Introduction: This week our presidential wannabes and the rest who are running for election next year are trooping to the Comelec to file their respective Certificates of Candidacy.
In the Philippines, elections aren’t just a political exercise. It’s a long season where each Juan has something to say. Our electoral system allows us to directly vote for our president and vice-president, not as a ticket but separately. And so even if campaigns are done together with party-mates and/or with the dizzying coalitions in Philippine politics, wooing the voters is essentially “kanya-kanya” (something like “every man for himself”). And this somehow excites the marginalized members of our society. It is during elections that they feel somewhat as powerful as the rest of society. A poor man’s vote counts the same as a rich man’s vote. It is also the season when every nook and cranny of our 7,107 islands are visited by these “important people” in society who are more than willing to shake their hands, sing and dance, and take selfies in campaign sorties, just to get their votes. It’s fiesta time!
On May 9, 2016 we will again choose our president, vice-president and other local and national elected leaders. For the next leader of the land, we have three main contenders, Vice-President Jejomar Binay, Secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Grace Poe. Thanks to Deutsche Regis Partners, Inc., the number one stock brokerage in the country today, I was happy to attend the dbAccess Philippines Conference 2015 last week and listen closely to the three presidentiables, who were the keynote speakers of the event.
For Day 1, it was Lunch With VP Jejomar Binay. Day 2 was Breakfast with Secretary Mar Roxas and Merienda with Senator Grace. I must congratulate DB for pulling this off. The timing of their event was impeccable, the week before the filing of their COCs and they all showed up on time. No less than Ayala top honcho Jaime Zobel de Ayala, who did a presentation on Day 1, was impressed when he said to Deutsche Regis Chairman Noel Bautista, “Congratulations, you did an impressive job here gathering all three of them in your event!”
The short and lively presentation of the Ayala group was likewise impressive. I particularly liked how JAZA had a short anecdote for each of his CEO/CFO when he introduced them to present one by one. In fact, at the end of their presentation I couldn’t help but say, “Sir, you were a rock star in your presentation!” He laughed and tried to deflect the attention to one of his CEOs when he said, “No it’s Ernest (referring to Globe CEO Ernest Cu) who’s the rock star, he’s the Pink Floyd!” (Pink Floyd was a popular English rock band.) This may be worth a separate article, but for the meantime let’s go back to the 2016 Presidentiables.
I wish to share with you their respective speeches, answers to the questions of the investors during the Q&A, and also to my “burning questions.” I found it more prudent to just approach each of them right after their respective sessions, for fear of not being invited by Noel to their future events anymore. To give you a sneak peak, these were the questions I asked them:
- For VP Binay: If you don’t win, what is the Plan B of Binay? (Of course, I’m trying to be witty with the play of the letter B here, and may not be in accordance with the serious finance people type of questioning.)
- For Secretary Mar Roxas: If you win, what will be the role of Korina Sanchez in your administration? (I know that some people are not very comfortable with the newscaster as First Lady. I personally witnessed her being booed at the concert of Tears for Fears when her face was flashed on the screen. Honestly, naawa ako.)
- For Senator Grace: If you win, what will be the role of Chiz Escudero in your administration? (Okay, you just have to go to Facebook and other social media channels to see for yourself how people, particularly the netizens, feel about the recently re-married senator.)
CANDIDATE NUMBER 1: JEJOMAR BINAY
Prior to coming to the event, I brushed up a bit on VP Binay and found out that he’s turning 73 years old next month, born in Paco, Manila, the younger of two children of a librarian from Batangas and a school teacher from Isabela. Unfortunately, the older Binay child died even before Jejomar was born. He was orphaned at age nine and he was adopted by an uncle. In his own speeches and interviews, he would share that he grew up poor and did odd jobs including preparing kanin baboy (pig feed). Admirably, he finished Law at the University of the Philippines, passed the bar exams and obtained his masters from the University of Santo Tomas and other postgraduate degrees from other institutions. He became a human rights lawyer and his public service break came from former President Cory Aquino. Interestingly, he even got the nickname Rambotito (little Rambo) because he played an active role in defending Pres. Cory from the mutinies staged by no less than his VP candidate now Gingo Honasan. (I told you, Philippine elections are fiesta time!)
