and no longer a quarterly, basis—politicians and the media, will scrutinize the results the way a doctor looks at the temperature chart of a patient. In turn, confidence will either be boosted or reduced, particularly among the partisans of the various candidates.


For the public, though, except for those truly addicted to politics, attention will wax and wane depending on the season (tuning out on All Saint’s Day, long weekends, Christmas and New Year, and Holy Week, unless someone in the family brings up the topic). Issues will come and go; until the last, mad scramble 45 days before Election Day, when the local campaign kicks off, and things truly get intense. But really, who knows? So many things can happen. Wisely will suddenly become the candidate everyone hears about but doesn’t know very much about. TV and radio will be clogged with people making promises—to you: because it’s all about you, the voter. Every election is marked by innovation—just as it requires, in the end, a choice.



IX. Continuity versus Experimentation, Reform versus Populism


IN our first two presidential elections, 1935 and 1941, a William McKinley front porch campaign was waged, with leaflets, buttons, newspaper advertising, radio coverage and billboards making their debut; 1945 had Osmeña once more attempting that mode of campaigning, while Manuel Roxas began the barnstorming of the country that has become familiar to us. Magsaysay’s campaign introduced modern advertising methods, including the pop tune jingle (in contrast to traditional candidates’ marches), and Macapagal took barnstorming to an altogether whole new level. By the end of the 1960s, the helicopter, television, and surveys had all entered the scene, while the Marcos and Ramos campaigns of 1986 and 1992 took data analysis in campaigns to an altogether more intricate level. 2004 saw texting’s debut (having been proven in 2001) and 2010 marked the opening of the social media era in campaigning.


Never has information been more widely availablebut the internet buffet is so big, it takes real commitment to discern what is meaty and what is just junk food. Here media and academe can make a difference, just as committed bloggers and others can, too. There is also a perceptible demand for debates between the candidates.

We do not have a tradition of candidates debating each other. In 1953 for example, you might have Quirino and Magsaysay blasting each other, by taking turns in speaking before a university audience. It is only in the post-EDSA era that the 1961 American innovation of debates between presidential candidates gained a foothold in the popular imagination, but not all presidential elections in that period have involved these debates.

There is a lot to find out. Think of the economy. Think of the decisions to be made. The next president will appoint 12 out of 15 justices in the Supreme Court. This will affect the justice system potentially for decades to come. The next President has such vast powers of appointment, it can make or break the bureaucracy and the providing of basic services: will there be rhyme or reason in these appointments, will there be teamwork, and will talent be attracted to government service? In an Incite.gov presentation in 2010, Karina Constantino David pointed out a new president appoints about 10,000 officials, plus another 3,500 in the career bureaucracy as promotions come up. The Aquino administration marked perhaps the biggest introduction of young people into the ranks of government. This shook up the status quo. The next administration will determine if there is a leveling up or a leveling down of such trends.

In the end, the decision the public makes in May 2016 will be about Continuity versus Experimentation, and, Reform versus Populism. The different candidates will represent different approaches to these questions. Binay represents Continuity for Populism: old-fashioned transactional, clientelist politics. Poe represents Experimentation for Reform and Populism: an experiment, indeed, as Reform and Populism can be like oil and water. And Roxas represents Continuity and Reform: the refinement of policies that have proven results due to an administration markedly different in terms of integrity from what came before.


The question here is: To take the plunge, or to stay the course? Which will attract more voters?


It takes extreme circumstances to convince the electorate to take the plunge into the great unknown: from 2005 to 2010, for example, the country chose to grin and bear it rather than take the path of People Power, with all its inherent risks; or put another way, they bided their time and channeled People Power where it probably truly belongs in a constitutional democracy—towards elections. In 2016, a country with an economy and a society more stable than it has ever been in a generation or more, has three choices, as the President put it: they can vote for continuity—“’yung sigurado,” as he puts it, referring to his candidate—leap into the void, in the hope the gamble pays off —“yung baka,” as he also puts it—or make a U-turn –“yung baliktad,” as once quipped. To be sure, there will be others who will throw their hat into the ring, on the off-chance they can hit on some permutation that can catch fire.


But one thing is sure: it is, and will be, a Great Referendum, such as this country has never seen, and will probably not see again. What is at stake is whether the boom-and-bust of the past will remain a memory or once again become a frustrating reality. For quite a few candidates, and their backers, this is their Last Hurrah. The results can either validate the conventional wisdom that “politics is addition” and “winnability,” or it can turn up a surprise –that continuity can be attractive, and genuine tandems based on real affinities, can obtain popular support.


You will be the judge.




This article continues a series I first began with “Elections are like water,” (2004) and “An abnormal return to normality” (2007) for PCIJ, and “The Great Divide: The midterm election of 2013” (see Part 1 and Part 2) for Inquirer.net in May, 2013.

I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following in the preparations of the charts, visuals, and data: Gino Bayot, Mica Olaño, Celina Cua, Smile Indias, Cherie Tan, Camille del Rosario, and Atom Ungson, as well as SWS for the sampling age breakdown of their 2010 exit poll, and Pulse Asia Research for their sampling profile data, that was used to make estimates on voters statistics.



Aug 19

Response of Zeneida Quezon Avanceña to the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation for the posthumous awarding of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation Medal to President Manuel L. Quezon


Response of

Zeneida Quezon Avanceña

to the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation for the

posthumous awarding of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation Medal to President Manuel L. Quezon

at the Inauguration of the Museo Ni Manuel Quezon

Quezon Memorial Shrine, Quezon City

August 19, 2015


In November we will mark 80 years since my father became the first president elected to office by the people. As my father climbed the stairs of Malacañan Palace, he remembered a story. It was a legend about the mother of our national hero, Jose Rizal. The legend goes that Rizal’s mother climbed those stairs on her knees, to beg for clemency for her son who had been condemned to die. He vowed that as a Filipino leading the Filipino nation, he would never be cruel or callous to calls for compassion.

This was not an idea that came to my father only in middle age. Eighty-eight years ago, in 1927, an Indonesian nationalist named Tan Malacca came to the Philippines and the Dutch authorities asked the Americans to deport him. Filipinos rallied to his cause. In his memoirs, Tan Malacca quoted my father as saying that “the right of asylum is one of the principles of democracy and humanity, which has been adopted by civilized nations.”

My father lived those words and opened the doors of our country to refugees from Shanghai, from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, and as historians are discovering, ensured that our Immigration Act would give him and all his successors, the lawful means to respond to the needs of the dispossessed and persecuted seeking sanctuary in our shores.

In devoting his life to the freedom and independence of our country, he never forgot that freedom is the birthright of all. That what we demand and expect for ourselves, we must defend and uphold for others. Prosperity comes and goes but it is generosity, empathy, and solidarity that is the true measure of an individual and of nations. In these things the Filipino is the equal of anyone in the world.

In honoring my father today, you honor the people who trusted him to lead them—for while it was he who opened the door, it was the Filipino people who embraced as neighbors those who sought sanctuary in the Philippines. And it was, and is, as a people, that we have proven we are willing and able to be not just hosts, but friends.

On behalf of my father and our family and the country we love so much, I thank the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation for this great honor. May it encourage future generations of Filipinos to stay true to the compassionate ideals of our founding fathers.

Thank you.

Jun 10

Rogue June 2015: 50 Most Influential Filipinos Online



Rogue’s June 2015 Technology issue features the 50 Most Influential Filipinos Online:


50 Most Influential Filipinos Online (ROGUE June 2015)


May 28

Presentation on The Philippines’ Key APEC Messages for 2015

Presentation at the Capacity Building Workshop on Communications

APEC 2015 Strategic Communications Committee and the APEC Secretariat

The Philippines’ Key APEC Messages for 2015

Venue: Social Hall, 4/F Mabini Hall, Malacanan Palace, Manila

by Manuel L. Quezon III

May 28, 2015

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“It’s not a slogan, it’s a basic truth.”

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“Our logo and slogan are your first keys to getting the job done. Other people will be intimidated to hear what this is about, but you can latch onto something here to strike a conversation. Always go back to the central message.” “We will be doing many different things to bring it [slogan] forward, and find unique ways to do it. But we should be in-sync with the national team. It’s the little details that tell people we are in-sync or not.” “If everything has meaning, then we are committed to uphold that meaning. We have to do it, and do it right.”

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“The hurdle we have to get over is: don’t get lost in translation. In trying to put forward what we want to communicate, that is the challenge we face.”

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“Show that Fun Works – you can do it in a way that makes your country proud. You can do it in a way that makes people happy to be a part of it. Make it happen in a way that it is memorable, together with the Filipinos.”

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“A picture paints a thousand words. It can draw you in and make you human. Always remember that the first impression counts, and it can tell a story.”

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“Keep it short, simple and consistent. A document usually has meaning for those who produced it. Your challenge is to make it meaningful for someone who has never heard of it. Despite jargon, you have to find ways to get the meaning across. There has to be certain standards and what your team is doing cannot contradict another team. It requires familiarity with what we’re doing.”

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“Be inclusive, not exclusive. People often take this as a unique moment in time, where we can contribute in unique ways. This may cause us to be exclusive, out of pride. But you don’t want to drive people away. We need to be inclusive. We may all be parts of different teams, but we are also part of a national family. It begins with your approach, if you understand what its about, then what an accomplishment it is, then you can bring in others to be a part of that good news.”

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“Using the APEC Page as an example, it is clean, easy to access, easy to read and organized. You can measure what the team is doing and give feedback.”

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On Facebook posts – “It’s about finding the right photo, the right information of the facets which need to be known, using the right hashtags and captions.”

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“Use every opportunity to present. Don’t throw everything at the wall, make it look effortless. If you have the basic framework in mind, your effectiveness will be enhanced.”

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“Our audience is the young professionals, the academe, journalists, owners of Small-to-medium enterprises. If they can be attuned to what you’re doing, you can engage them and expand your reach.”

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Apr 07

Rogue Magazine: The Twilight Zone


Rogue | April 2015

The Twilight Zone

by Manuel L. Quezon III

As a journalist who’s taken a Pentagon-sponsored tour of Korea’s Demilitarized Zone can tell you, not all government junkets need to be solemn and serious.


The best vacation is one paid for by someone else. People in academe, business, and government have raised work-related travel to a fine art: known as the conference, the convention, and the junket, respectively.

About two decades ago I went on one of those splendid American government junkets that give writers a lifetime’s worth of curious stories with which to regale their readers. The trip was jointly sponsored by the Pentagon and the State Department, whose representatives spent the trip bickering with each other as they jointly fended off the questions of our demanding press contingent.

Asian and regional journalists all of us, we included a Hong Kong journalist who admitted to us he was a colonel in the People’s Liberation Army (this was prior to the Hong Kong handover), a gloomy Russian nuclear expert who only brightened when somehow, roses came up in conversation (he collected stamps that featured roses on them), a cryptic Malaysian, an argumentative Sri Lankan, a demanding Bangladeshi, an apologetic Japanese (“So sorry for war!” he told the Southeast Asian contingent at each stop, but with particular regret when we were in Pearl Harbor, which made everyone very fond of him), a bulky, rebellious Australian, a refined New Zealander, and an irreverent Indonesian.

There was an elegant, attractive Indian editor whose feminine charms guaranteed that her Pakistani counterpart, a courtly, retired colonel set aside nationalism in favor of an old-fashioned gallantry.

There was also a Thai avidly flattered by our American minders (apparently American priorities at the time included basing war materiel in his country) and a South Korean editor who imparted fatherly advice (“Never trust the Americans,” he told me). And myself, on average two decades younger than all my companions. The Pentagon person took it upon himself to express his particular disappointment with Filipinos for kicking out the US bases.

Our grand tour began in South Korea and proceeded to Washington, D.C. before concluding in Honolulu, Hawaii. In South Korea we were taken around Seoul and paraded from one formal audience with local officials to another, including one particularly elaborate meeting with a think tank devoted to North-South reunification issues. It was a classic exercise in how to use up time saying nothing precise, using as many key words as possible. In the subway, I discovered grandmothers who spoke with their elbows –sharply—to get ahead of foreign slowpokes like me.

The most remarkable part was a day trip to the demilitarized zone — the DMZ — complete with the obligatory large, tourist bus, and chatty minders who made a grand production of the escalating security measures required as we approached the dreaded zone.

The Cold War had recently come to an end, and so there was a kind of other-worldly feeling to the whole thing as we hummed along on the bus, with the minders reminding us that “within 15 minutes” of the commencement of hostilities, jets could be screaming over Seoul and the capital imperiled by rocketry and artillery barrages. It seemed so thrillingly sinister, and yet, so improbable.

But as the bus droned on, the countryside gave way to reminders that South Korea was a country that had to constantly live under the specter of conflict.

There was Deaseong Dong (“Peace Village”), a tightly-regulated village with its 98.4 meter South Korean flagpole and Gijeong Dong, which our minders told us was a ghost town with its competing — and record-breaking — North Korean 98.4 meters flagpole and loudspeakers perpetually belting out eerie propaganda music. At night, our minders said, lights would be switched on to simulate human habitation of the “Propaganda Village.”

Once at Panmunjeon, with its Joint Security Area, we were brought to oohs and ahs at gigantic invasion tunnels constructed by the North Koreans: the menace of fanatical, Communist hordes made tangible; and then to gawk at the North Korean soldiers in their World War II Soviet-style uniforms, and the South Koreans in American-style MP uniforms glaring at each other while conducting a kind of martial choreography as they paced and peered and did the changing of the guard in their respective outposts. The South Koreans were better equipped: they had Ray-ban sunglasses to make them look more resolved.

If I recall correctly we then toured part of the heavily-mined, electrified frontier fence patrolled by South Korean troops. An orgy of grim statistics, of course: millions of mines, hundreds of watts of power, periodic attempts at infiltration and other kinds of border incursions, all the while punctuated by American heavy metal music blasting from South Korean outposts.

The end of the tour, of course, was the unintended punch line. After a few hours of being in the front lines of the impending Korean apocalypse, we were shepherded to a kind of glorified shack in which we were encouraged to buy “I was at the DMZ” keychains, T-shirts, jackets and baseball caps.

The Australian was particularly amused: “It all ends in Disneyland, eh?” From grim thoughts of the life-and-death struggle between the Free World and North Korea, matters quickly degenerated into complaints over the reduced rates of American per diems to we, the delegates (they were, apparently, more generous just a few years earlier).

In a moment of frankness (to which all Americans are so charmingly susceptible, sooner or later) one of our American minders later said that in his opinion, the old American alliance with South Korea was coming to an end; that it would only be a matter of time before they would be asked to leave South Korea. The youth, he said, were on the whole anti-American and once the ruling generation passed it would be, as they say, an entirely different ballgame.

As with all junkets, the after-hours entertainment was particularly conducive to international brotherhood. We were taken by a South Korean US Embassy minder to the sort of place where ladies do interesting things with raw eggs as a kind of cultural entertainment. Not really my kind of thing, but better than one of my more recent experiences a few years ago, in Berlin.

“Ladies and Gentlemen!” our German minder told us at one point during the day’s proceedings, “we now have 15 minutes for rest and relaxation!” He looked at us, looked at his watch, and continued, “you will now commence relaxation!” And he exercised the strictest supervision until he could point to his watch and bark, “relaxation must now cease!” And we rushed off to our next appointment.



Mar 12

Rogue Magazine: The Mourning After

2015-03 - March Rogue cover


Rogue | March 2015

The Mourning After

by Manuel L. Quezon III

As criticism bears down on his administration in the wake of the Mamasapano clash, President Aquino faces the impossibility of extricating his personal history from the national narrative.


THERE is a particularly painful grief that comes from having judged a person, only to discover later on, when it’s too late to matter to that person, that you were wrong. When those coffins emerged from the C-130s in Villamor Airbase, the steady beat of the drums, the constant repetition of “Nearer My God To Thee,” the sound of hundreds wailing as parents, wives, and children—realizing with finality that their loved ones were truly gone—broke the heart of a nation, one that had long ago consigned the uniform of a policeman to being a badge of shame instead of honor. We realized we had been wrong—and not just about one or two, but about many.


These men, in their metal coffins covered with the flag, were heroes.


The people of Zamboanga City knew it best of all. They had a personal relationship with the fallen; they viewed the liberation of their city from rogue elements of MNLF as a deliverance made possible by the SAF. It was a relationship the President shared, for we forget how he had joined them in the field and threw his full support behind them as they fought, with the Armed Forces, to clear the city, street by street. It was for this reason that he was in Zamboanga City soon after the bombs went off: the city was still recovering; its sense of security was still brittle; he wanted to ensure—and for the people of the city to know—that his interest in their recovery and their future security extended beyond past emergencies.


