In this webinar, Dr Ronald Holmes, Dr Maria Ela Atienza, and Dr Imelda Deinla unpacked the recently concluded May 2022 Philippine elections. Using survey data and qualitative observations, the panel identified significant trends and developments in Philippine electoral politics, campaign strategies, and the future of the country’s democracy.
REGIONAL STRATEGIC & POLITICAL STUDIES PROGRAMME WEBINAR
Friday, 27 May 2022 – The recently concluded Philippine presidential election resulted in a landslide victory for Ferdinand Marcos Jr, son and namesake of the country’s former dictator. Sara Duterte, daughter of the incumbent president, also won as vice president in an apparent affirmation of the country’s present political course and rejection of liberalism. At the same time, a grassroots campaign by the opposition mobilised volunteers at an unprecedented scale, which scholars say marks an alternative to traditional patronage and machine politics.
The ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute hosted Dr Ronald Holmes, Dr Maria Ela Atienza, and Dr Imelda Deinla for the webinar “The New ‘New Society’? Analysing the 2022 Philippine Elections”. The concept of the “New Society” is a term popularised during the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970-80s to reflect the regime’s professed interest for law and order, state-building, and national development.
The webinar featured three panellists:
- Dr Ronald Holmes, Professor of Political Science at the De La Salle University in Manila, and President of Pulse Asia Research Inc., one of the two major public opinion polling firms in the Philippines.
- Dr Maria Ela L. Atienza, Professor and former Chair of the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. She is also Editor of the Philippine Political Science Journal, the Scopus journal of the Philippine Political Science Association.
- Dr Imelda Deinla, Associate Professor at the Ateneo School of Government, convenor of BOSES Pilipinas, and a former fellow at the Australian National University where she was the Inaugural Director of the Philippines Project.
Dr Ronald Holmes discussed findings from national polls on topics such as candidate preference and characteristics of Filipino voters. Firstly, Dr Holmes emphasised that president-elect Marcos immensely benefitted from the alliance with Presidential daughter Sara Duterte given that most of his electoral gains compared to the 2016 elections which he lost are in Central Visayas, Zamboanga, and the Davao regions where the Dutertes have a strong political clout. Secondly, Marcos captured the age 18-24 demographic, indicating an emerging support-base for the Marcoses among the youth. Other survey findings included the overwhelming disfavour of Filipinos against negative campaigning or rhetoric that can be perceived as directly attacking other candidates, as well as the emerging political polarisation of views (positive and negative appraisals are near equal) among Filipinos on martial law and the 1986 People Power Revolution, including the rehabilitation of the image of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Dr Atienza highlighted the utilisation of both traditional machine politics by political elites and the increasing intensity of social mobilisation from all political camps, evidenced by the large political rallies during the campaign season. Relatedly, she underscored the growing issue of disinformation and polarisation between political supporters of leading candidates. Dr Atienza pointed to the need for civic and voter education in the country in order to preserve and rejuvenate democratic politics. Finally, she noted that local-national dimensions of electoral politics are worth watching, since many pro-Marcos local politicians did not win against reformist politicians. This would suggest that there are openings for anti-dynastic sentiment and pro-reform constituencies at the local, although the seeming disjoint between this and the consolidation of the Marcos-Duterte dynastic alliance at the national level would be worth studying in the future.
Finally, Dr Deinla presented survey research findings that at the strategic level, Filipinos have increasingly rejected liberal values such as pluralism and balance of powers in government, favouring strong executives instead. Her presentation centred on values surveys which show that Filipino voters have increasingly turned away from their commitment to institutional constraints in politics. The presentation tackled political polarisation in the Philippines, which research shows is not based on class cleavages but on personalities. In addition, Dr Deinla argued that polarisation is linked to disinformation susceptibility, with as many as 60% of Filipinos falling for fake news – and that these results are also linked to candidate preference. Moreover, the family remains to be the most significant socialisation agent in shaping voter preferences.
Three key issues were discussed during the Q&A. Firstly, on the future of the Marcos-Duterte political alliance, Dr Holmes noted that the two camps are pragmatists and that despite internal factions they have managed to sustain the alliance and it was the opposition that failed to unite under one ticket. Consequently, the alliance may endure as the defining element of national politics, although its internal dynamics will also shape the Philippines’ political course. Secondly, the panellists tackled fake news and fact checking initiatives in the Philippines, although initial studies have shown that interventions do not readily work and may even reinforce pre-existing beliefs amplified by disinformation. The panellists also agreed on the need for civil society to continue bridging the political divide and focus on further mobilisation to exact accountability from the government. Finally, on the future of opposition in the Philippines, Dr Deinla raised the question of whether there needs to be a new face for the opposition, rooted in grassroots and not in conventional middleclass leadership, and cognizant of voter preference realities such as strong executive action.
A total of 159 attendees from the academe, government ministries, and the private sector attended the webinar.