EON President and Chief Operating Officer Leana Farrales-Carmona shares the opportunity and challenges in Vice President Jejomar Binay’s latest move in spearheading the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA); and how insights from the Philippine Trust Index may explain how the question of trust is crucial in this new political move.
Much has been said about the creation of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Coalition spearheaded by Vice President Jejomar Binay. This early, pundits have already tagged UNA, a coalition between Binay’s political party PDB Laban and former president Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), as the team to beat in the 2013 senatorial race. In interviews, Binay has not been coy about the fact that this coalition is a step towards his goal of becoming the next president in 2016. It appears that it is this ambition for the presidency which pushed Binay to form a senatorial slate composed of the strongest possible bets.
Despite the inherent contradictions within UNA’s roster of members, Binay appears confident he can pull it off, especially since 8 out of every 10 Filipinos trust him. Binay currently ranks as the most trusted among all government officials, eclipsing even President Benigno Aquino III.
Personality politics: the cycle continues
If these recent developments are any indication, it shows that personality politics still rule the Philippine political sphere. While this is no longer surprising, it seems rather discouraging that our leaders have been unable to distance themselves from a practice that dates back to the first post-World War II election in the country.
Ironically, it was Manuel Roxas, the grandfather of Binay’s defeated vice-presidential rival Mar Roxas, who started the practice when he broke away from his affiliation with the then dominant Nacionalista Party to form the Liberal Party in 1946. Such a move was precipitated by the fact that the Nacionalistas were led by then incumbent president Sergio Osmena, who was Roxas’ rival for the presidency. The subsequent victory of Roxas set the tone for future politicians, who came to regard political parties as mere vehicles for their political ambitions. Ferdinand Marcos would replicate such a feat twenty years later when he bolted from the Liberal Party, which supported the re-election bid of Diosdado Macapagal, and successfully won as president under the banner of the Nacionalistas.
The 1987 Constitution introduced a new multi-party system, which unfortunately, propagated personality politics even further. This was validated by the victory of Fidel Ramos in the 1992 presidential elections. Ramos, who unsuccessfully tried to get the nomination of the then dominant LDP party, created the Lakas-NUCD to support his run for the presidency. After his victory, politicians from all corners began jumping ship to join Lakas, forming what became known as the “Rainbow Coalition”.
Such is the state of Philippine politics today. It may be best represented by the Filipino boxing champion/politician Manny Pacquiao, who has been tagged as one who “stings like a bee in the ring, but floats like a butterfly in the political arena”. It should be noted that Pacquiao’s first foray in politics was a run for Congress under the Atienza Wing of the Liberal Party. After an unsuccessful bid, he joined Kampi, the political party of then President Gloria Arroyo. Subsequently, Pacquiao announced that he would be running under his own party, the People’s Champ Movement (PCM). However a few months after this, he announced that the PCM had formed a coalition with the Nacionalista Party of Manny Villar, whose bid for the presidency he supported. After winning as congressman, there were speculations that he would join the Liberal Party of the newly-elected President Aquino. And in what appears to be his latest pitstop, it has been revealed that Pacquiao was sworn in as a member of PDP-Laban, which as previously mentioned, is the political party of Vice President Binay.
Trust and Government
The dizzying pace at which politicians switch parties not only shows that personality politics continues to dominate the political landscape, but also reveals the apparent lack of any platform-based political organizations. The dearth of clear platforms in Philippine politics reinforces the belief among Filipinos that politicians only run with parties and coalitions for their own benefit and personal gain. This in turn has translated into a general distrust for political leaders, and government in general. The latest Philippine Trust Index (PTI) commissioned by EON in 2011 revealed that of all national institutions, the government has the lowest trust rating, at only 7%.
The PTI results found that government, being in the limelight more often, is the most impacted institution in terms of public trust. The PTI created a framework, Circles of Trust, to show the key drivers of trust in institutions/ organizations. At the core of this trust architecture is Integrity, while Transparency and Honesty are the consistent parameters of stakeholders when assessing one’s trustworthiness. Surrounding Integrity are three other requisites, namely: 1) Results; 2) Relationships; and 3) Responsibility. Consistent with the PTI results, Binay’s trust rating can be directly correlated to his effectiveness in delivering the 3R’s.
As former mayor of Makati, Binay has consistently shown that he can produce results. Under his leadership, Binay transformed Makati into the country’s commercial center, which culminated in its conversion from a municipality into a full-fledged city. He has built meaningful relationships with various stakeholders during his stint in government, and has been effective in responding to their needs; whether as mayor, MMDA chairman, or as Vice President. He has also built his reputation as a responsible government official, molding his image as an “action man”. This explains why, despite having a largely ceremonial position, he still maintains a very active and visible profile as Chairman of the Housing Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and Presidential Adviser for OFW Concerns.
Trust and Daang Matuwid
Yet, Binay seems to be aware that he cannot distance himself completely from the “Daang Matuwid” of President Aquino. This is validated once more by the PTI study which shows that the key drivers of trust in government are the qualities of anti-corruption and transparency/honesty, the centerpiece agenda of the Aquino administration. The PTI results showed that the Top 5 drivers of trust in government are ranked as follows:
1) Anti-Graft and Corruption (29%)
2) Transparency/Honesty (27%)
3) Strong Political Will (10%)
4) Character of the leader (8%)
5) Being true to Election/Campaign promises (7%)
Binay is considered to have strong political will, leadership character, and is generally true to his electoral promises. However, as the PTI revealed, a large chunk of public trust is garnered from being against graft and corruption, and from being transparent/honest; areas where the Vice President has been questioned in the past. It is here that his connection with President Aquino becomes invaluable. By expressing his support for the President, Binay is able to get the best of both worlds. He can effectively project his strength as a strong leader and add the credibility of Aquino’s anti-corruption agenda. Thus, despite all the talk about Binay having cut ties with the present administration, it is not surprising to see him dispel this through a media blitz, which showed the Vice President touring Aquino around his newly refurbished office in the Coconut Palace.
2013 and the Bandwagon Effect
It can be seen that Binay has been able to translate his approval/trust rating into very significant political capital through the formation of UNA. Because of the high public trust in him, Binay has become the hottest commodity in the political circle. Surveys have also shown that 7 out of 10 Filipinos would vote for candidates endorsed by the Vice President. Inevitably, politicians are drawn to Binay in an attempt to improve the public’s trust in them, or lack thereof.
With the 2013 midterm elections just around the corner, it would be significant to see if UNA can convert the public’s trust in Binay to political gain. Should the UNA coalition emerge victorious, then we can expect it to continue on as Binay’s stepping stone for 2016. However if it falters, then it would not be surprising to see another diaspora among its members, who will be looking for the next rising political star to ride in furtherance of their respective ambitions.
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