On his way to Zamboanga he began to get news that the operation in Maguindanao had, after its initial success, started to go very wrong. At once, conspiracy theories were hatched. When the President addressed the nation, the blame game took on Olympic proportions. Friend and foe alike joined the fray.


In August 2010, as dusk fell, the President came to our office and quietly told us that the unfolding Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis was reaching its most perilous point. The hostage-taker’s nerves are frayed, he said, and everyone involved will be tired and jittery; things can unfold in a matter of seconds, and the professionals must be primed to move swiftly and effectively to neutralize the hostage-taker if he snaps, and rescue the hostages—otherwise, a bloodbath would ensue. I will never forget how, as we watched the bloodbath he had feared take place on TV, at the back of my mind was the realization that the horror of the moment was compounded by what we knew, which was—the President had foreseen this, and he had been right.


Nor will I ever forget how, in the frantic, anxious minutes after he returned to the Palace, I suggested to him that he needed to go on TV immediately because the country needed a consoler-in-chief. He looked at me and said he owed the country the facts. He proceeded to interrogate the top brass; and only after this did he address the country. I only understood why he said this when it later emerged that prudent measures he had ordered to prevent mass slaughter were not carried out.


In subsequent crises—whether man-made, such as rebel attacks, or acts of nature, such as typhoons and earthquakes—we had the same President, but different reactions from him. His strengths—an understanding of logistics, a long view with regards to the national interest, a vise-like grip on his own emotions, a reluctance to say things for the sake of saying something, and an insistence on rationality and facts when addressing the public—have also been his weaknesses. We (the people), who live life so vividly, are often confounded by dogged determination to do his duty behind the scenes when what we have come to expect is the grand gesture, the clichéd phrase, cathartic unfolding of a familiar script.


When preparations were being made to return the remains of the fallen SAF troopers to Manila, the President instructed that the fullest honors be rendered; that every family’s particular circumstances be gathered, and every possible source within the limits of the law be explored, to provide for each family’s needs. Would he go to Villamor? No, he would not. But why? And he told a story: when they came home from Boston, they barely had any time to be together with their father for the last time: could we imagine what it was like to see his grisly remains for the first time? He would not deny them time. The families must have time to come to terms with their grief. He would not bring a circus to intrude but, instead, see them when his public role was proper—to deliver a eulogy—and his presence would serve a purpose beyond ritual: to assure them concrete plans were in place to provide material security to families confronted not only with grief, but anxiety about their future.


Here is where the vividness of the past collides with the forgetfulness of the present, and where duty defies expectations. The President was crucified for his absence in Villamor; and again, friend and foe alike thundered and shrilled, whether out of disappointment or delight.


The President belongs to a generation that was raised with a very different perspective on public emotion from what we have come to expect from celebrities. That perspective is derived from a life lived in public view; from a constant awareness not only of being constantly watched, but of always of being expected to set an example. This is particularly true of sons. I do not think and, indeed, I strongly doubt that my upbringing was very different from his—and from a very early age it involved a lot of don’ts: when in public, don’t fidget; stand up straight; mind your manners; do your duty, whether it’s enduring a speech, or making one; most of all, show strength and never cry. So thoroughly had this been drilled into me that, on the day of my father’s funeral, his reminders kept echoing in my head, and it was only when they were sealing his tomb, and most mourners had left, that I could cry. I practically collapsed in my aunt’s arms, and to this day, I wonder how she managed to keep us standing.


Consider this instinct, which is so strong in the natural course of things, and what it must be like for those who share the same instincts in the midst of the trauma of tragedy. My father lost his mother, sister, and brother-in-law in an ambush; among my earliest and most vivid memories was his telling me that the only time he had to properly grieve was in the brief time he had with his sister, when he arrived home after having been told the news. After that brief time together, time was not theirs, nor was grief; they were part of a collective experience that is both highly personal—for other relatives, friends, officials, and followers—and yet strangely impersonal, with everything reported, editorialized upon, filmed and photographed.


The President has said time and again that, when his father died, he became the head of the family, the protector of his mother and sisters—not only during times of genuine peril, but also in the years of near-constant political storms and stress. This is a situation that is not conducive to wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve, or demonstrating weakness, not just in public, but even in private. It is what made him who he is; it is the only way he knows how to do what he must.


Publicly, it meant he commiserated with the grieving the only way he knew how: in terms of his own loss, only for it to become clear how little anyone else can comprehend how colossal that loss was for him. Here was a very public rupture, indeed. Yet no one was at fault; certainly not those in the midst of grief; not a President confronted with, how unknowable to others, how deep one’s private loss can be; not the public, for whom the personal loss of yesterday had become intertwined with a national story of redemption at once deeply personal, yet which had become, over time, so distant.


We did not elect this President to be another run-of-the-mill leader. Every president ends up, sooner or later, obsessed with history; each one is the product, not only of the history of his or her times, but also of his or her own personal history. That history has been his strength, and at times, his weakness. Most, however, leave nothing to chance, and it is a rare President who takes the long view and possesses the certainty that, when the dust settles and emotions abate, vindication will be his. This surely comes at a high cost—not only politically, but personally. In the end, when he addressed the nation for a second time, he finally showed what he had felt all along, but hadn’t permitted himself, until that moment, to fully reveal.


Yet with the passing of that moment, he must continue to confront what he is: to his mind, someone not permitted the freedom of public emotion. For you will never be alone, never allowed to let go, never permitted to come to terms—until your own time is up, and the next generation steps forward to come to terms with what you had to live with all your life: neither joy nor grief are exempt from being public property.


Feb 16

Opening Remarks at the MacArthur and Laurel Perspectives of the War Years

Opening Remarks

At the MacArthur and Laurel

Perspectives of the War Years

Muralla Ballroom, The Bayleaf Hotel

Intramuros, Manila

February 16, 2015


It pains me deeply not to be able to join you today; a personal invitation from Mrs. Laurel is something I always look forward to. Our families are bound by the strong ties of affection; I myself am an admirer of the great senator Sotero H. Laurel, whose contributions, as a statesman and educator, added luster to the Laurel name, a name indivisible from the concepts of patriotism, statesmanship, and valor in service of the country.

I was also looking forward to meeting James Zobel, who has been very kind to my office in terms of helping us in our pursuit of historical documents through the MacArthur Memorial.

Let me say this: The 70th anniversary of the Battle of Manila and the forthcoming anniversary of the end of the war have brought an outpouring of memory, triggering a concerted effort to transition from remembrance to commemoration. As those who lived through those harrowing days pass from the scene, it is incumbent upon the rest of us, who continue to bear their memory, to pursue the task of understanding and giving meaning to their life experiences.

As part of that effort, I would simply like to share three points relevant to the topic at hand: the great dilemma that confronted Filipinos at that time under circumstances that were unique to our country. We forget that, then, among the nations in Southeast Asia, the Philippines was the only one that had a concrete expectation and understanding of independence. We were the only ones that had an autonomous government, and only we had our own Armed Forces, one pledged to the Allied cause.

On this note, let me share an excerpt from a letter of President Manuel L. Quezon to General Douglas MacArthur, dated January 28, 1942:

The relevant paragraphs read:

In reference to the men who have accepted positions in the commission established by the Japanese, everyone of them wanted to come to Corregidor, but you told me that there was no place for them here.

They are not Quislings. The Quislings are the men who betray their country to the enemy. These men did what they had been asked to do, under the protection of their Government. Today they are virtually prisoners of the enemy. I am sure they are only doing what they think is their duty. They are not traitors. They are the victims of the adverse fortunes of war and I am sure they had no choice. Besides, it is most probable that they accepted their positions in order to safeguard the welfare of the civilian population in the occupied areas. I think, under the circumstances, America should look upon their situation sympathetically and understandingly.

Here in a few paragraphs one can find the dilemma of those who had the responsibilities of leadership at that time, in particular of those who could not be part of the government-in-exile. The dilemma strikes at the heart of a crucial debate: what are the responsibilities of a Filipino leader to his fellow Filipinos. This goes beyond any other tie—political, legal, or even personal—as these leaders had to fulfill public duties, as well as address their own personal expectations of what constituted their duty to their country. This brings me to the dilemma faced by Sotero Laurel. When World War II broke out, Sotero Laurel was in the United States. He came to serve as secretary to Vice-President Sergio Osmeña. When the Japanese established the Puppet Republic and appointed Sotero’s father, Jose P. Laurel, as President, Sotero did the honorable thing: he offered to resign.

In response to that offer, this is the reply he received from President Quezon.

The letter is dated September 30, 1943:


My dear Laurel:

Your letter of September 27 touched my very soul. Being a father and having a son I understand what you mean. The question of your remaining in the service of the Government of the Commonwealth must be decided solely upon this question. Are you in conscience loyal to America and to the Government of the Philippine Commonwealth regardless of whether your father has in truth become pro-Japanese. If you are loyal to the Government of the Commonwealth it is your duty to remain in your job and it is my right to advise you to do so. I may say in passing that I am not convinced that your father is a traitor either to the United States or to the Philippines. I know him personally and have been closely connected with him officially for many years. I believe he is doing what he honestly believes is in the best interest of the Filipino people for the time being, and not because he has become a tool of the Japanese.

After saying what I have said it is a matter for you to decide what you should do. If you are loyal to America and to my government, stay in your job. If you are not, resign, and I will accept your resignation forthwith.


Sincerely yours,

Manuel L. Quezon


I have always maintained that the sins of the father should not weigh upon the son. But sons in turn have great latitude in adding to or diminishing the reputations of their fathers. Therefore, the true measure of a father is what a son does to uphold and live by the code of conduct of his father. Nothing speaks more highly of Laurel than what his son did: offering to resign. The letter speaks of this, far from the judgment of his peers.

I cannot, and I should not, preempt what Mr. Zobel will be saying today. We can trust that it will be both interesting and thought-provoking. We must ponder what he says with the spirit of impartial inquiry, from the perspective of an inquisitive Filipino. And today, I am reminded of the words of another great leader of that war.

In his eulogy for Neville Chamberlain, dated November 1940, Winston Churchill said:

It is not given to human beings, happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable, to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events. In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values. History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour.


This is how statesmen must be judged. This is how generals must be judged. This is how those who feel they have served their respective countries must also be judged.

Thank you very much, and good day.




Nov 14

Rogue Magazine: The Master of Tropical Baroque

Rogue Nov. 2014 cover

Rogue | November 2014


The Master of Tropical Baroque

by Manuel L. Quezon III


Nick Joaquin beautifully captured the country’s political landscape,
and created a literary benchmark that every writer aspires to attain.


Nick Joaquin to me was sin and stories. The first due to an early memory of my father arriving home with a copy of Manila: Sin City which he cautiously placed on a high shelf, beyond my reach; the second due to Pop Stories for Groovy Kids, one set in green, the other in orange, brought back from Erehwon, then the only “serious” bookstore in our vicinity. This was Manila, in the 1970s, during the Marcos dictatorship. (As a kid, it was his children’s stories; as a teen, it was the guilty pleasure of retrieving his book of essays from the forbidden shelf to read about gambling and prostitution, the heat of August and the Ruby Towers quake. The forbidden Sin City turned out to be rather tame but tantalizing nonetheless: it opened up history.) Not the history of textbooks, but history written in a hurry to meet magazine deadlines.

The pleasure of the forbidden would return when I made his novel Caves and Shadows the first “serious” novel I pestered my father to buy for me, my successful lobbying made more delicious by his failing to notice that the cover featured a crab on a woman’s breast, remarkably daring in book design in then-prudish Catholic Philippines. The book remains my favorite novel by a Filipino, made all the more precious because it long remained out of print.

Bored to tears by textbooks and the clumsy prose of historians, his A Question of Heroes opened up an appreciation of our greats that might otherwise have been impossible. His The Aquinos of Tarlac, now hard to find, but in its time the best-selling non-fiction work in the Philippines, brought forth, in turn, the discovery of political biography. His stories were now, for me, about sins: of the high and mighty, both generations gone and those in the here and now.

But it was when I found in a shop, and read with feverish delight, his Reportage on Politics, that his influence on me became profound. I had strayed from the writings of Filipinos, been entranced by the journalism-as-history of Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Pole who wrote on the decay and destruction of despots: of courtiers in hiding pining for the rule of the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie; of his witnessing the collapse of the autocracy of the Shah of Iran.

Abroad, watching from afar the senile last days of our homegrown dictatorship, foreigners seemed the only ones who could write about similar cases of the curtains coming down on dictatorships. Meaning was in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Autumn of the Patriarch, not in anything by a Filipino. Marquez’s book told the story of a dictator’s death, and its magical realism evoked the oddities of a society steadily achieving the removal of its homegrown tyrant. James Fenton seemed more capable of writing about the flight of the conjugal dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos than any Filipino.

Then came Nick Joaquin’s Quartet of the Tiger Moon, and for once there was a rival to James Fenton’s reportage on the fall of the House of Marcos, what Filipinos call the People Power Revolution of 1986.

But it was that one slim collection, his Reportage on Politics, found one weekend in 1988, in a tattered condition, that finally gave me what every aspiring writer needs: a model to emulate. Here were the stories I wanted to read, about the period I found most interesting: the period of the fallen Third Republic (our first period of independent democracy from 1946-1972), peopled by heroes and villains, most of whom were still alive, the rest departed not so long ago; an age so vivid to my elders but totally alien to my martial law baby eyes. Here was Mrs. Macapagal, the mother of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, setting out to clean a Palace now gone (demolished by her husband’s successor); here were political parties with rivalries stretching back generations; here were politicians castigating pollsters, denouncing survey results, movie idols making aborted runs for the presidency.

Most delightful of all, the book contained the finest piece of Filipino political reportage I’d ever read: “13 o’clock,” in which Speaker Pepito Laurel, drunk as a skunk, wrestles a microphone to the ground during a session of the House, and where, presiding over a sine die session in which the legislature literally commands time to stand still, a devious Ferdinand Marcos saves his senate presidency by surreptitiously restarting the clocks, allowing him to gavel the session adjourned. This was the model; the way to write about politics and politicians; this was the keen eye for detail, the mordant wit, the way to get it done. The only other literary journalist to approach his level of influence on me would be Pete Lacaba’s reportage on the First Quarter Storm (the student rebellions in 1970 in Manila) and was he not heir to the great Joaquin?

That same year, Tom Wolfe, my preeminent writing idol of the time, published a literary manifesto titled “Stalking the Billion Footed Beast”. Profound was its influence, simple though its message was: be curious! Look, observe, inquire, and by so doing, write real stories, whether in journalism or fiction. Ten years later, Nick Joaquin would make a speech with much the same message: seek out reality, embrace it, then mold it to your will; reality was the clay necessary to produce great works of the imagination.

As he himself pointed out, before the Latin Americans had given birth to magical realism, the humid improbabilities of say, Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, he had labored forth on what we like to call his Tropical Baroque. Long before Tom Wolfe published The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, there had been Joaquin with his reportage on politics, on people, events and crime (he felt great pride in the authorship of his crime pieces, bellowing an exhortation to me once, that they must be included in an anthology I was working on, something I was unable to do). And he was right; what’s more, unlike Americans like Wolfe, his journalism as fine writing has aged well. Kool Aid suffers from artifice; Joaquin’s reportage continues to shine.

He would close his more important public remarks with, “I have spoken.” A literal translation of the way the Tagalogs of old would close their more solemn remarks. General Emilio Aguinaldo, a Garibaldi of sorts for the Philippines, of whom he had written a play of penetrating psychological insight rivaled only by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s fictional meditation on Bolivar (The General in His Labyrynth), used to close his remarks in the same way. This small detail, to me, personified the manner in which his heritage was made the world’s by his pen.







Oct 15

Rogue Magazine: The unbearable burden of being

Rogue Cover - October 2014

Rogue | October 2014

The Unbearable Burden of Being

by Manuel L. Quezon III



Since independence in 1946, we have nearly doubled the number of our provinces, and gone from 18.4 million people to 100 million today. The sheer volume of both people and government means you have more doing less for more. And so you have officials and citizens, both, exasperated with the system.

 Having reestablished the government of France after the German Occupation, Charles de Gaulle went into a decade-long retirement, sulking in his tent like Achilles until the Algerian Crisis when he made a political comeback and established an almost monarchical presidency. He found the parliamentary government established after World War II frustratingly chaotic, leading to his famous remark, “How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?”  Luigi Barizin in his highly entertaining book, The Italians, explained his society in this manner: Italians, he argued, followed a double standard: extremely honorable in matters internal to the family, and willing to cross any line when it comes to the government which they are convinced is out to get them.

