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Fitch: PDP-Laban feud to benefit foes

/ 04:55 AM September 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Deepening cracks in the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) political party may give a potentially consolidated opposition a shot at winning the highly anticipated 2022 presidential race, London-based think tank Fitch Solutions said.

Ahead of the elections, however, escalating tensions between the camps of President Duterte and Sen. Manny Pacquiao may distract the government from policy making at a time when the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic was still raging and the economy was still sluggish, the think tank said.

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In its research note dated Sept. 10 and titled “Philippines’ Political Jostling Ahead of 2022 Elections a Threat to Policymaking,” Fitch Solutions lowered its short-term political risk index score on the Philippines from 64.8 to 64 out of the maximum score of 100.

Signs of significant disruptions to policy making could further reduce the score, the research note said.

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“The PDP-Laban infighting and potential switching of allegiances in the coming months could disrupt policy making at a time when the Philippine economy remains hampered by COVID-19. The confusion over the easing of containment measures in Metro Manila on Sept. 8 highlights the uncertainty facing the economy in the near term,” the research note said.

“Political distractions and infighting within the governing coalition could hamper efforts to reopen and support the economy. Focus will likely shift away from the need to boost the Philippines’ vaccine uptake rates and address supply issues, while we highlight the potential for delays to the passing of the 2022 budget before year-end,” it added.

Comelec to decide

Fitch Solutions said such political jostling could also stall longer-term reforms that would benefit the next president, including proposed reforms to ease restrictions on foreign ownership in the utilities and retail sectors.

The split between the two factions within PDP-Laban could mean that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will be forced to rule on which faction will represent the PDP-Laban in the 2022 elections, potentially creating even more animosity between the two camps, Fitch Solutions said.

“The infighting within PDP-Laban raises the prospects for opposition candidates winning the presidency,” Fitch Solutions said.

The pro-Duterte faction at PDP-Laban has officially nominated Sen. Bong Go for president and Mr. Duterte for vice president. The Pacquiao-aligned faction has yet to finalize their standard-bearers.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson has also declared his intent to run for the presidency, along with his running mate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, as vice president.

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Broad coalition

“Indeed, speculation that Pacquiao could run for president and reports that he has met several times with Vice President Leni Robredo raises the possibility of a broad coalition between Pacquiao’s faction and Robredo’s more liberal supporters to challenge the Duterte faction as well.

The opposition ‘1Sambayan’ coalition has put forward a list of potential candidates, but has yet to confirm who will run.

Fitch Solutions noted that there’s still uncertainty on what the President’s daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. of the conservative Nacionalista Party would do, given their strong support bases.

Many believe that Sara Duterte’s presidential bid was still on the table, as the Davao City mayor has been meeting with potential allies for months. Mr. Duterte has said he would drop out of the vice presidential race if his daughter would run.

Another potential presidential candidate, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, has taken a potshot at the possibility of another Duterte taking control of Malacañang. In a television interview, he said that in a democracy, government position should not be a matter of inheritance.

While it is common in local governments to see family members succeeding the incumbent, this has not yet happened at the national level.

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TAGS: 2022 elections, Fitch Solutions, PDP-Laban rift
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