VP Binay first became mayor of Makati on February 27, 1986 when he was appointed by Pres. Cory to fill in the seat of Mayor Yabut who died (I wonder who the vice mayor was?) and that post has since been occupied by a Binay, until his son Junjun Binay was suspended middle of this year. Had there been no suspension, it would have been the Binay’s Pearl Anniversary (30th) in February 2016.
Years ago I would hear comments that the Binays knew how to make their constituents happy with free birthday cakes, free movies for senior citizens (they were the first to enforce this), free hospitalization and other basic services efficiently delivered to the underprivileged. Then again, all these were coupled with numerous allegations of corruption in massive scale. What started years ago as just buzz stories of this and that property, came to life when his former Vice Mayor Mercado spilled the beans. It’s all over the net, you can see for yourself.
When I went to the venue, I still tried to have an open mind and open heart in order to listen and understand what he had to say. I was there early so I even chose to sit next to the table where he will be seated. I was ready to listen to the candidate who’s probably the most prepared for his presidential bid.
He arrived with a rather big bunch of companions, including his daughter Congresswoman Abigail Binay. He came in offering to shake people’s hands on his way to his table with a smile flashed on his face. There was a bit of chitchat with the DB hosts and the others at their reserved table. Then Noel Bautista introduced him.
VP Jejomar Binay delivered his speech straight out of a report probably prepared for him by his Economic Adviser, Margarito “Gary” Teves, who was also with him during the event.
He mentioned that he was not out to do a “class war” and went on to somehow compare his compassion to the poor with that of Pope Francis, who no one is accusing of being leftist.
It was not easy to appreciate the points he enumerated because he was just reading and lacked engagement with his audience. There were times, he could not even read properly what were supposed to be punch lines – e.g. 1.) When he was supposed to take a hit on the slow delivery of PPP such that it has taken the new meaning of being just Power Point Presentations instead of Public-Private Partnership Programs; 2.) When he was stating that he will reduce the processing time of business registrations, it was painful to listen to him read and re-read those lines in his speech over and over again; 3.) When he said “analysis of paralysis” instead of “paralysis of analysis.” This reminded me of his recent open forum at UPLB when he said, “Remember, tayo ang population natin ngayon is more than 100 million pesos.” (Click link.)
It was a good thing that I decided to record his speech in my phone so I was able to listen to it again and here are some of the points he mentioned.
- Inclusive growth is possible in his administration because he is sensitive to the needs of the poor and he believes that he has done well as the mayor of Makati for 20 years.
- He said that the 6.5% economic growth of the country is respectable enough but it could have been more meaningful if it induced the creation of more stable jobs and economic opportunities, given the fact that the unemployment rate remains very high averaging close to 9% from 1994 to 2015.
- Then he went on to ask the question, “Can our Makati experience be replicated in the entire country?” followed by an answer, “That my friends is the very reason why I’m aspiring for the presidency of our country. Yes I strongly believe so. I have a complete program of development and this can never be denied, notwithstanding the character assassination they’ve waged against me, my family and my friends for more than a year now, which I call ‘Demolition by Perception.’”
He said, if elected, he will support the following:
- Fiscal Incentives Rationalization Bill.
- Build Operate Transfer Law Amendment – which calls for the immunity of PPP projects from the vagaries of local ordinances like local taxation and complicated business registration process. I hope I can remove the bad image of what PPP means. (Note: This is where he missed delivering the punch line as he ended up saying, “Now what is prevalent is, PPP means Power um, um, Power Generation Presentation.” He meant to say Power Point Presentation.)
- Fast tract the construction of major infrastructure projects to boost tourism and address the favorite these days, traffic congestion.
- Creation of the Department of Information & Communication or ICT to help streamline the bureaucracy, promote and regulate the use of ICT and improve the country’s IT infrastructure.
- Address the high level of corporate income tax rate to attract more investments resulting in more jobs.
He then went on to say the things that investors, both local and foreign in the audience, would like to hear. (Again, the delivery was unable to put the proper emphasis and so I myself just caught most of the things he said when I transcribed my recording.)
Here’s what he said/read:
Security Regulations should not curtail but should allow the healthy interplay of market participants and investors along clearly defined policies, and rules. The reason why capital, whether portfolio or foreign direct investment, is directed to destinations other than the Philippines is because of our unstable, oftentimes inconsistent policies, inadequate infrastructure, high power cost, among others and very high corporate and income taxes, to mention a few. Believe it or not, we are the only country that taxes the proceeds of Initial Public Offering or IPOs. Our overriding objective should be to attract capital rather than to simply protect current tax collection. It is about time that laws are re-calibrated. Our existing political framework for doing business needs to be revisited and this includes the corporation code, national internal revenue code, investment company act and the securities regulation code and other relevant regulations.