Sounds quite familiar, doesn’t it? Barzini did say that the Jews and the Chinese were quite similar; the writer and diplomat Leon Ma. Guerrero once described our society in a similar way, and for similar reasons. The sociologist Randy David has argued in recent years, that the latest manifestation of this is something he calls a Crisis of Modernity in our country —where old instincts and habits among the political class leads that class to be increasingly incapable of adjusting to the challenges of a society that is outgrowing what I call the “old obediences.”  The institutions that linked together to give cohesion to society —Church, club, and school— are increasingly losing out to new challengers; but the old network built around these institutions stubbornly cling to them, leading to the kind of frustration over social exclusion that drives so many of our best and brightest abroad. Not just as economic refugees, but in a kind of collective protest vote against how things are at home. And so while Lasallians, Ateneans and UPeans  still enjoy the best access to jobs in the public and private sector, those sectors are too small to absorb enough talent, which looks for opportunities elsewhere (this includes the Top Three graduates, by the way, particularly those who may have a degree but lack social or political pull). 

The son or daughter of a kasama, who becomes a seaman, or nurse, or nanny abroad, and who then saves up to buy a small house in the province, enables their family to leapfrog in status from serf to middle class in a generation. Without the acculturation —yes, Church, club, and school— the old middle class took for granted as setting it apart from the hoi polloi and granting it proximity to the so-called leading families. If the family remains teetering on the edge of security, say due to not being frugal, then the old powers-that-be retain a hold over the family of that breadwinner; but if, for example, the breadwinner in turn has children who study in better schools, but who focus on learning simply to be able to line up for a ticket or contract to go abroad, then the only stake at home they will fiercely defend is that most thorough of middle class rights, that of property. But politics? Whether in its crudest form, voting for a patron, or in terms of civic participation in the community? It is irrelevant and possibly downright dangerous and best avoided.

An OFW I once met on a flight home, after eight hours of singing the praises of good government, of a genuine party system, and other blessings of democracy, excused himself from our conversation as we began our descent by pulling out a big wad of cash and flamboyantly counting it out in my presence. “For customs,” he shrugged. We had earnestly discussed the changes the country needed —but for him, some things would never change. One day, someone bolder than I might take a stab on a fascinating book waiting to be written: the Filipinos whose ability made this country too small a pond for them to get big in, but who, upon achieving success abroad, came back: only to become every bit as cynical, venal, and ruthless as the movers and shakers they’d once despised, and despaired of. They had, in a sense already beaten them —so why join them?

Which brings me to the debates on forms of government, the arguments about amending or not amending the constitution, that periodically take up column inches in the papers and from time to time leads to “experts” being trotted out to say nothing about something in front of the cameras. To be sure everyone seems pretty eloquent about what they are against but become vague when asked to put forward what they actually want. You cannot help but think we are well and truly stuck between a rock and a hard place. A Filipino political scientist once expressed his exasperation with our post-EDSA system of government in this manner: “It is,” he said, “set up to guarantee to fail.” When I asked what, then, did he propose as a solution, he put forward a thoroughly middle-class proposal. Take away the vote from the masses! Abolish the presidency or make it a decoration! Shift to the parliamentary form of government where the professionals can elect one of their own to run the nation! 

Oscar Wilde once described an aristocrat in a foxhunt as the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable. You have the unelectable in full pursuit of the unpalatable.

There are many earnest and eloquent advocates of things like the parliamentary system but they tend to ignore the inconvenient question of how do you convince a national electorate to give up the one basic democratic right they understand, which is to periodically cast their vote —freely or for a fee— for the country’s leader? Then they expect congressmen and senators to lead the charge, when legislators themselves derive their position from the same electorate (which doesn’t mean they don’t dream of it: taking a cue from de Gaulle or Barzini, they would probably much prefer not having to deal with a head of state with a mandate independent of theirs). And yet, parliamentarists have at least tried to imagine a status quo different from the one we have at present. It is all very interesting. But it is not, in any real sense, a real public debate.

Writing in his diary on December 23, 1938, former Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison caught his friend Manuel L. Quezon in a moment of reflection. “The people care more for good government than they do for self-government,” Quezon told him, adding that “the fear is that the Head of State may either exceed his powers, or abuse them by improprieties. To keep order is his main purpose.” In the three generations since then, this seems as good a rule of thumb regarding public expectations of our leaders, as any.

In the end, what makes or break any proposal is something not found in any constitution —the constantly shifting sands of public opinion.



Sep 22

Rogue Magazine: Showdown with the Supremes

Rogue cover sept 2014

Rogue | September 2014

Showdown with the Supremes

by Manuel L. Quezon III

 How the President Marcos’ dance with the justices led to the constitutionality of a dictatorship.

A retired general once told me that the coded signal for the implementation of martial law was “happy birthday.” By and large, we’re familiar with the basic plan for its imposition: the amazingly harmless ambush attempt on Juan Ponce Enrile gave a pretext for Marcos to declare martial law. He therefore asserted his constitutional power to declare the existence of a rebellion, then went further and said there was a corresponding need to reform society. That was the gist of Proclamation 1081. What’s often overlooked is that the proclamation of martial law was accompanied by other orders that gave his proclamation teeth. He issued General Order No. 1 (a general order is an instruction to the armed forces by the president in his capacity as commander-in-chief), assuming all the powers of the entire government, and asserting he would direct the operations of the entire government, including all agencies and instrumentalities. He then issued Letter of Instruction to Kit Tatad (Press Secretary) and to Enrile (Secretary of National Defense), authorizing the siezure of and closure of private media. He then issued General Order No. 2-A, ordering Enrile to arrest individuals Marcos deemed enemies of the state and anyone else accused of offenses versus the Penal Code ranging from smuggling, drugs, tax evation, to public morals; and General Order No. 3, retaining all the courts but specifying that all challenges to martial law would be handled by military courts. This was also accompanied by General Order No. 4, imposing a midnight to 4 AM curfew. Finally, there was General Order No. 5, banning all demonstrations. In one fell swoop, in addition to ordering arrests, the closing of media, a stop to international flights and phone calls, and the capture of utilities like Meralco, he’d granted himself lawmaking powers as well as the power to limit the jurisdiction of the courts.


To this day, the exact chronology of the events of September 22-23, 1972 isn’t quite clear. In particular, the actual day and time he signed Proclamation 1081 has proven hard to pin down because Marcos himself was inconsistent about it. Although he made September 21 the official date, at one point (in January, 1973, talking to a conference of historians) he himself said he signed it on September 17. Some close to him assert it was signed at 9 PM on September 22, after the Enrile “ambush”. Other writers state it was signed at 3 AM on September 23. The public got to know about it when Marcos went on the air in the evening of September 23 to explain why most media had been shut down, with friendly stations broadcasting muzak and cartoons all day. In his broadcast, Marcos said he’d signed the proclamation on September 21, but that it had come into effect on the 22nd. The document itself provides a clue: it doesn’t bear the countersignature of either Executive Secretary Alejandro Melchor, or Assistant Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora —both of whom were out of town on September 21-23.


In his diaries, Marcos wrote that September 21 as the day for imposing martial law was decided in a meeting with close advisers on September 13. The date was selected because Congress was due to go on recess on the 21st. The armed forces signed off on September 14. Plans were finalized on September 18. The armed forces submitted a formal study to serve as a basis for it, on September 20. But Congress did not go on recess on the 21st as expected: instead, the recess was expected to begin on the 22nd. Meanwhile, the typing of the various orders was completed at 8 PM on September 21. More than numerology (the usual reason given to explain Marcos’ fetish for the 21st, a date divisible by his lucky number, 7), the need to catch Congress, media and the public off guard, dictated the tempo of events.


Even after Marcos got away with martial law, he remained nervous about the Supreme Court. On September 24, he summoned Justices Claudio Teehangkee, Antonio Barredo, Felix Macasiar and Felix Antonio to a meeting. They insisted he should submit the legality of martial law to the Supreme Court for review. Marcos replied that if necessary, he would proclaim a revolutionary government. You can sense Marcos’ glee in recounting the response of the Justices: “They insisted we retain a color of constitutionality for everything that we do.” That evening, Marcos issued his first Presidential Decree: reorganizing the entire government. The next day, the 25th, Marcos met two more Justices of the Supreme Court: Fred Ruiz Castro and Salvador Esguerra and told them “there must be no conflict between the two separate departments of Justice and Executive for it would be embarrassing to both.” They agreed. By September 25, Marcos could crow in his diary, “It is indeed gratifying that everyone now finds or discovers I am some kind of a hero! There is nothing as successful as success!”


But work remained to be done. Purged of hard-core oppositionists, the Constitutional Convention submitted a draft to Marcos who wanted a new constitution in place before Congress could convene in January 1973. He did this by setting aside plans for a plebiscite (which it seems he was going to lose) and calling for “citizen’s assemblies” instead.  On January 22, the Supreme Court said it was willing to meet Marcos on the matter, though Marcos in his entries on January 23-24, 1973 was worried the Supreme Court might declare the new Constitution invalid. On January 27, he heard the Justices would accept the validity of the new Constitution —and by the way, was there an assurance they would keep their jobs? On the 29th, he met the Justices (minus Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion who was sick), and made his case: Justice Fred Ruiz Castro said, “I get the message, Mr. President.” By March 31, 1973, victory was complete. The Supreme Court said the new Constitution was in full force and effect (heartbroken, Chief Justice Concepcion retired in protest). In September 1974 the Court set aside challenges to the arrests of two years before, saying it was a political question.


Concepcion, who was made a Constitutional Commissioner in 1986, proposed additional powers for the Supreme Court, to limit its ability to repeat the performance of 1973-74 when it ducked under the cover of “political questions.”

The result has been two decades of clashes with presidents and congress: and a new question —are the Supremes now the most powerful branch of government? A possible case of the cure being as ominous as the disease it was meant to cure.



For excerpts and links to the Marcos diaries, visit The Philippine Diary Project: http://philippinediaryproject.com

Sep 05

Charter Change: An Annotated Timeline 1934-2014

…[T]he Constitution is not, and should not be, an idol under strict taboos. It is not, and should not be, a strait-jacket for the growing and developing nation which it was made to serve. The Constitution itself outlines the procedure for its own amendment, and it thus expressly devoted to the principle that it is neither inviolable nor permanent, but a working instrument to secure the general welfare of the people. –Claro M. Recto

I’d like to put forward a survey of past Charter Change efforts as a resource for those engaged in the ongoing debate on Charter Change.

While the story of Charter Change includes three constitutions –the 1935, 1973 and 1987 charters (and excludes the 1943 Constitution under Japanese auspices, which was declared invalid in 1944 as subsequently affirmed by the Supreme Court, which declared the laws enacted during the Japanese Occupation as null and void)– the dynamics involving constitutional amendment-related debates forms one cohesive story. In fact, the ghosts of past amendments, live on, institutionally, to this day:

1. From the 1940 amendments, we have the bicameral composition of the Committee on Appointments (the pound of flesh demanded by the National Assembly in exchange for the restoration of the Senate), a nationally-elected Senate (but weakened, since, by the elimination of bloc voting in the 1950s, briefly restored under Marcos then abandoned again; the present Senate is also elected on the basis of 12 senators per election, instead of 8 senators every election, which has essentially nullified the Senate as a continuing body), and a Commission on Elections.

2. From the 1980s amendments, the restoration of the position of Vice-President and the retirement age of 70 for justices.

Along the way, I’d like to tackle:

1. What makes for a successful Charter Change effort? More Charter Change efforts have succeeded than have failed: 1939, 1940, 1947 all succeeded, and 1967-1971 (to get a convention going) worked; under the dictatorship, the 1976-1986 amendments all succeeded (but these were, of course, undertaken under the gun so to speak); but no effort to amend the 1987 Constitution has succeeded. What all periods of amendment-mania have in common is that they were proposed in the waning years of an incumbent president: however in 1939-40 the incumbent was not only popular, but possible successors were not as popular; in 1971-73 the incumbent, increasingly perceived to be unpopular; in 1997, 1999 and 2005-09, either waning in popularity, or subject to the veto of the Catholic Church and civil society, or manifestly unpopular. So it can be argued that 2014 is unique in that it is the first time since 1939 that amendments have been discussed in the context of a popular (majority positive opinion) president and a question mark as to a successor to keep up reforms.

2. What dooms Charter Change to fail or at least, imperils it? Public opinion plays a central role. Amendments to the 1973 Constitution, from its very “approval” to its subsequent, and repeated, amendments, worked due to force majeure and legal legerdemain (the consensus is that if a proper plebiscite had been conducted in 1973, the 1935 Constitution would have been retained by public demand); 1997-98, 1999-2000, and 2005-2006 also failed due to public protests, defeat in the courts, or both. Most of all: if there is a perception that the amendment will benefit an individual or group that does not enjoy widespread public trust, the exercise will be difficult going.

3. In the past, leaders and parties proposed amendments. The present Constitution made an innovation, giving the electorate powers of initiative and referendum, including directly proposing amendments (but not revisions) of the Constitution: however the law to enable this was originally declared defective, and subsequent efforts have proven problematic. Consider these summaries of public opinion as reflected in past surveys:

Pulse Asia Survey: Q. Whether or not it is right to change the constitution now / Whether in favor or not in favor of changing the constitution now?

Screen shot 2014-08-27 at 6.45.10 PM

 Source: Charter change surveys from www.pulseasia.ph consolidated by PCDSPO.

SWS Survey: Q. Are there constitutional provisions which need to be changed now?

Screen shot 2014-08-27 at 6.48.30 PM

Source: Charter change surveys from www.sws.org.ph consolidated by PCDSPO.

*See other Public Opinion charts by SWS and Pulse Asia on Charter Change in Annex A at the end of the timeline.

These surveys tell us that public opinion shifts over time; that, depending on the question, public opinion can be, at times, fairly evenly divided on specific questions. But the biggest problem of all, however, as Fr. Bernas put it in 2011, is “structural”:

Next month the Constitution will complete its 24th year. Through all these years it has remained untouched. It has lasted unchanged longer than either the 1935 Constitution or the 1973 Constitution. The 1935 Constitution underwent change almost immediately after its birth, first, by giving suffrage to women, and a little later by moving from a unicameral National Assembly to a bicameral Congress. As to the 1973 Constitution, it was not what the Constitutional Convention of 1971-1972 had intended and, during its brief lifetime, it underwent several major changes. If the 1987 Constitution has resisted change to this date, it is not because it is a perfect Constitution nor is it for want of attempts to change it. Almost every year attempts at constitutional change have been made. None has succeeded. In my view, one major obstacle to attempts to revise the 1987 Constitution is structural. It has a built-in unintended obstacle to change. And I do not know how this can be overcome this year. In many respects the 1987 Constitution consists of significant borrowings from the 1935 Constitution. Unfortunately, however, the provision on the amendatory process is a carbon copy of the provision in the 1973 Constitution. Year after year since 1987 this has been the major obstacle to change. Why so? The text says: “Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or (2) a constitutional convention. . . . The Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of all its Members, call a constitutional convention, or by a majority vote of all its Members, submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention.” The provision is one formulated for a unicameral legislative body but it is now meant to work for a bicameral Congress. This was not a tactical product designed by an evil genius. It is merely the result of oversight. But the oversight has spawned major problems. First, must Senate and House come together in joint session before they can do anything that can lead to charter change? The 1935 Constitution was very clear on this question: Congress could not begin to work on constitutional change unless they first came together in joint session. The 1987 Constitution is non-committal. Second, since the text of the Constitution is not clear about requiring a joint session, can Congress work on constitutional change analogously to the way it works on ordinary legislation, that is where they are and as they are? I have always maintained that Congress can, but this is by no means a settled matter. There are those who believe that the importance of Charter change demands a joint session. Third, should Congress decide to come together in joint session, must Senate and House vote separately or may they vote jointly? The 1935 Constitution was very clear on the need for separate voting; the present Constitution is silent about this… Howsoever the matter might be settled by agreement of the majority of both houses, someone in the minority will run to the Supreme Court to challenge the decision. What about a constitutional convention? But the business of calling a constitutional convention is fraught with the same problems. Should Congress choose to call a constitutional convention, must the two houses be in joint session? And if in joint session, should they vote separately?

So Fr. Bernas brings up a problem unique to the 1987 Constitution: the wording of the charter makes a consensus on how to go about amending it, problematic –and that includes the innovation of the electorate directly proposing amendments, too. Since 1987, the historical memory of the public and the politicians has become far more limited. At best, that memory goes back only to Marcos, whereas the memory of his generation went back all the way to the Revolution. There was 1896-1946, the period of national identification and creation, anchored on the belief of a strong executive and institutionalizing a strong central government; and 1946-1986, the period of the great divide between liberal democracy and constitutional authoritarianism; and 1986-2006, the rise and fall of people power as a Third Way. These periods have been marked by changing attitudes towards our national leaders and public confidence and trust in them.

As the PCIJ reported in 2006, in 1971 and 2006, New Charters Designed to Keep Embattled Presidents in Power, which makes for a struggle and debate untouched and uninformed by the great debates that took place prior to Marcos: while the debate is overshadowed by three points of view:

a. The view that the Constitution is somehow, not subject to amendment.

b. The view that the Constitution should be amended to restrict the electorate’s ability to choose the head of government (transferring that power to elected members of the legislature instead: parliamentarism: See this paper) On these and related questions, a look at public opinion over time is revealing as well:


Pulse Asia Survey: Q. Whether or not in favor of changing the present system into a parliamentary system?

Screen shot 2014-08-27 at 11.07.43 PM

Source: Charter change surveys from www.pulseasia.ph consolidated by PCDSPO.

SWS Survey: Q. Opinion on cha-cha allowing a former President to become prime minister in a parliamentary government.

Screen shot 2014-08-27 at 11.10.03 PM

Source: Charter change surveys from www.sws.org.ph consolidated by PCDSPO.

SWS Survey: Q. Opinion on cha-cha allowing President Arroyo to become prime minister in a parliamentary government.

Screen shot 2014-08-27 at 11.12.34 PM

Source: Charter change surveys from www.sws.org.ph consolidated by PCDSPO

Substituting a strong executive who is directly elected by the entire electorate, with not only a parliamentary system, but a unicameral one, has proven problematic it they would eliminate the electorate’s ability to directly choose the head of government, and replace the system of checks-and-balances between three branches of government and substitute the dominance of the legislature –with the House being the surviving entity.

c. The view that restrictive economic provisions should be amended, while leaving political provisions intact –when generations have been raised to consider the Parity Amendment after World War 2 a travesty.

d. Tied, at times, to b and c, but far less discussed by the public but far more current in academic circles, the exploration of Federalism: See this paper.

Again, here’s a look at public opinion over time:


Pulse Asia Survey: Q. Whether or not in favor of changing the present system into a federal system?

Screen shot 2014-08-27 at 11.16.37 PM

Source: Charter change surveys from www.pulseasia.ph consolidated by PCDSPO.

SWS Survey: Q. Opinion on cha-cha on creating regional governments / Would a proposal to create regional governments be good or not good for the country?

Screen shot 2014-08-27 at 11.19.32 PM

Source: Charter change surveys from www.sws.org.ph consolidated by PCDSPO.


For reference: Here is a matrix, for quick reference, of some of the major proposals that have been made over time.

See Matrix of Constitutional Amendments Proposed in Plebiscite, decided on by Supreme Court, and Proposed by Constitutionalists


Here is a comprehensive narrative of the Charter Change through the years. I have included plebiscites, even those, like the one on women’s suffrage, as Fr. Bernas mentioned it, and as an indication of the attitudes and behavior of the public in plebiscites, which forms part of the story of amendments.


Charter Change: A Timeline 1934-2014

July 10, 1934: The Constitutional Convention Begins

The 1934 Constitutional Convention assembled, with its chairman Claro M. Recto, to craft the 1935 Constitution. (See Presidential Museum and Library, Today in History, Tumblr, July 30, 2012). For a backgrounder, see Re-constructing Colonial Philippines: 1900-1910 by Patricio Abinales; Institutionalizing state interventionism, by Manuel L. Quezon III. For an overview of the 1934 Constitutional Convention, see Constitution Day, by Teodoro M. Locsin, February 7, 1953.

May 14, 1935: Ratification of the 1935 Constitution

1,213,046 YES
44,963 NO

Plebiscite on constitutional amendment: 1,213,000 votes / population of 14,731,000. (See The referendum scorecard 1935-1987, June 9, 2009)

1935 Plebiscite

Source: PCDSPO Philippine Electoral Almanac

  This was actually the first nationwide vote the country had, in which the nation voted as such and not just for provincial or regional leaders. I can’t say if there was any change in the four months between the plebiscite on the constitution and the first national presidential elections held that September; but what observers did point out was that only slightly over half of the electorate bothered to vote. Most observers commented that this was because the outcome was practically predetermined. It is remarkable that more people seemed to have participated in the plebiscite on the Constitution than in the presidential election (however,it also seems to have been rainy in many areas during the September election, then as now, possibly lowering turnout). A possible reason for higher turnout was that the plebiscite on the constitution was also, in a sense, a plebiscite on independence (see Why they voted against the constitution, June 1, 1935). Hence the very lopsided result in favor of the new constitution.

November 15, 1935:  Inauguration of the Commonwealth of the Philippines

Manuel L. Quezon took his oath as the first President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines (Official Gazette)

April 30, 1937: Women asked if they wanted suffrage

This was an unusual plebiscite, in that the voting was restricted to women, only, who were asked if they wanted suffrage for themselves. The suffragette movement had been active from the 1920s and particularly in the early 1930s so women’s groups were extremely well organized to get out the vote.

447,725 Affirmative
44,307 Negative

Screen shot 2014-08-15 at 9.25.35 AM

Source: PCDSPO Philippine Electoral Almanac 2013


As the contemporary account Votes for women pointed out, men had required 300,000 affirmative votes for approval. Women handily overcame that hurdle.

1937: The Start of Amendments Discussions

Jose E. Romero, Majority Leader of the National Assembly, in his memoirs recalled:

Midway in his term of office [1937-38], the inevitable speculation as to President Quezon’s successor and the beginning of the stirrings of the potential candidates began. Of course everybody realized that President Quezon would determine the choice of his successor. Vice-President Osmeña was a logical choice. President Quezon had given him some encouragement, but he also encouraged Mr. Roxas and, it seems, Speaker Yulo. At one time he even considered the possibility of a compromise candidate, and I remember his mentioning Teofilo Sison, who was then Secretary of the Interior and who had done a good job in that important position and also as Governor of the big province of Pangasinan. Mr. Osmeña who as I said was the most logical successor, had often been unfortunate politically. On the one hand, his ambition was opposed by the leaders of the National Assembly, Speaker Jose Yulo and Floor Leader Quintin Paredes. The peculiar situation had arisen that while all the different factions were reunited under the leadership of President Quezon, the cleavage between the former Quezon followers and the followers of Osmeña and Roxas had persisted. There still was rivalry and mutual suspicion between the ANTIs, who had followed President Quezon in the fight on the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Independence Act, and the PROs, who had followed the leadership of Osmeña and Roxas. Now on top of the opposition of the ANTIs, Mr. Osmeña had to reckon with the opposition of his erstwhile ally, Mr. Roxas. When Mr. Osmeña would press his claim on President Quezon, the latter would tell him that he would have to have an agreement with Mr. Roxas. Mr. Osmeña would tell President Quezon that Mr. Roxas had assured him that he had no ambition for the position himself, but Mr. Quezon would smilingly tell him that he should get an iron-clad assurance from Roxas because the latter had given him to understand otherwise. It was quite obvious to me that President Quezon was playing one against the other as the threat of disruption of the United Nacionalista Party would inevitably give rise to a movement to draft President Quezon to prevent such disunity. Either their ambitions had blinded Messrs. Osmeña and Roxas to this strategy or Mr. Roxas actually preferred the reelection of President Quezon to Osmeña’s succession to the office.

May 6, 1939: Surveys enter the scene

In 1939, surveys began to appear on the scene; see Free Press straw vote will feature reelection, May 6, 1939.

The first truly nationwide straw vote on a large scale ever conducted in the Philippines was the Free Press poll on the Hare-Hawes-Cutting law, conducted in February and March of 1933. On that occasion, 10,000 ballots were mailed out and 65 percent of them were returned. Of the votes recorded, 56 percent opposed the Hare-Hawes-Cutting law. The first Free Press straw vote had accurately reflected public opinion.

Then, in August and September of 1937, shortly after President Quezon returned from Washington where he had flirted with the idea of independence in 1939, the Free Press sent out 12,500 ballots asking whether the people favored or opposed shortening the transition period. In this case, 67 percent of the ballots were returned. There was some raising of eyebrows when the final result showed 55 percent opposing and only 45 percent favoring the shortening of the transition period. Yet subsequent events showed that the Free Press poll had once more mirrored public opinion. Today virtually no one favors a shorter transition period, and quicker independence would not be accepted in the Philippines unless it were accompanied by substantial economic concessions.

In July, another article mentioned the results:

“Only a few days ago,” argued Gullas, “a straw vote conducted by the FREE PRESS, a non-partisan and widely read weekly in the Philippines was concluded. The result was against reelection. Of course, it is not an absolute indication of how the public will vote. But it clearly shows which way the wind blows. It is a barometer of the sentiment of the people. Like a finger on the pulse, it counted, as it were, the heartbeats of the nation.”


May 13, 1939

An Open letter to President Quezon, by Arturo Tolentino, was published by the Philippine Free Press, expressing that amidst clamor of the public to push for constitutional amendments for Quezon’s reelection (and with the president’s silence on the matter), the president should stand by the constitution and “let new blood and new brains take on the responsibility of guiding the ship state.” On the same day the Free Press editorial asserts the campaign for re-election has begun.

May 15, 1939: President Quezon calls for Constitutional Amendments

President Quezon spoke to the National Assembly and called for Constitutional Amendments calling for the revival of the bicameral legislature with each senator being elected by national suffrage. The amendments would also permit his reelection. Jose E. Romero describes the speech of President Quezon, pointing out that the main issue of the time was to maintain the status quo; but that political objective had to be couched in terms more appealing to the public than merely preserving party dominance:

So it was that the movement was started to draft President Quezon. One day, he appeared before the National Assembly together with the members of his Cabinet. He told the members of the Assembly that he could no longer ignore the movement to amend the Constitution to permit his reelection; that what he was particularly interested in among the proposed amendments was the one reestablishing the bicameral system of legislature; that as to the proposed amendment to permit his reelection, he would only consent to this provided that at the same time a provision was adopted limiting the term of office of the President to not more than eight years, following the example of George Washington.

Yet there remained the problem of how to maintain that status quo, without provoking a new split in the ruling party:

As soon as President Quezon left the session hall of the National Assembly, the Assemblymen held a caucus to discuss the proposed amendments, and if a vote had been taken that same evening the proposal would have been rejected. I called the attention of my colleagues to the fact that the President had just told us that he would be receptive to the amendment permitting his reelection with the proviso he stipulated and for us, immediately after his speech, to reject the proposed amendments might be taken as a slap in the face. I suggested that we take a little time to consider this very serious matter and go about it in the most tactful manner. I was promptly seconded by Assemblyman Pedro Sabido, and the meeting was adjourned. This gave the proponents of the amendment time to do some arm-twisting, and by the time the matter was taken up again, the majority had shifted in favor of the proposed amendments. Regarding this arm-twisting, Assemblyman Tomas Oppus, the Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations and one of the wittiest Assemblymen, described the situation in his inimitable way in a story he told his colleagues. He and his colleagues had asked the directorate of the Party if they could vote freely on the amendments since this was a matter of conscience, involving as it did the fundamental law of the country. The party leaders replied that the party had taken a stand on this question and that while they were free to vote in accordance with their own conscience, the party would take a dim view of their reliability as party men. The situation, said Oppus, was like that of a little boy who asked his uncle if he could go to the show. The uncle said he could do so but that when he came back, he would get a whipping. “That,” said the little boy, “means I cannot go to the show.”


Study Group Formed

Romero then describes how the leader concerned, Quezon, set about finding out how public opinion -and his allies- would react to his extension in office; arm-twisting in such a case, wasn’t enough; conviction, not compulsion, was essential if public opinion was to be won:

Still, the President was bothered by what history might say of his part in the approval of the amendment to permit his own reelection. He organized a group of nine men that he considered his close friends who could wisely advise him as to whether the amendment to permit his reelection should be presented. I can easily remember those who composed this group because there were four Joses in it –Jose Yulo, Jose Abad Santos, Jose Laurel, and Jose Romero. There were two Manuels –Manuel Roxas and Manuel Briones (three, if President Quezon, who was always present in spirit, was to be counted as member of this group) and there were Claro Recto, Quintin Paredes, and Pedro Sabido. We were made to promise not even to mention the existence of this group. We even agreed not to arrive together at the place selected for our meetings, which was the office of the Chairman of the Board of the PNB, the Chairman then being Secretary Abad Santos. At one of these meetings, Dr. Laurel said that if he had his way, he would not touch a comma of the Constitution. Eventually, however, Dr. Laurel and the rest of us would line up behind the proposed amendments. After thorough deliberation, we took a vote. The vote was four in favor and five against. Those who voted in favor were Abad Santos, Yulo, Paredes, and Roxas. Those who voted against were Recto, Laurel, Briones, Sabido, and I. I really thought that with President Quezon already bothered by compunctions as to the move he was about to take, this majority opinion against the proposal expressed by men whose loyalty and wisdom he reposed confidence and whom he had called on to give their honest opinion, would deter him from proceeding with the proposal. In any event it did not turn out that way. In later deliberations of the party caucus, the proposed amendments were approved.

Lobbying for amendments

Romero then recounts how lobbying was done, one-on-one:

I hid myself off to Malacañan and was immediately taken to his office. “Romero,” he said as soon as I was seated, “I wish I had died before this question of my reelection arose.” I was shocked. I told him I saw no reason why he should be so concerned with the problem, that the great majority of the people were behind him, and that they would accept whatever decision he made. As I have said, I knew that he had been bothered about the moral issue involved and about his image in the future being tarnished with the same brush of ambition that characterized most of the presidents and dictators of the banana republics. But I did not imagine that this would worry him so much that he preferred to have died before he could face such a problem… He said that now he was doubtful whether he should encourage the movement for his reelection… I asked him if he would take it as a lack of of affection and loyalty towards him if we started an opposition to the proposal. He said that we could go ahead and spearhead such an opposition. He suggested, however, that the term of office of the next President should be reduced to four years without re-election…


June 24, 1939

The Second Open Letter to President Quezon, by Arturo Tolentino was released by the Philippine Free Press, as the writer’s response to President Quezon’s affirmation of the push for constitutional amendments to extend his term. Tolentino warns the president that allowing the president reelection is a precedent for dictatorship and “that it will be easier in the future to amend the Constitution again to suit some future President who may want to entirely eliminate the limit on the number of re-elections, and thus perpetuate himself in power.”

July 7, 1939: Ruling Nacionalista Party approves amendments

The Nacionalista Convention met and adopted the following two amendments: (a) Reduction of the presidential tenure to four years, applicable to Quezon, with one re-election, (2) changing of congress from unicameral to bicameral legislature. This is inspired by the two-term tradition of the American presidency. See United behind Quezon, July 15, 1939 for the maneuvering from 1935-1939; essentially practically the whole prewar period was used up by the debates on the issues of presidential re-election and the restoration of the Senate (unicameralism had won in the Constitutional Convention, not because the majority of delegates actually preferred it, but because opinion between the bicameralists was divided on the question of a Senate elected at large or according to senatorial districts); it took another year after that, for the actual campaign to overcome public resistance to the proposed amendments.

“AYE!” With a tired roar that echoed hollowly in the dark bowl of the Rizal basketball stadium in Manila, one night last week, the Nationalist party convention approved the proposal to amend the Constitution, so as to allow the reelection of the President.

“Nay!” A half-hearted and scattered cry in opposition went up, after hours of resounding but futile debate.

An undisputed majority sent up an “Aye!” again, the following morning, approving another amendment, to revive the old senate.

The “Nay!” was even weaker.

For three days and nights last week, the party which rules the country met in the stifling shadow of a gathering typhoon to deliver itself of a series of historical mandates to its members in Malacañan, in the Assembly, in the cabinet, in every important office of the government. The mandates, expressed in resolutions, were to:

1. Change the Presidential term from one six-year period, to two four-year periods;

2. Revive the old bicameral legislature;

3. Create an administrative body to take charge of all elections;

4. Revise local governments to make them more, responsible and efficient (presumably, along the lines of the Quezon plan for appointive mayors and governors);

5. Readjust the three-year terms of assemblymen, provincial and municipal officials, so as to make them fit the new four-year presidential term;

6. Reaffirm loyalty to the coalition platform, including independence in 1946;

7. Request President Quezon to call a special session of the Assembly;

8. Ratify Presidential and Assembly action on the JPCPA report;

9. Congratulate President Quezon for his social justice program, and to request him to remain in office (that is, take advantage of the reelection amendment);

10. Congratulate Party President Yulo for his handling of the convention;

11. Increase the representation of governors in the Nationalist executive commission, from five to 12, thus putting them on a par with the Assemblymen.