The integrity of our capital market must be assured in order to protect your investment and make our country the capital destination of choice. In this regard I reiterate my position on amending the economic provisions of the constitution that restrict the entry of foreign investments into the country. A regulatory financing and tax framework that encourages small medium enterprises to tap capital markets will also create more success stories that will ripple on the overall economy. Small and medium enterprises account for 99.6% of the total number of businesses in the Philippines. This can have a higher multiplier effect than big businesses when it comes to employment. And to enable our small and medium entrepreneurs to succeed, we will extend to them the assistance they badly need, particularly in terms of financing and access to research and development materials. We will promise SME development and encourage our countrymen to be entrepreneurial to achieve financial independence. The level of risk that investors take is based on the country’s business environment, investors demand on accountability, transparency, predictability and reliability, and in this regard we are committed to the following:
- The honor and sanctity of contracts. Contracts once signed should not be rescinded or amended. We had a few of these incidents recently.
- Our thrust is towards long term policies and programs that will strengthen the partnership between business and government. We are going to be decisive but will not change policies midway.
- There shall be a sense of urgency in all government processes required in business registration and we will work to drastically reduce these processes to further improve the country’s competitiveness. (Note: He was slurring a bit in this part when he tried to explain cutting bureaucracy.) Here’s what he said, ”For example specifically, at this point we will have to reduce what you are now experiencing a, er, where there are a 16 steps over 34, a, um, that has 16 steps over 34 a, a, um these 16 steps… which will have to be reduced to 6 over 6, 6 steps over a period of 8 days from 16 steps over a period of 34 days. (I only understood this part when I transcribed my recording verbatim.)
He ended with:
Our choice of cabinet officials will be the best and brightest in the area of specialization with vast experience in professional management and guided mainly by competence, integrity, and decisiveness. No more learning curve, six years is too short.
All these, my friends, can only be possible through effective governance and political will. We need a strong and visionary leader who is committed to implement plans for development and common good. As a management guru said, “A plan without action is a dream. But actions without a plan is a waste of time.” My friends, we need an experienced, strong, competent and decisive leader, someone who has the executive ability to transform genuine change in deeply rooted problems. We need a leader who always has a compassionate heart for the poor and who has the ground running and gets things done. Maraming maraming salamat po. Thank you and God bless you.
I noticed that the foreign fund managers didn’t ask questions, or if there was, maybe just one. I wonder whether they didn’t understand his speech completely? They didn’t have the benefit of my transcribed recording.
Some of the local fund managers asked questions derived from his speech. One question was regarding foreign ownership of corporations and if a constitutional amendment was doable. His answer was, “I must admit I haven’t gone that far in studying what is compatible with our constitution.” even if in my transcribed notes he said, “I reiterate my position on amending the economic provisions of the constitution that restrict the entry of foreign investments into the country.” (See underlined part above.) Later on, I asked this fund manager for his feedback and he said, “He has a thorough speech prepared by Teves; unfortunately, he could not relate it during the Q&A. He seemed unprepared to address the issues.”
There were other questions asked – on China policy, to which he answered, “It should be bilateral;” on the disputed water contract, he said, “The government now is reactionary and not anticipatory;” on the sin tax he said, “Local government should be given a fair share in the sin tax.” To answer other questions, he ended up reading again. And when another question on tax reform was raised, he said that Teves will be his economic adviser. (Gary Teves is a 72-year old banker, economist, lawmaker. He was appointed as Finance Secretary by Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when the Hyatt 10 (a group of 7 cabinet secretaries and 3 government agency heads that included then Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima) resigned en masse as a vote of no confidence in the president facing graft and corruption allegations, including rigging of election results.
My Burning Question:
After the Q&A I stood wondering how I should approach VP Binay to ask my question. I saw a lot of people surrounding him so I approached his daughter Cong. Abigail Binay (who’s the only lawyer child, as he pointed out when he acknowledged her presence) instead, and this was our conversation:
Rose: Hi Abigail, since you’re father seems to be busy, maybe you know the answer to my question. In the event that VP Binay does not win as the president, What is Plan B for VP Binay?
Abigail: There’s None!