The whole menu being called, by Speaker Yulo, a series of “Conservative Reforms,” which were opposed by one Assemblyman as going against public opinion (see Free Press straw vote will feature reelection, May 6, 1939. according to the October 1939 article above, public opinion, as expressed in the poll, opposed re-election).

National Assembly tackles amendments

Jose E. Romero:

As I was entering the session hall of the National Assembly a few hours later, I was met at the aisle by Speaker Yulo, who asked me what it was that I had told President Quezon which made him change his mind. I narrated the whole story, but the Speaker was adamant, and he said he would proceed with the campaign for the approval of the amendments irrespective of President Quezon’s desires. I told him that the process of amending was not easy as we needed only a few votes to defeat the proposed amendments. At that time we were adhering strictly to the interpretation that questions had to be approved by three-fourths of all the members of the National Assembly, and not only of those present. There were many vacancies at that time in the National Assembly, mostly due to the appointments in the Executive Department, and a mere twenty votes either voting against or abstaining from voting or absenting themselves would defeat the proposed amendments. I told the Speaker that I had the President’s permission to oppose the amendments and I thought I had the votes to succeed in our opposition.

I began getting the signature of those opposing the amendments. Many assemblymen were wary about signing although, at heart, they were opposed because of their regard for, or more candidly, fear of President Quezon. I assured them I had the President’s permission and they signed on condition that they were assured that the President really had no objection to our move. Predictably, the Assemblymen from Cebu and from Capiz were among the first to sign. Thereafter, others followed and I thought I had the required number of votes to defeat the amendments. The leadership of the house, seeing we were making headway, appealed to President Quezon to ask us to withdraw our opposition. This came about one night, at a gathering at Manila Hotel when everybody who was anybody in politics was in attendance. I was surprised and flattered when, leaving all the other political moguls, the President took me by the arm to a corner. He began by asking me if my political antagonists in my province were still bothering me. I told him they were still preparing the ground against me in the next election. He told me I had nothing to worry about for, if need be, he would go and campaign for me. Then finally, as if incidentally, he said that as regards the matter of the amendments, the leadership of the Assembly had committed themselves too deeply, that their prestige was involved, that that he was therefore requesting me to withdraw my opposition to them.

As I have already said, the opponents signed the agreement on condition that really President Quezon was not interested one way or another in the approval of the amendments and so, naturally, when I told them about the final word of the President, the whole movement collapsed…


September 15, 1939: Constitutional Amendments approved

By a vote of 81 to 6, the National Assembly dominated by the Nacionalistas approved the constitutional amendments concerning the restoration of the Senate, a two-term presidency, and the creation of a Commission on Elections.

September 16, 1939: President Quezon commends the National Assembly

President Quezon commended the National Assembly on having approved the proposed constitutional amendments with a statement to the press.

September 19, 1939: Plebiscite for Commonwealth constitutional amendments approved

Commonwealth Act No. 492 set October 24, 1939 as the date of the plebiscite on proposed amendments to the Constitution, was approved by the National Assembly.

October 24, 1939: Plebiscite on Economic Adjustment

Aside from the ongoing debate on amendments to the Constitution, another issue intervened at this point: the approval, or rejection, by plebiscite, of a proposed Ordinance to be appended to the Constitution, concerning economic adjustments. On March 18, 1937, as later reported in the State of the Nation Address for 1937, the Philippine and American governments had decided,

Arrangements are being made for the appointment shortly of a joint preparatory committee of American and Philippine experts. The committee is to study trade relations between the United States and the Philippines and to recommend a program for the adjustment of Philippine national economy. This announcement followed conferences between President Quezon of the Philippine Commonwealth and the Inter-Departmental Committee on Philippine Affairs, which is acting on behalf of President Roosevelt in the preliminary discussions. Assistant Secretary of State Francis B. Sayre is Chairman of this Committee.   Inasmuch as the Independence Act provides that complete political independence of the Philippines shall become effective on July 4, 1946, and inasmuch as President Quezon has suggested that the date of independence might be advanced to 1938 or 1939, it was agreed that the joint committee of experts would be expected in making its recommendations to consider the bearing which an advancement in the date of independence would have on facilitating or retarding the execution of a program of economic adjustment in the Philippines. It was further agreed that the preferential trade relations between the United States and the Philippines are to be terminated at the earliest practicable date consistent with affording the Philippines a reasonable opportunity to adjust their national economy. Thereafter, it is contemplated that trade relations between the two countries will be regulated in accordance with a reciprocal trade agreement on a non-preferential basis.

In the end, a report was completed, although the proposal to advance the date of Philippine independence to 1938 or 1939 did not prosper. This is perhaps the least well-known of all our constitutional plebiscites. See Philippines: Brain, March 27, 1937 for a backgrounder of the economic issues threshed out between 1937-39:

The Independence Act was supported in Congress by two groups, one inspired by international altruism, the other inspired by national selfishness. Those inspired by selfishness were Congressmen, mostly from sugar-producing States, who wanted to put the Philippines outside the U. S. tariff barrier so as to get rid of business competitors. Into the law they wrote provisions which would institute a series of export taxes on Philippine goods shipped to the U. S. – the equivalent of a U. S. tariff – beginning at 5% in 1940 and mounting 5% a year. Since the U. S. is the Philippines’ best market and the Philippines’ chief export, sugar, goes almost entirely to the U. S., the Independence Act, as Señor Quezon well knows, is the next thing to sure ruin for the economy of the Islands. But independence means to the Philippines much what isolation means to the U. S. So three years ago when independence was offered, it was politically impossible …to refuse. Now his job as President of the Commonwealth is to fix it so that Filipinos can eat the cake of independence and at the same time keep the cake of free trade with the U. S. Last week it looked as if he might gain his ambiguous end when, after several days’ conferences, he agreed with the Committee in Washington to create a joint committee of experts: 1) to study and recommend a program “for the adjustment of the Philippine national recovery,” 2) to consider the economic merits of advancing the date of complete Philippine independence from 1946 to 1938 or 1939.


See Primer on the plebiscite, October 21, 1939 for a summary of the plebiscite issue itself.

The Ordinance to be appended to the 1935 Constitution, proposed by Resolution no. 39, was ratified, with 1,393,453 voting for and 49,633 against duty-free quotas on Philippine products for the remainder of the Commonwealth. (See The referendum scorecard 1935-1987, June 9, 2009)  



49,633 Negative

Hayden, note 53 pp. 869-870, summarizes the whole thing as Amendments to the Tydings-McDuffie Act by Public Act No. 300, 76th Congress, August 7, 1939; Amendments to “Ordinance Appended to the Constitution of the Philippines,” proposed by Resolution No. 39, adopted September 15, 1939, ratified October 24, 1939. Per Resolution 53, Second National Assembly, Third Special Session, November 3, 1939. More people participated in this plebiscite than in the May 1935 one; to be expected, since the population and electorate had been growing; but the number also surpassed the much more controversial plebiscite held the next year; one reason I can think of, is that the 1939 plebiscite, concerning economic questions, was viewed as significant because a necessary part of putting the country on a stable economic footing for independence; so, essentially, a second referendum on the question of independence. On the other hand, the figures registered in opposition to the propositions were much larger in 1940, pointing to the ferocity of public debate.

Screen shot 2014-08-18 at 5.33.41 PM

Source: PCDSPO Philippine Electoral Almanac

January 22, 1940: State of the Nation Address on proposed amendments:

On September 15, 1939, the National Assembly adopted a resolution proposing important amendments to the Constitution. I refer to the amendments es­tablishing a bicameral legislature, changing the tenure of office of the President and the Vice-President, creating an independent Commission on Elections, and fixing a compensation for Senators and Representatives higher than that now received by the members of the National Assembly. By Commonwealth Act No. 492, it is provided that these amendments shall he submitted to the people for their ratification at the next general election for local officials. After hearing the views of provincial and municipal officials and the members of the Council of State, as well as other persons who have no partisan interest, I deem it my duty to recommend that the law be amended so as to authorize the holding of a plebiscite on these amendments on a date different from that fixed for the election of provincial and municipal officials. While this may entail more expenses for the Government, I believe that the change is imperative from the stand­point of public interest.

The proposed constitutional amendments are in effect a revision of the present Constitution, and the resolution proposing the same clearly contemplates that they should be submitted to the people in an integrated form. The amendments so affect the entire document and in this sense are so interrelated as to preclude any manner of having them voted upon separately or severally.

The importance of these amendments requires that they be submitted to the people for ratification or re­jection squarely and without the introduction of extraneous and irrelevant issues, and this would be impossible if the plebiscite were held on the same date as that set for the next regular election of local officers. The proposed amendments affect only the national Government and should be acted upon by the voters independently of local political interests or considerations.


April 1940: National Assembly approval of constitutional amendments

The most far-reaching amendments to date were approved by the National Assembly in April of that year [1940] and accepted in a plebiscite in June: it cut the term of the president from 6 years to four, but allowed reelection for another 4; it restored the Senate; and it established the Commission on Elections. (See Plebiscitary Democracy)

June 18, 1940: Presidential re-election; Senate elected at large; creation of COMELEC

(See The referendum scorecard 1935-1987, June 9, 2009)

Hayden, Note 58 p. 870 gives an insight into the mechanics of the plebiscite:

Commonwealth Act No. 517, April 25, 1940. Proposed amendments published in English and Spanish in three consecutive issues of The Official Gazette, at least twenty days prior to the election; and copies of the amendments in these languages and principal native languages posted and made available for examination in the voting places.

Note 60 provides the official returns of the election of June 18, 1940, on the constitutional amendments proposed (Plebiscite votes 1,135,000 / population of 16,356,000.):


Screen shot 2014-08-15 at 9.27.10 AM

Source: PCDSPO Philippine Electoral Almanac

The first elections under the amended 1935 Constitution were held in November, 1941, but before the new Congress could convene, World War II broke out. The turnout in that election was lower than for the plebiscite in 1940. As for the plebiscite itself, there was marginally more enthusiasm for the restoration of the Senate, but this time, on a nationally-elected basis than for allowing presidential re-election; the most opposition was registered on the question of a Commission on Elections. The conventional wisdom today is that popular interest and enthusiasm for constitutional questions and thus, participation in plebiscites, is historically low. I can only assume this conventional wisdom emerged during the martial law “plebiscites” but this assertion certainly didn’t hold true for the first plebiscites. In fact, the opposite is true: public participation was higher for constitutional plebiscites.


1. Changing the President’s term from six years, no re-election, to four years, with one re-election, with a special election in 1941 qualifying the incumbent to a two-year extension to make for eight years; furthermore, the change in the President’s term was reflected in the proposed lower house, making the terms of representatives and local officials 4 years instead of three years, while senators would be elected for 6 year terms.

The argument of the “indispensable” man was put forward by Quezon himself, as a signal to his partymates that their forty year old one-party dominance (in the 1938 mid term election, for the first time, not a single opposition Assemblyman had been elected) might be imperiled on the eve of independence:

“The only thing that I am afraid of,” he confessed, “is that after I leave the presidency the country may be divided, not along political lines, but on the choice of my successor. The country is not prepared for a great division among our people.”

— Question 1: Presidential and Vice-Presidential terms (from six years, no re-election, to four years with one re-election)

1,072,039 FOR



2. Restoring the Senate but on a purely national basis; unicameralism had only won out in the 1935 Constitutional Convention because the bicameralists were divided on whether the Senate should be elected according to districts, as was the case under the Jones Law, or nationally. (One compromise no one has noticed is that the restoration of the Senate came at a price: the Congress of the Commonwealth and the Republic would both have a Commission on Appointments composed of congressmen and senators, in equal measure, a deviation from the Jones Law and American practice that puts the vetting of executive appointments strictly in the hands of the Senate. Further research, I think, might reveal that this was a very clever move to make assemblymen agree to diluting the powers of their chamber, while ensuring that no Senate President would be able to wield the powers Quezon had so effectively wielded in fighting the American governors-general by threatening to reject the confirmation of appointments. The always-pliable House would at least be able to obstruct any senatorial inclinations to put a squeeze on appointments: thus, while future Senate Presidents would always look back to the 1916-1935 Senate as a blueprint for their presidential ambitions, in truth, the 1940 setup makes using the Senate Presidency as more than a rhetorical podium a structural impossibility)

— Question 2: Re-establishment of a bicameral legislature of the Philippines

1,043,712 FOR
275,184 AGAINST


3. Establishing a Commission on Elections: combined with bloc voting, this made for the kind of equity of the incumbent that remains a reality in other Southeast Asian countries; removing bloc voting in the early 1950s, however, began a quarter century of erosion that led to the parties being unable to stand up to Marcos in 1972; and the multiparty system, in turn, has entrenched executive influence on national elections but in terms of a single person and not a ruling party, which reconfigures with every new presidency. — Question 3: Commission on Elections (creation of)

1,017,696 FOR
287,923 AGAINST


4. (Actually accomplished, separately, in 1939) approving the amendment of the Tydings-McDuffie Act to establish preferential trade relations with the United States up to the 1960s.

The amendments were approved in a national plebiscite. See Prelude to Dictatorship? Monday, Sep. 02, 1940for Time‘s account of the campaign for amendments in the context of the Far Eastern situation, and Bedroom Campaign: Monday, Nov. 24, 1941 (where block-voting was first practiced) for an account of the amendments finally operating for the first time: and the establishment of what, if the war hadn’t intervened, would have been a political system very familiar to the Malaysians and Singaporeans today (hence my belief that the Philippine experience since World War II has been a tug-of-war between our political class, whose instincts and preferences aren’t far removed from their peers in Malaysia and Singapore or even Japan, and the public, increasingly Western or at least broadly populist in its political actions and orientations; hence the constant frustration of the political class, which has failed to return to the comfortably setup envisioned before the War but came quite close to it in under martial law).

January 31, 1941: State of the Nation Address acknowledges National Assembly about to pass into history due to Constitutional amendments:

You have initiated amendments to our Constitution designed to strengthen the foundation of our democratic institutions and to insure their stability and permanence. And because of such a splendid record the members of the National Assembly have merited the lasting gratitude of our people.

As this body is about to pass into history by reason of the recent amendments to the Constitution creating a new bicameral legislature to be known as the Congress of the Philippines, I desire to express my deep gratification at the manner in which the members of this Assembly have dealt with the many important public questions requiring their attention.

The Constitution of 1935 was amended, dividing the National Assembly into two separate houses. The Senate of the Philippines and the House of Representatives were reestablished, with a Senate President and a Speaker of the House leading their respective chambers. The elections for members of these newly created chambers were held.. However, the onset of World War II prevented the elected members from assuming their posts and the legislature of the Commonwealth of the Philippines was dissolved upon the exile of the government of the Philippines. (Official Gazette

May 25, 1946: 2nd Commonwealth Congress Convened

The second Congress of the Commonwealth convened on May 25, 1946. It would only last until July 4, 1946, with the inauguration of the Third Republic of the Philippines with Manuel Roxas as President. (Official Gazette)


July 4, 1946: 1st Congress of the Third Republic was formed

Upon the inauguration of the Third Republic, the Second Congress of the Commonwealth was transformed into the first Congress of the Republic of the Philippines, also made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. (Official Gazette)

Bell Trade Act and Parity Rights Issue

In October 1945, Congressman Jasper Bell of Missouri introduced the Bell Trade Act in the U.S. Congress that would grant free trade between the Philippines and the United States until 1954, after which traded goods will be taxed 5% tariff increase every year until the full 100% was reached in 1974. One of the conditions included in the Bell Trade Act was parity rights for Americans. This meant that Americans would have the same access to the country’s natural resources as Filipino citizens do. Since the parity clause was unconstitutional, the Philippine constitution had to be amended. Pressure was upon the Congress to amend the Constitution because the Tydings Rehabilitation Act, which would have provided $620,000,000 as war reparation to the country, was connected to any trade relations agreement. Should the Philippines and the US not agree to a trade agreement, the Philippines would not have received more than $500.

September 18, 1946: President Roxas gets legislative approval on Parity Rights

President Manuel Roxas was able to get a legislative approval for the Parity clause, through a resolution granting United States Citizens right to the disposition and utilization of Philippine natural resources or the Parity Rights. The plebiscite happened on March 11, 1947. (See Chris Pforr, Americans in the Philippines: An illustrated history, December 2010)

March 11, 1947: The Parity Amendment in the Constitution

The plebiscite held granted United States citizens the right to the utilization of Philippine natural resources or the Parity Rights. This plebiscite was the first after World War II, and the first under the two-party system, and the only plebiscite conducted as a stand-alone vote (the 1967 plebiscite was an additional question attached to the ballot during a regular election). Public participation, particularly in comparison to the pre-war plebiscites, was very low, although the public debate was ferocious and government had to use every means at its disposal to get what it wanted. On the proposed Parity Amendment to the Constitution:

432,933 FOR
115,853 AGAINST

Screen shot 2014-08-15 at 9.29.03 AM

Source: PCDSPO Philippine Electoral Almanac

See Report on the Plebiscite, April 5, 1947. The drama was much more evident before the plebiscite, as the Roxas administration had difficulty maneuvering it through Congress. See Two Freedoms, March 24, 1947:

In spite of the untactful use of the word “exploitation,” the Philippines voted in a plebiscite last week (March 11) to amend the Constitution as Washington wanted. The vote was light (about 1,000,000 out of a registered vote of 3,000,000). With returns still limping in from outlying islands, the vote was about 5-to-1 in favor of the amendment. Even in Manila, center of Philippine economic nationalism, the amendment carried nearly 3-to-1. The only excitement occurred when Philippine President Manuel Roxas got a close shave from a Manila barber, one Julio Guillen y Cuerpo. Barber Guillen pulled a hand grenade from a bag of peanuts, missed Roxas but killed a bystander. Roxas had just finished a speech favoring U.S. parity in corporate control.

Parity extends to 1974. To nail down freedom from fear, the Philippines three days later signed an agreement giving the U.S. military and naval bases until 2046.

See Economic Relations with the United States:

The most controversial provision of the Bell Act was the “parity” clause that granted United States citizens equal economic rights with Filipinos, for example, in the exploitation of natural resources. If parity privileges of individuals or corporations were infringed upon, the president of the United States had the authority to revoke any aspect of the trade agreement. Payment of war damages amounting to US$620 million, as stipulated in the Philippine Rehabilitation Act of 1946, was made contingent on Philippine acceptance of the parity clause.

The Bell Act was approved by the Philippine legislature on July 2, two days before independence. The parity clause, however, required an amendment relating to the 1935 constitution’s thirteenth article, which reserved the exploitation of natural resources for Filipinos. This amendment could be obtained only with the approval of three-quarters of the members of the House and Senate and a plebiscite. The denial of seats in the House to six members of the leftist Democratic Alliance and three Nacionalistas on grounds of fraud and violent campaign tactics during the April 1946 election enabled Roxas to gain legislative approval on September 18. The definition of three-quarters became an issue because three-quarters of the sitting members, not the full House and Senate, had approved the amendment, but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the administration’s interpretation.

In March 1947, a plebiscite on the amendment was held; only 40 percent of the electorate participated, but the majority of those approved the amendment.

What is significant in the 1947 Parity Amendment campaign were two things:

1. The first time an assassination attempt was made on a President (a crazed barber, as it turned out, not a full-scale plot; but a close call nonetheless for Roxas at Plaza Miranda).

2. The removal of enough opposition congressmen and senators (on charges of fraud and terrorism) in order to obtain the votes required to propose the amendment to the people.

See Time’s Two Freedoms, Monday, Mar. 24, 1947 for a contemporary overall report and Report on the Plebiscite, April 5, 1947 for a report from the critics of the plebiscite.

1949: After controversial elections, some legislators propose return to single 6-year term for the presidency.

1950: Claro M. Recto warned that the martial law provisions of the 1935 Constitution could easily be abused by a president without scruples.

Claro M. Recto warned of the dangers of martial law, when he opposed President Elpidio Quirino’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Central Luzon on October 20, 1950. Quirino would try other ways to exercise emergency powers, but didn’t try martial law. (See Nuts and Bolts of Martial Law and Concerning Martial Law)

1958: Recto proposes amendment to strengthen Separation of Church and State

Claro M. Recto suggested, in an article in The Lawyers Journal (1958) that a Constitutional amendment be passed to further clarify the definition of the separation of Church and State in the Constitution. (See Filipinos and Freemasonry)


December 30, 1965: Ferdinand E. Marcos is elected as President in his first term. He is only the second president to be elected to a second term –and the first elected to a full second term (Quezon, after the 1930 amendments, was elected to a partial second term because of the eight-year maximum rule).


March 16, 1967: Senate and the House of Representatives passed a Joint Resolution that proposed constitutional amendments.

November 14, 1967: Increasing representatives; Members of Congress to sit in Convention

Subsequently, the Congress passed Republic Act No. 4913, providing that the amendments to the Constitution proposed be submitted at the general elections to be held on November 14, 1967.

The referendum was on the amendment to Article VI, Section 5 and 16 of the 1935 Constitution. The proposed plebiscite was apparently challenged in the Supreme Court; it declined to intervene. The plebiscite is under-reported but was a highly significant one, in that it was the first and only time, plebiscite questions resulted in a rejection by the electorate.

Question One: Increasing number of congressmen from 120 to 180

18% FOR

Question Two: Allowing members of Congress to serve in the coming Constitutional Convention without forfeiting their seats.

16.5% FOR

Screen shot 2014-08-15 at 9.30.53 AM

Source: PCDSPO Philippine Electoral Almanac

Details are slim, so all I can  reproduce are the overall percentages. All I’ve found is a footnote in Liang, citing Nick Joaquin, March 16, 1968:

“Of the 65 provinces, 62 rejected both issues; of the 50 chartered cities, 44 voted ‘no’ as against 2 voted ‘yes’.”

The immediate outcome of the rejection of Congress’ proposals was Republic Act No. 6132, prohibiting any political party and public officer from being represented in the Constitutional Convention, which was adopted in reaction to public opinion. See my April 27, 2009 column The elimination of public opinion for Raul Manglapus’ summary of events and the political implications of the plebiscite defeat:

According to Manglapus, politicians began to consider abolishing the [president’s] four-year term (with one possible re-election for another term) in 1949, because of the controversial elections of that year. By the 1960s, legislators were also keenly interested in two other Constitution-related proposals: first, that the membership of the House should be increased; and second, for elections to be synchronized to save time and money.

In 1967, fulfilling the provisions of the 1935 Constitution, Congress began sitting in joint session to consider these proposals, but no consensus could be reached on restoring a single six-year presidential term and on synchronized elections; there was agreement, though, to increase the number of representatives.

At which point, according to Manglapus, “someone said, ‘Since we cannot agree and we cannot keep on meeting in joint sessions because the public will demand that we cease this futile exercise, let us call a Convention.’”

But, Manglapus added, “the intention of course was that the Congressmen and the Senators were to control the Convention. And therefore when somebody said, ‘Let us call a Convention, anyway we can all be members of that Convention and we can control it,’ some other members of the House said ‘We cannot because we are inhibited by the present Constitution.’”

Clever colleagues proposed a solution: ‘All we have to do is amend the present Constitution at the same time that we pass the increase of seats in the House. We will say ‘However, a senator or congressman may be a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.’”

The problem was that any amendment had to be submitted to the people; Manglapus related that public opinion was disgusted with such a self-serving proposal, the result being “84 percent of them said ‘no.’ And the next morning the Senators and Congressmen woke up to find they had created a frankenstein monster. They had called a Constitutional Convention and they were not going to control it. And so they began to make noises that there was no need for the Convention, that [it] would be expensive; and cheaper and more convenient for the Senators and Congressmen to resume their work as a constituent assembly.”

Public opinion forced Congress to pass a Constitutional Convention Act, according to Manglapus, and deprived the political professionals of the fruits of victory twice over.

As I pointed out, as things turned out, robbing the political class of control over the 1971 Convention may have predisposed it to accepting Marcos’ solution: to force the Convention to accept his own draft, while ensuring general compliance by offering delegates seats in a new parliament on condition they approved Marcos’ draft.

June 1,1971: Constitutional Convention called to order

After fits and starts (and one wonders, since the Constitutional Convention law was passed in 1967, whether with the encouragement based on foresight, of Marcos, preparing for his second term), a Constitutional Convention was called, with several main proposals to consider: 1. Unitary versus Federal 2. Presidential versus Parliamentary

3. Unicameral versus Bicameral

See The Constitution speaks, February 12, 1972.

1972:  Controversies rock the Constitutional Convention.

Marcos’s political problem was that his 1969 term expired on December 30, 1973; and that, ideally, the extinction of the 1935 Constitution should be accomplished by means of the process set out in it. He seems to have been concerned that the Supreme Court might become the focus of resistance to his plans, as cases challenging martial law began to clog the court’s docket. An additional problem arose, when some senators tried to organize a ruckus in Congress, in time for the 1973 Regular Session scheduled to begin on January 22, 1973.

See The politicalization of the Constitutional Convention, January 22, 1972; Constitutional Convention Or Malacañang Kennel? Editorial for January 22, 1972; Constitutional Convention: Nakakahiya! February 26, 1972;

September 23, 1972: President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared Martial Law through Proclamation 1081, s. 1972.

As the Martial Law was implemented, the Constitutional Convention had approved a draft acceptable to President Marcos (in late 1972) and presented it to him, formally, on December 1, 1972; he’d accordingly issued a proclamation calling for a plebiscite to ratify or reject the new Constitution.

It seems that Marcos got wind of the possibility public opinion had swung against ratification. So if he held a plebiscite, he might lose; and win or lose, Congress or at least the Senate if not the House, seemed hell-bent on challenging martial law when it resumed session on January 22; that challenge, among other things, might stiffen the spine of the Supreme Court. So something had to be done before January 22.

 This concern is reflected in his December 23, 1972 announcement postponing the plebiscite; statements in December 29 in the state-controlled media warning of a “constitutional crisis” if senators insisted on convening in January, 1973; then, his decree creating Barangay Assemblies on January 5; then, having created a new mechanism, his January 7 order stating that the plebiscite originally scheduled for January 15 might be held on February 19 or March 15 as alternate dates; in other words, he postponed the only option, a plebiscite, to create two tracks, the barangay or citizens’ assembly and plebiscite paths.

Prior to martial law, Marcos had been admiringly described by his critics as engaging in Ju-Jitsu, and he handled the possibility that Congress would convene, under the provisions of the 1935 Constitution, and the difficulty represented by a plebiscite in the old manner leading to the rejection of the new constitution, by scrapping the rules.

September 24, 1972: President Marcos issued Presidential Decree No.1 adopting the Integrated Reorganization Plan. Thousands of employees mostly from BIR and Customs were dismissed from government service.

Marcos as a political strategist and tactician can be seen in his own diary entries, showing how in 1972, on September 24 (the day after he proclaimed martial law) he bluntly warned the Supreme Court that any effort to question his proclamation might provoke him into proclaiming a revolutionary government, which would mean shutting down the Supreme Court; September 26 (or three days after he proclaimed martial law) he was still telling subordinates that Congress and the Constitutional Convention would be untouched;

December 1, 1972: the Constitutional Convention presented a draft to President Marcos, which he found acceptable. He accordingly issued a proclamation calling for a plebiscite to ratify the new Constitution.


December 23, 1972: President Marcos announced the  postponement of the plebiscite.

January 7, 1973: Marcos postpones plebiscite

January 7, 1973: Marcos postpones plebiscite

President Marcos once again gave an announcement that the January 15 plebiscite was to be moved to either February 19 or March 15.

As for the Marcos “plebiscites” from 1973 to 1984, they were conducted in a manner entirely different from the 1935-1967 plebiscites and that held in 1987. So they are not part of a piece. What Marcos was trying to capitalize on was the familiarity of the public with referenda as a democratic process.

January 10-15, 1973: “Citizen’s Assemblies” on proposed Constitution

Marcos lowered the voting age from 18 to 15 and illiterates were allowed to vote. From January 10 to 15, a series of “citizens’ assemblies” were held, in lieu of a plebiscite in the manner specified by the 1935 Constitution. The “results” of the January 10-15, 1973 were:

— Question One: Whether to adopt the proposed (1973) Constitution:

14,976,561 (90.67%) Yes
743,869 (9.33%) No


— Question Two: Whether the public still wanted a plebiscite to be called to ratify the Constitution:

1,421,616 (9.04%) Yes
14,298,814 (90.96%) No


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With total valid votes at 15,720,430 (compare this figure with the 1967 plebiscite and 1969 presidential election figures; the Supreme Court itself, in its decision on the “ratification” of the 1973 Constitution, mentioned “the total number of registered voters 21 years of age or over in the entire Philippines, available in January 1973, was less than 12 million”: this suggests the boost in voting numbers provided by relaxing voting requirements such as age or literacy; except that Marcos, as a shrewd and self-confident strategist, didn’t rely on subordinates to scrounge around for a “will I win by 1 million” margin, but rather, created an infinitely safer margin for himself of nearly 3 million votes!).

January 13, 1973:  Marcos marshalls support among allies for his own draft of the proposed new constitution was what was going to be “ratified”.

(See The referendum scorecard 1935-1987, June 9, 2009)

January 17, 1973: Congress is padlocked. 

Two days later, President Marcos certified that the new constitution had been ratified. And then, he padlocked Congress, which he argued, was now defunct. All that was left was for the Supreme Court to declare the process valid. (See The referendum scorecard 1935-1987, June 9, 2009) This, the Supreme Court did in Javellana v. Executive Secretaryon March 31, 1973. Chief Justice Concepcion wrote the decision, stated his objections, and retired ahead of schedule in muted protest. For contemporary coverage, see Smiling no more, January 22, 1973.

January 23, 1973: Marcos once again reviewed the option of simply proclaiming a revolutionary government. 

January 24, 1973: Marcos reviewed the option of citizen’s assemblies instead of a secret ballot in a plebiscite.

January 27, 1973: Marcos saw plebiscites as a way to legitimize his rule.

Marcos expressed satisfaction with how everyone has fallen in line, and contemptuously noting the Justices of the Supreme Court seemed inclined to fall in line too, as long as he reassured them they could keep their jobs. And so, once success had been achieved, how the plebiscite route became his favored option for validating his rule; see May 5 and July 5-6. And his self-satisfaction a year after proclaiming martial law, see September 22. For my purposes, it’s not relevant to rehash the Marcos plebiscites which you can find in Wikipedia. In 1981, a Time Magazine report, Blighted win reported the indifference and civic disobedience to voting having been made mandatory:

In their strenuous efforts to ensure heavy voter participation and thereby give the regime a popular mandate, the Marcos forces had warned Filipinos that if they flouted the electoral law – as nearly 4 million voters did in a national plebiscite last April – they faced up to six months’ imprisonment. A week before the election, the warnings were reinforced by television films of two men who had been jailed for failing to vote in April. First Lady Imelda Marcos tried to lure Filipinos to the polls by hinting that amnesty might be granted to April boycotters if they voted this time. In the campaign’s closing days, President Marcos even invoked possible religious sanctions, citing a 1948 statement by Pope Pius XII that it was “a grave sin, a mortal offense” not to vote. That provoked a sharp rejoinder from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines that Marcos had taken the Pontiffs remarks out of context.


October 16-17,1976: Plebiscite on Martial Law

A plebiscite was held in order to determine if people were amenable to  amendments to the 1973 Constitution.

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Source: PCDSPO Philippine Electoral Almanac

June 12, 1978: Marcos restores Legislature

After having amended the 1973 constitution in 1976 to guarantee himself legislative powers even if a parliament convened, Ferdinand Marcos finally restored the legislature. It’s interesting to consider what the process of constitutional amendments was like, when the Batasang Pambansa was eventually established. (See The Worm Within)

1980: Proposed amendment on immunity from suit

One of Marcos’ lieutenants, Assemblyman Rodolfo Albano Jr. of Isabela province proposed a constitutional amendment. The amendment would turn the immunity from suit enjoyed by a president during his term of office, into a permanent protection. That is, immunity from suit for life. Assemblyman Arturo Tolentino rose in parliament to oppose the amendment (Tolentino also wrote one of the most interesting autobiographies ever penned by a Filipino politician, titling his book Voice of Dissent).

In a move reminiscent of Quezon’s informal committee to study his re-election, Parliament set up a committee composed of Justice Minister Ricardo Puno, Solicitor-General Estelito Mendoza, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Minister Leonardo Perez (Marcos’s adviser on political affairs) and Assemblymen Emmanuel Pelaez, Juan Liwag, and Tolentino. Tolentino convinced the committee to refuse to tackle the proposal. It was sent to President Marcos and discussed in a meeting.