Depending on the perspective one wants to take, you can either view that as “said with confidence” or “said with a little bit of arrogance.” But for sure there was no smile on her face.
Rose: I have a quick question sir.
VP Binay: OK, I will give you a quick answer. (with a smile) Were you the girl who asked a question a while ago and who sounded like my daughter?
Rose: No sir. My question is in the event that you don’t win the presidency, what is the Plan B for VP Binay (I was beginning to feel that I was the only one who found the wit and humor in my phrasing of my question – Plan B for B-nay!)
VP Binay: None. There’s no Plan B. I cannot imagine!
Rose: (Not content even if he promised that he’ll give me a short answer, I still stood there and asked) Really sir? But what if it doesn’t happen?
VP Binay: (Then he softened his stand) Well, by the way I’m a lawyer. (said with humility)
Rose: Yes sir, I know.
VP Binay: I can go back to my practice. I can also do something that I love, my passion.
Rose: What is that sir?
VP Binay: Farming.
(Then I thought, okay, let it go. Then I heard him say something with a smile.) “Thank you Rose.”
Now, I don’t even remember exactly how I introduced myself, and yet he remembered to mention my name. As they say, the sweetest word to someone is the sound of his/her name. And I guess it worked on me. That made me ask to have a selfie with him, which he seemed to have waited for, as he asked someone in his group to take it for us.
Comments from other attendees: I asked the other attendees, mostly foreign, for their comments, and here they are:
- I don’t foresee any drastic change happening in his administration if he wins. So I’m still looking at sustained economic growth.
- I heard that among the three candidates, he was the one with left leanings, but from what I heard, he’s more “left of center” so I’m comfortable with that. I don’t think there would be any extreme changes in policies, which is good. I hope that whoever succeeds Pres. Aquino won’t mess things up.
- At least you don’t need a Modi like in India. (Narenda Modi is the Prime Minister of India since May 2014. He is perceived by some as a divisive leader, loved and loathed in equal measure – BBC News Sept 26, 2014 Profile.)
- He was reading! He wasn’t able to answer the questions.
When I saw him enter the room with a big smile on his face, with less wrinkles than what I expected from a 73 year old politician always out there in the provinces campaigning, I said to myself, “Well, not bad for a 73 year old!” but I also remembered what a make-up artist once told me, “Ma’am na-make-up-an ko na si VP Binay, at sya rin nagpa-Botox na!” I saw glimpses of a tired old man, slowing down a bit, slurring sometimes, having difficulty reading his speech and was a bit lost in the Q&A, resorting to reading back his speech to answer some of the questions.
But it’s also possible that the forum was not his crowd. I gave him a bit of leeway that maybe he felt the questions thrown at him were finance gobbledygook that made him uncomfortable. But I heard that he stayed at the hotel lobby for a couple of hours talking to people who followed him.
I’ve often heard from people who know him or had an encounter with him that he’s mabait (kind). I could not argue with that if I base it solely on my own personal encounter. In that short moment, he was able to express humility and warmth, despite my question. It was a very different reaction from what I got from his daughter, even with the same question.
And this is what we should all remember, unless the electorate tries to study what each candidate stands for, his history, the people surrounding him, and what we really need in our leaders, chances are we will vote for the one we encountered who left us with a warm, cozy feeling.
To be continued
(Watch out for the second installment Candidate No. 2: Secretary Mar Roxas. It will come out tomorrow.)
Here’s the link: Part 2
- I will speak at the ADMU John Gokongwei School of Management during their JGSOM week on October 30, 2015.
- I will speak at the 6th PANA (Philippine Association of National Advertisers) Foundation IMC Youth Congress on November 27, 2015 at the Philippine Trade Training Center, Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. cor. Roxas Blvd., Pasay City.
Rose Fres Fausto is the author of bestselling books Raising Pinoy Boys and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon. Her new book is the Filipino version of the latter entitled Ang Muling Pagsasalaysay ng Ang Pinakamayamang Tao sa Babilonya. Click this link to read samples of the books. Books of FQ Mom Rose Fres Fausto. She is also the grand prize winner of the first Sinag Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Awards.
Attribution: Photos taken by the author during the dbAccess Philippines Conference 2015, and images from mrcheapjusticefiles.wordpress.com, philstar.com put together to help deliver the message of the article.
This article is also published in FQMom.com and RaisingPinoyBoys.com.