Tolentino recounts that in the meeting, Marcos was furious. He asked, “Where is it? Where is that provision? What will the military think of me if I will have only my own immunity as president and during my tenure?” He looked at the report and angrily repeated, “What will the military think of me when I will continue to be immune from suit as president but those who are under me and who followed my orders in times of crisis and in an hour of need will not have any immunity?”

Marcos’ table-thumping met with silence. So he went further: “This is the time for us to determine who are with me and who are not with me; and for those who are not with me, the door is open. You can join people who are like you. You have no place here.”An Assemblyman immediately chimed in suggesting not only that the proposal for lifetime immunity for the President be presented to Parliament, but immunity should be lifetime as well for other officials. Tolentino recounts, “in the face of presidential ire, nobody objected; I did not object.”

The proposed amendment was debated in parliament and Tolentino devoted six pages of his memoirs to a transcript of the debate. He claimed he was able to”water down” the amendment through a typically lawyerly definition of terms:

The extended immunity after tenure would not prevent a court from acquiring jurisdiction over the person of the ex-president who had become a private citizen, and as such subject to the judicial process. But the court would have no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit if it is a lawful official act… and so the case would be dismissed. The ex-president would not really be immune from suit but cannot be held liable because what is charged is an “official act”.

In other words, no president would be exempt from being charged in court; but because every official act’s presumed legal, and thus every official act is lawful, the courts would have had to automatically dismiss any charges against any former president.

(See The worm within, Nov 25, 2008)


April 7, 1981: Plebiscite

The government held yet another a plebiscite. It won, just as it would win when Marcos engineered more constitutional amendments, including yet another typically tricky one: since he was getting older, and sicker, even his party wanted a constitutional successor. So Marcos said yes. (See Plebiscitary Democracy)

January 27, 1984: Plebiscite held on various amendments

 A plebiscite was held in order to get the approval of the people on various proposed amendments to the constitution.

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Source: PCDSPO Philippine Electoral Almanac

March 25, 1986: Provisional constitution adopted

President Corazon Aquino declared in Proc. No. 3 “declaring a national policy to implement reforms mandated by the people protecting their basic rights, adopting a provisional constitution and providing for an orderly transition to a government under a new Constitution. After the EDSA revolution, there was a debate as to which policy to pursue concerning the 1973 Constitution as amended: 1. Restore the 1935 Constitution, on the grounds that the 1973 Constitution had never been validly ratified. 2. Retain the 1973 Constitution. 3. Proclaim a Revolutionary Government, govern under a temporary constitution, while paving the way for an appointed commission to write a new constitution. For details on the debate, see my series, Wedded to an Old Charter (December 18, 2008), Accommodating new forces( December 22, 2008), and ‘35, ‘73 or a new start? (December 24, 2008). See Cory’s Proclamation No. 3, by Napoleon G. Rama in the Free Press, April 19, 1986.

April 23, 1986: Through  Proc. No. 9 , Pres. Aquino created a Constitutional Commission to replace the 1973 Constitution.

Read Farewell, My Lovely, July 26, 1986

February 2, 1987: Ratification of the 1987 Constitution

The results were as follows:

17,059,495 (76.37%) YES
5,058,714 (26.65%) NO


The plebiscite ratified the 1987 Constitution. Under the charter, Aquino served as President until mid-1992.

(See The worm within, Nov 25, 2008)

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Source: PCDSPO Philippine Electoral Almanac


On February 16, 1987 Time reported the plebiscite as follows in The Philippines:

By the time it had ended, the largest electoral turnout in Philippine history had resoundingly endorsed the new constitution by a vote of more than 3 to 1. When the plebiscite results were proclaimed Saturday, they showed the document had been approved by some 16.6 million votes, with about 5.2 million opposed, for a winning margin of 76%. The outcome was a personal triumph for President Corazon Aquino, who had turned the plebiscite into a nationwide referendum on her government. “We have surprised the world again,” said the President. “The tremendous vote of confidence of Feb. 2 reaffirms the now unquestionable legitimacy and democratic power of our government.”

Aquino’s overwhelming victory was all the more remarkable because it followed several weeks of political unrest. On Jan. 22 a violent clash between soldiers and pro-land-reform demonstrators left at least a dozen dead. A week later, a tense three-day coup attempt ended when rebel soldiers surrendered. The President’s margin of victory forced even her most bitter opponents to concede that it represented the popular will. “We accept the verdict of the Filipino people,” said former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, who led the rightist opposition under the banner of the Nationalista Party. He added, “We did our share in making democracy work by taking the other side of the issue.” Declared Jose Castro, a leader of the leftist Bayan Party: “We will abide with the masses’ decision.”

From my December 24, 2008 article: In David Wurfel’s estimation, “The basic law is probably close to what it would have been had the Constitutional Convention of 1971 been able to complete its work without the imposition of authoritarian rule.” In a way, things had come full circle. The unfinished task of the old Con-Con was completed. The idealism of some members of the Con-Con, which had provided some hope to an apparently disintegrating society and its government, found fulfillment, after a long interlude of repression. At the same time, some of the painful lessons and progressive insights gained under a dictatorship had borne fruit. But since then, the defects of that Constitution have become manifest; and among the defects are the thorny issues surrounding just how proposing amendments should come about. In July 1987, Congress is reestablished.

1992: SWS Survey on Charter Change

In the 1992 SWS survey, 40% agree that the Constitutional provisions should be changed at that time.


1993: Constituent Assembly of Congress convened

The House of Representatives passed Resolution 24 convening a Constituent Assembly of Congress to propose amendments to the Constitution, to undertake “structural and social action designed to propel the Philippines to a (newly industrialized country) status before the turn of the century in addition to a possible shift from presidential to parliamentary government.” The move did not push through, but it did not die as well. The move was tried again in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Congress.

August 1995: Shift towards Parliamentary Government

The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments began public hearings on constitutional change and shifting to a parliamentary government.


September 1995: Parliamentary Constitution leaked

The Manila Times published a leaked draft parliamentary constitution, apparently prepared by the National Security Council, which was headed by Jose Almonte) 

March 19, 1997: Supreme Court rules in Santiago v. Comelec

See G.R. No. 127325, March 19, 1997:

Under Section 2 of Article XVII of the Constitution and Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 6735, a petition for initiative on the Constitution must be signed by at least 12% of the total number of registered voters of which every legislative district is represented by at least 3% of the registered voters therein. The Delfin Petition does not contain signatures of the required number of voters. Delfin himself admits that he has not yet gathered signatures and that the purpose of his petition is primarily to obtain assistance in his drive to gather signatures. Without the required signatures, the petition cannot be deemed validly initiated…

The foregoing considered, further discussion on the issue of whether the proposal to lift the term limits of elective national and local officials is an amendment to, and not a revision of, the Constitution is rendered unnecessary, if not academic.


September 23, 1997: SC dismissed signature campaign

The Supreme Court dismissed the People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (PIRMA)’s  petition which sought to amend the Constitution through a signature campaign. (PIRMA vs. COMELEC, 1997)


September 27, 1997: Rally held against charter change

Former President Cory Aquino and Jaime Cardinal Sin spearheaded an anti-charter change rally with the support of Catholic bishops at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila. (GMA News: Past major rallies vs. charter change, February 29, 2008)

March and June 1999: SWS survey on charter change

In the March 1999 survey by SWS, 23% agree that the provisions in the Constitution should be changed now.

August 1999:  Estrada proposes CONCORD

President Joseph Ejercito Estrada proposes the Constitutional Correction for Development (CONCORD), to amend economic provisions of the Constitution in order to lift prohibiting provisions on foreign ownership of land and stake in any local industry. 

August 20, 1999: 2nd rally against cha-cha

Former President Cory Aquino and Cardinal Sin led another anti-charter change rally this time at Ayala Avenue, Makati against President Estrada’s version of charter change, the Constitutional Correction for Development (CONCORD). (Past major rallies vs. charter change, GMANews TV, February 29, 2008)

June 10, 2001: Carpio proposes three amendments Antonio Carpio (now Associate Justice) op-ed proposing three “necessary” amendments to the Constitution:

The first necessary and urgent change is amending the fixed and permanent definition of the national territory in our Constitution. The Constitution defines the national territory to include all lands and waters over which the Philippines has historic or legal title. This includes Sabah and the Kalayaan Island Group. No president can conclude a peace settlement with Malaysia over the Sabah issue without violating the Constitution… The only solution is to amend the Constitution to insert the proviso “unless otherwise provided by law” as a qualification to the current definition of the national territory in the Constitution. This way, the President can by law be authorized to settle the Sabah dispute, the Congress can enact the national baselines law and the DFA can argue more seriously the Sipadan case before the ICJ. Most importantly, we can prepare a stronger case for the big battle of them all: the future arbitration of the Spratlys dispute before the ICJ. The second most important amendment to the present Constitution is the “regionalization” of the Senate. Visayas and Mindanao have always been under-represented in the Senate, and the incoming Senate, with 19 senators from Luzon, is no exception. If senators are elected by region and not nationwide, there will be an equitable representation of all regions, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, in the upper chamber of Congress… The third most important amendment to the Constitution is the return of the country to a true democracy by instituting the rule of the majority. The present Constitution provides for a multi-party system but inexplicably fails to require a run-off in presidential elections if no candidate wins a majority of the votes cast. A run-off is an essential element of a multi-party system and ensures that the president enjoys the mandate of the majority.

In July 2001, Jose de Venecia, former House Speaker, assigned priority status to amending the 1987 Constitution through a constituent assembly in Congress. He chose Antonio Eduardo Nachura, representing the Second District of Western Samar, to lead the Committee on Constitutional Amendments. 

2002-2005: Pulse Asia and SWS Surveys on Charter Change

In the November 2002 survey by SWS, only 21% agree that there are Constitutional provisions that are needed to be changed at that time. In the 2003 survey by Pulse Asia, 77% of Filipinos have little or no knowledge of Constitution. Of the 23% of Filipinos who have at least a sufficient knowledge of the charter, only 4 out of 10 (39%) support moves for amendments during that time, while another 39% oppose but are open to amendments some time in the future. According to SWS in June, only 20% think that there are Constitutional provisions that need to be changed.

In the March 2005 Pulse Asia survey, 29% agreed that the Constitution should be amended.
In May of the same year, the SWS survey showed that 30% of Filipinos agreed that there are Constitutional provisions that should be changed now.

September 1, 2003: Jose Almonte admits he was behind PIRMA

In an interview by Newsbreak, Jose Almonte admits to being the one behind PIRMA. “I was the one behind it. I take full responsibility. But I would like to clarify certain points. It was not Charter change: it was an implementation of the people power provision of the Constitution, that the people can take the initiative to amend the Constitution. This was what we wanted: for the people to initiate and approve a resolution that any president of the Republic who. in their perception and their opinion, has done very well, be made an exemption to the term limits. He should be allowed to run again.” “Those who were against it were the ones who would be affected, and they were those who would like to become president in 1998.”

Asked about PIRMA was to prevent an Estrada Presidency – “That is correct. In my view, he would reverse all the reforms that the Ramos government had done. We knew that only the incumbent. President Ramos, could beat Estrada in the election. In short: if we have to defeat Estrada in an election, then we have to allow Ramos to run again. I have nothing personal against Estrada. Whoever was the strongest potential candidate at the time was immaterial. The original intention of Pirma was for a good president to be allowed to run again.” (Newsbreak Archives, Jose Almonte: The Original intention of PIRMA was for a good president to run again).

August 19, 2005: GMA forms Consultative Commission

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Executive Order 453, Creating a consultative commission to propose the revision of the 1987 constitution in consultation with various sectors of society. A year later, the Consultative Commission pushed for the amendment of constitution to parliamentary-federal government. (See Jose Abueva’s “Some Advantages of Federalism and Parliamentary Government for the Philippines”)


October 2005: Pulse Asia Survey on Charter Change

In October, 36% agreed that the Constitution should be amended. At the same time, 26% are in favor or changing the present presidential system into a parliamentary system of government.

November 6, 2005: Matrix of various proposals for Constitutional amendments

Prepared by PCIJ and published online as Proposals for charter change: A comparison of the Abueva, House, and Coalition for Charter Change proposals.

December 15, 2005: Consultative Commission on Charter Change finishes report

After three months of work, the Consultative Commission on Charter Change proposes the postponement of elections until 2010. A parliamentary government is proposed, and gradual Federalism as well as the liberalization of economic provisions of the Constitution. See sidebar of this article for the records of the deliberations of the Commission.


November 6, 2005: House to begin debate on Constitutional Amendments

As reported by PCIJ.

2006: Congress proposes People’s Initiative

House of Representatives presents matrix of proposed amendments to the Constitution: the amendments propose a unicameral, parliamentary, People’s Initiative proposed as means to accomplish Constitutional amendments. Supreme Court struck down people’s initiative as a means for amendments. 

February 15, 2006: Makati Business Club proposes the following amendments to the Constitution:


(1) The President’s and Vice President’s term be limited to four years, with one re-election allowed as in the past. (2) The President and Vice President should come from the same party. (3) Revert to the two party system and pass measures that will penalize turncoatism. (4) If a multiparty system is maintained, then a run-off election for President and Vice President must be provided when none of the candidates achieve a clear majority.(5) The provisions or restrictions on economic activities should be removed from the Constitution and made a matter of law that Congress can amend, revise or repeal as the need arises to meet changing conditions and global competition.

Sergio Osmeña III commissions survey to take snapshot of public opinion on Constitutional amendments. The results take anti-Charter Change advocates by surprise.

March, April and July 2006: Pulse Asia Survey on Charter Change

In the March 2006 Pulse Asia survey, more Filipinos were in favor of amending the Constitution as compared to the previous year. 43% agreed that the Constitution should be amended. 33% are in favor or changing the present presidential system into a parliamentary system of government.
Meanwhile, in April, 44% agreed that the Constitution should be amended. In July, less Filipinos were in favor of the Constitutional amendments. Only 40% agreed that the Constitution should be amended.
According to the SWS survey in June, 27% will vote for a new Constitution that President GMA wants.


July 29, 2006: See Explainer: The difference between parliamentary and presidential government.


August 2, 2006: See Explainer: Parliamentary and Unicameral Resources.


August 6, 2006: See Explainer: The difference between presidential and parliamentary government.


September and November 2006: SWS and Pulse Asia Survey on Charter Change

According to the SWS survey in September, 29% will vote for a new Constitution that President GMA wants.

In Pulse Asia’s November 2006 survey, 39% are in favor of changing the Constitution. In the same month, SWS found out that only 28% will vote for a new Constitution that President GMA wants.

Senate Economic Planning Office publishes Electoral System, Parties and Bureaucracy: The Missing Links in the Charter Change Debate

October 25, 2006: Supreme Court rules in Lambino v. Comelec.

See Lambino v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 174153, October 25, 2006.

There can be no mistake about it. The framers of the Constitution intended, and wrote, a clear distinction between “amendment” and “revision” of the Constitution. The framers intended, and wrote, that only Congress or a constitutional convention may propose revisions to the Constitution. The framers intended, and wrote, that a people’s initiative may propose only amendments to the Constitution. Where the intent and language of the Constitution clearly withhold from the people the power to propose revisions to the Constitution, the people cannot propose revisions even as they are empowered to propose amendments.

December 5-7, 2006: Congress proposes move to parliament, postponement of elections and term extension

The month began with the House of Representatives vowing it would finally propose amendments to the Philippine Constitution. It would do so with or without the participation of the Senate. To facilitate the process, it amended its own rules to dispense with a previous (and long-standing) requirement that constitutional proposals undergo the same process as legislative measures. In a marathon session that went on from Dec. 5 to 6, the House majority forced through the change. The next day, the House proceeded to attempt to propose a resolution which would transform itself into a Constituent Assembly; this would be made possible by a House Resolution stating the intent of the House. This was passed early in the morning of Dec. 7. But the bruising dusk to dawn sessions of the past days antagonized the public to an extent that surprised the House leadership and even the president. The reason people were antagonized was in the nature of the House proposals. First, to postpone elections from May 2007 to November of next year; second, to immediately transform the Congress into a Parliament if the proposals were approved in a plebiscite; third, to lift term limits (congressmen are presently limited to three, three-year terms) and lengthen terms from 3 to 5 years. They would do so, even in the face of Senate opposition, and provoke a constitutional crisis if necessary. The Catholic hierarchy said it would call the people to a rally on Dec. 15. Word got around that other influential groups would join the Catholics; the president got nervous, and told the House leadership she would disown them if they didn’t drop their plans.

December 9, 2006: Congress challenges Senate to call for Constitutional Convention

The Speaker of the House held a press conference saying he was bowing to public pressure, but -in his own words — then tried to “turn the tables” on the Senate by challenging it to call for a Constitutional Convention. The Speaker gave an ultimatum: The Senate had three days to respond or the House would continue with its plans. This further galvanized public opposition and the intention of the various churches and civic groups to rally.

It was at that point that the president began more public maneuverings even as some pretty frantic plans were launched to blunt the effect of a rally. First, the national gambling authority, the Philippine Amusements and Games Corporation, hired the location where the rally was supposed to take place. The rally organizers were forced to announce a postponement from Friday the 15h to Sunday the 17th. Then, on the 15th, the president made the announcement quoted above.

December 14, 2006: GMA sets aside charter change.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said this: “It is time to gather together all the energies of our people for the continuing work ahead… Philippine democracy will always find the proper time and opportunity for Charter reform at a time when the people deem it ripe and needful, and in the manner they deem proper. The nation must consolidate now and I call upon all our institutions and sectors to stand as one for the country’s future.”

December 19, 2006: GMA challenges national leaders to take up charter change.

President Arroyo said this: “There are three realities we face as a nation: One, that the people accept the need for Charter change to overhaul the system; two, that there is a need for a unified national consensus on the means and timetable; and three, that this is a platform commitment of the administration that will be pursued with urgency and fervor…This is a matter of paramount national interest and our leaders must all rise to the challenge.”

May 7, 2008: Proposal on unitary to federal government

Rep. Monico O. Puentevella Tuesday filed House Concurrent Resolution 15 which supported the initiative of Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr., author of Joint Resolution 10 that has been backed by 16 senators  to move to change the form of government to federal from unitary. SeeHouse resolution supports change in form of government See Explainer: Charter Change script on what makes for a successful charter change

October 2008: SWS Survey on Charter Change

In the October 2008 SWS survey, 15% are in favor of amending the Constitution to allow President Arroyo extend her term.

November 10, 2008: Fr. Bernas on amendments on choosing supreme court and other appellate justices

Serious talk about constitutional amendment after the 2010 elections is growing in strength. If we should have an amendatory process, I am certain that one of the provisions which will be subjected to examination is the manner of choosing Supreme Court justices and other appellate justices. Until this happens, we have to make the present system work.

(Inquirer Opinion, Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J)

December 1, 2008

PCIJ summary of pro- and anti-amendments bills.

February 2009: Pulse Asia and SWS Survey on Charter Change

In the February 2009 survey by Pulse Asia, 33% are in favor of changing the Constitution. According to SWS, 15% are in favor of amending the Constitution to allow President Arroyo extend her term.

April 22, 2009:  Rep. Luis Villafuerte sponsors resolution calling upon the House of Representatives to “convene for the purpose of considering proposals to amend or revise the constitution, upon a vote of three fourths of all the members of Congress

See House Resolution 1109 sponsored by Rep. Luis Villafuerte.

See op-ed by Joel Rocamora on impossibility of ruling coalition’s math at the time.

June 2009: SWS Survey on Charter Change

In the June 2009 SWS survey, 12% are in favor of amending the Constitution to allow President Arroyo extend her term.

June 4, 2009: Locsin statement on House unilaterally convening a Constituent Assembly.

From his statement:

I submit that the Supreme Court and the country as a whole will ignore us — and then laugh at us all the way to the ignominious end of the 14th Congress. We shall be ignored as surely as we shall be laughed at.

For this is a resolution calling upon the members of Congress but naming only the members of the House to convene constituently for no stated purpose. And yet the Constitution specifies that Congress may convene as a constituent assembly only for the purpose of considering — considering — not introducing let alone just awaiting — proposals to amend or revise the Constitution upon a vote of 3/4th of all the members of Congress.

This resolution puts the cart before the horse because, there being no amendments to consider, there is no purpose to convene Congress as a constituent assembly. It is a blatant lie that this resolution reflected upon its introduction to the floor of the House a consensus of the House of a need to amend the Constitution because, aside from the Speaker of the House who filed his amendment to the economic provisions as a regular bill, no one has expressed any desire to change the Constitution or expressly specified in what particular respect.


July 3, 2009: One Voice full-page ad opposing House Resolution 1109 which proposed strategy of House of Representatives convening a Constituent Assembly in Congress.


August 3, 2009: Jesuit priest Joaquin Bernas proposed replacing the JBC with old system of Commission on Appointments approving judicial nominations

Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J.  proposed to amend provisions in the Constitution, particularly the process of appointing justices of the Supreme Court, appointed by the president from the list prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council (see Inquirer: Appointing a Supreme Court justice).

See also Inquirer: Saludo blows out


June 14, 2012: Fr. Bernas on restoring a 1935 constitutional provision on appointments to the judiciary

Fr. Bernas has argued for a return to the 1935 system that requires appointees to pass through the CA, at least for candidates to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. He agrees with the late former senator and fellow ConCom member Francisco Rodrigo who favored the CA choosing pre-martial justices. Bernas recalls how Rodrigo “valiantly” fought, but failed, to restore the 1935 constitutional provision.

From President Quezon on to Osmeña, Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal and even Marcos before he declared martial law, the appointments to the Judiciary, especially to the Supreme Court and to the Court of Appeals, were high-class, so much so that we had the highest, the utmost respect for the Judiciary,” Rodrigo had said. “Before the declaration of martial law, we regarded the Supreme Court, up to the Concepcion Court, with awe and respect. And so why should we change this now, merely because of what happened during martial law?

(See ABS-CBN News, For better judiciary, reforms in appointment process needed)

June 25, 2013: Fr. Bernas on giving back to the Commission on Appointments the power to confirm appointments to the Supreme Court

I keep referring to things prior to martial law because I believe that the completely discretionary power of the president under martial law to appoint members of the judiciary was what destroyed the Philippine judicial system. We have not yet recovered from that debacle, and I am not sure which direction the present administration is going. What then?
One thought I have is that we should give back to the Commission on Appointments the power to confirm appointments to the Supreme Court. Go back, in other words, to the 1935 system. But, yes, only for Supreme Court justices. Let the JBC continue to handle appointments to lower levels. Of course, on the evidence of how the impeachment of Renato Corona was conducted by the House of Representatives and the Senate, one cannot claim that a Commission on Appointments would work perfectly. But a fully transparent process of the commission will help temper the allure of political temptations. Regrettably, however, a return to the old system can only happen after a constitutional amendment, which may not be near in coming.

July 9, 2013: House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. filed a concurrent resolution proposing amendments to the 1987 Constitution regarding economic provisions on foreign capital investments in the country.

See Belmonte makes fresh push for Cha-cha, but Palace questions its urgency

July 16, 2014: Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 2

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV introduced a “concurrent resolution proposing the amendment of section 16, article vii of the 1987 Philippine constitution in order to limit the confirmation process of the commission on appointment for members of the staff of the AFP and service commanders of the army, air force, and navy only. (S. Ct. Reso. No. 2, 2013)

August 7, 2014: Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice proposes term extension for President Aquino and is currently drafting a bill to amend the Constitution.


August 13, 2014: President Aquino’s Interview with TV5

Asked about term extension in an interview, President Benigno S. Aquino III said that he will listen to what his “bosses” [people] want.

PRES. AQUINO: Well, ‘nung pinasukan ko ho ito, ang tanda ko one term of six years. Ngayon, after having said that, siyempre, ang mga boss ko ho kailangan kong pakinggan rin e, at hindi ibig sabihin noon na automatic na hahabol ako na magkaroon pa akong dagdag dito, ano. Pero ang tanong nga doon: Paano ba natin masisigurado na ‘yung mga repormang nagawa natin—at ‘pag nina-natin ko, lahat ho ng—mula ‘yung nagbigay sa akin ‘nung mandato nandiyan nakikidamay sa akin, nasa gobyerno, wala sa gobyerno—na maging permanente na itong pagbabago natin. So pagkokonsulta ho sa mga boss ‘yon. Paano ba ang mas may katiyakan tayo na ‘yung pinaghirapan nating lahat ay talaga namang magkaroon na ng ugat at magkatotoo ng permanenteng pagbabago.

(See full transcript of President Aquino with TV5)

See President Aquino says he is open to Cha-Cha, 2nd term, and a weaker SC


August 26, 2014: Resolution of Both House No. 1

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. authored a House Resolution that proposed amendments on some economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution. He particularly seeks to add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in provisions in Articles II, XII & XVI.

See Complete List of House Bills & Resolutions on Charter Change and Constitutional Amendments 


August 27, 2014: President Aquino’s Interview with Bombo Radyo

In a recent interview with Bombo Radyo, President Aquino said that he was open to amending the 1987 Constitution to set limits to the “judicial overreach” but his openness to charter change has nothing to do with seeking a second term of office.

MR. ACOL: Nabanggit niyo na kayo ay tila bukas doon naman sa tinatawag na Charter Change. Pero may pahawatig na sinasabing maramingmay kumontra, may mga kritiko po kayo, meron din namang sumuporta na sinasabing bukas din kayo kung saka-sakali na tinatawag na tatakbo sa 2016 elections kung magkaroon ng Charter Change. Ano pong konteksto talaga nang nabanggit n’yong ito?

PRES. AQUINO: Iyong judicial reach mukhang dapat yata i-review, lagyan ng hangganan.

MR. ACOL: So walang kinalaman ito sa paglalayon na mapalawig daw iyong termino ninyo po beyond 2016?

PRES. AQUINO: Ako ba ang nag-aambisyon na pahabain?

Sinabi ko naman noong una akong tumakbo hindi ako masokista. Pero at the same time, tila—sabi ko nga makikinig ako sa anumang utos ng mga boss natin.

(See full transcript of President Aquino with Bombo Radyo)

September 1, 2014: House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said that there is no room for political changes in the Constitution in the 16th Congress. However, economic changes can be pursued.

(GMA News: Political cha-cha, walang puwang sa 16th Congress)


October 2014: Pulse Asia Survey on Charter Change

In the most recent Pulse Asia Survey, 62% of Filipinos were opposed to amending the Constitution, while only 20% were willing to amend it.




SWS Survey: Opinion on Cha-cha that will allow President Gloria Arroyo to still be the chief official of the Philippines after June 30, 2010 / Allowing P. Arroyo to become head of government even after 2010?

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 1.09.05 AM

Source: Charter change surveys from www.sws.org.ph consolidated by PCDSPO.

SWS Survey: Opinion on cha-cha lessening restriction on foreign participation in the economy.

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 1.11.13 AM

Source: Charter change surveys from www.sws.org.ph consolidated by PCDSPO.

SWS Survey: Would you vote for or against a new constitution that President Gloria Arroyo wants?

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 1.12.22 AM

Source: Charter change surveys from www.sws.org.ph consolidated by PCDSPO.


Acknowledgments: Francis Kristoffer Pasion Gino Bayot Mica Olaño Celina Cua Sandi Suplido

Aug 11

Rogue Magazine: Crown and Country

rogue cover - aug 2014

Rogue | August 2014

Crown and Country

by Manuel L. Quezon III

 As we say goodbye to our current leaders, we greet their next-in-lines. From Imelda to Bongbong, from JPE to Jackie, can succession plans really go the distance?

AUGUST is a month which reminds us that the problem with revolution (ours began in August, 1896 against Spain), dictatorship (the beginning of the end for Marcos was Ninoy Aquino’s assassination), or unprecedented political leadership (Cory Aquino and Manuel L. Quezon both died on August 1, Quezon and Ramon Magsaysay were born on August 19 and 31 respectively) is, as one lawyer recently told me, “it never has an exit plan.” A revolution, by its very nature, destroys the old and finds it difficult to turn what is new into some- thing permanent: hence a revolution devours its own children. A dictatorship built on the argument that the dictator is the indispensable man considers a succession plan a dangerous sign of weakness—leaving the only possible exit plan, as in a revolutionary situation, a matter of execution or exile.


Marcos had a succession plan, which as one of his advisers put it to me, consisted of a secret decree naming a committee whose members were then expected to fight it out to see who would end up on top. From time to time to stir the pot, Marcos would hint to allies as to who comprised the committee, all the better to see the jockeying unfold. Quezon, Roxas, and Magsaysay all cultivated successors, but only Quezon actually successfully designated his political heir; Roxas and Magsaysay died in their first term, unable to finish their expected tenure and build up a successor. Cory Aquino during her lifetime got some credit for helping elect Ramos, but was more successful in blunting the ambitions of her successors: a reactive veto.


Then there are those who occupy the intersection of politics and commerce: enjoying political as well as business clout. One wonders what Juan Ponce Enrile felt, as his motorcade wound its way to Camp Crame early in July, about his political and commercial aspirations. Surely all the struggle was about a legacy greater than Delimondo canned goods? Looming over Ayala Avenue remains the stump of his unfinished Jaka Center, started 20 years ago as the tallest building in the country. Back then, it was a symbol of the self- made man, built on the former lot of the Elizalde Building, a symbol of the old tycoons giving way to the new. Now, Enrile has no building, and too many copies of his autobiography—filled with self-made pride, and meant to boost the prospects of his son—are gathering dust in the bookstores because the book opened up more questions than it answered. What was meant to be at the very least a political exit plan—his serving out his last years in the senate in the company of his son and heir—has been reduced to the son chatting with ANC as he rode in the convoy to deliver his father to detention.


The exit plans that seem to work are those that involve two things: a conscious decision by the one making the exit to leave the scene, and a plan to make sure the heirs are kept from screwing up.


Frederick Law Olmstead, the landscape designer of Central Park, noticed he was not only going senile but developing dementia. He told his sons to take over and take him out of the business. While Olmstead ended up dying in an insane asylum, the firm he established lasted a hundred years. The best-laid plans can go awry even if they start off well. Henry Ford had established the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and by 1918 (then only aged 55), he handed over the presidency of the company to his son, Edsel. But Edsel Ford died in 1943, and Henry made a comeback—senile, paranoid, and al- together incapable of running his great corporation.


John D. Rockefeller, the oil tycoon, had his son, John D., Jr., enter the Standard Oil Company in 1897. He left the company in 1910 to focus on philanthropy; when the Standard Oil monopoly was broken up, it ironically resulted in ballooning Rockefeller’s fortune—which he then systematically transferred to his son. John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s fortune then passed into trusts controlled by his five sons. But these Rockefellers ended up feuding, in large part due to the political career of Nelson Rockefeller who at one point became an appointed, and not elected, Vice President of the United States: the Senate hearings for his appointment led Nelson Rockefeller to disclose the full extent of the family fortune, which revealed it was no longer as vast as popularly believed, a reduction of family prestige his brothers found unforgiveable. Then the third generation faced a revolt from the fourth generation, which persisted until the 1990s, when the fourth and fifth generation of Rockefellers, plentiful in number, shifted from “wealth preservation” to expanding to new enterprises to keep their individual and family net worth up.


William Randolph Hearst created a trust for his heirs composed of a board of 13: five family members, and the rest executives from his corporations. The trust in turn invests and then makes annual payments to Hearst’s heirs. The trust has been so successful that it has made the transition from the previous to the current century not only intact, but has greatly expanded its value and clout, with 20 percent of ESPN, and the Hearst publications among its crown jewels.


Even a notorious attempt by the ex-wife of John Randolph Hearst Jr. to deprive her husband of his fortune (a long time girlfriend who had married him after he had a stroke allegedly proceeded to transfer his assets to herself), which resulted in a settlement to prevent the case breaking the seal of secrecy on the details of the Hearst Trust imposed after Patty Hearst was kidnapped in 1974 (secrecy was imposed so that other heirs would not become targets), failed to break up the trust.


Unlike the Rockefellers and the Hearsts, other succession plans fail because of the heirs themselves.


Jay Pritzker, founder of the Hyatt hotels fortune, had placed a trio of heirs—including Penny Pritzker, now President Obama’s Secretary of Commerce—in charge of the family trust. Other Pritzker heirs eventually challenged the trio, arguing they were overcompensating themselves at the expense of the other heirs. The result was that Penny Pritzker and the others in charge of the family trust had to basically liquidate the family fortune, and parcel it out among all the heirs— including Penny’s two brothers with whom she stopped being on speaking terms.


The generation of the first Taipans are now in the departure lounge; now part of the establishment, they will face the same succession problems the old mestizo commercial families faced. And what is true for business applies to politics, as well: the current era of reform ends in 2016.


To the delight of those who find it inconvenient, there is the prospect of a return to the old ways after that (enter Madame Marcos, complete with flower tiara, proclaiming the presidentiability of her son); and to those who feel it’s meant something, there is the horrifying prospect of the reforms being rolled back.


At the back of everyone’s mind, then, is this: is there an exit plan two years hence?

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