Philippine electoral system needs fixing

Very steadily, election fever has crept up on the Philippine political scene, and the expected 2022 race to find a successor to Rodrigo Duterte will not be the mano-a-mano between the opposition bet vs the president’s anointed one.

The opposition will be fielding one bet, very likely Leni Robredo, but she will be opposed by a number of candidates who are or who used to be identified as Duterte’s bet.

There are four, possibly five, “serious” candidates for president hoping to be endorsed by the incumbent, but who will run anyway if Duterte raises somebody else’s hand.

Their reason for running is that they believe they can win without grabbing the majority of votes, the way Duterte did in 2016.

The hopefuls are betting that they can be a president by plurality because it has been decades since a winning presidential bet got more than 50 percent of the total vote.

Prior to Duterte, Noynoy Aquino won in 2010 over a field that included Manny Villar, Gibo Teodoro, and Erap Estrada. Aquino won about 42 percent of the total vote.

Six years earlier, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo “won” over Fernando Poe, Jr. with less than 40 percent of the vote. Other candidates who were also rans include Panfilo Lacson, Raul Roco, and Eddie Villanueva.

Before that, it was Erap Estrada who won, also by a similar plurality of less than 40 percent of the vote. The actor bested the likes of Joe de Venecia, Renato de Villa, Raul Roco, and Lito Osmena, among others.

And before that? You guessed it. Fidel Ramos won in a wide field that included Miriam Defensor Santiago, Danding Cojuangco, Monching Mitra, and Jovito Salonga, among others. Ramos won by the smallest plurality of all recent presidents, winning just 24 percent of the vote.

If I’m not mistaken, the last time a president won the majority of the vote was when Cory Aquino defeated Ferdinand Marcos, with a little over 50 percent of the actual votes cast.

The Duterte diehards should be reminded that their idol likewise won in 2016 with a mere 39 percent of the vote. This, after Mar Roxas and Grace Poe split the vote, alongside Jejomar Binay and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

If this historical record is the past telling us what the future will be like, then one of the following candidates will emerge as Philippine president in 2022: Leni Robredo, Manny Pacquiao, Sara Duterte, Bong Go, Panfilo Lacson, Dick Gordon, and Alan Peter Cayetano.

He or she will, however, win with about 40 percent of the vote, at best.

I believe it’s about time for changes to be implemented in the Philippine electoral system.

Maybe a return to the old two-party system may not be practical, but whoever becomes president must at least lay claim to being elected by the majority of the people.

This means that the top two or three candidates will have to meet again in a run-off election, and only after one candidate has grabbed at least 50 percent of the vote – plus one – can the country have a validly elected president.

This system works in other countries, so why not the Philippines?

Another necessary change is for voters to select by pair, US-style. A vote for a presidential bet must also be a vote for his or her running mate.

This makes perfect sense as the vice president should possess the same political mindset as the president. The VP should not be waiting in the wings, twiddling his or her thumbs, and campaigning for president in the next polls. He or she should be a true partner of the president, and must be ready to assume the presidency at a moment’s notice.

Finally, no one should be allowed to run for any national position unless he or she is a college graduate. While a college degree is no guarantee that a winning candidate will be honest and competent, it at least tells the electorate that the elected president at least understands the difficulty of earning a degree.

I do believe that this disqualifies Bongbong and Imee Marcos, who both do not possess valid college degrees. Pardon my catty remark, folks, but the son of the late dictator may join the list of presidential wannabes next year, and he still refuses to discuss the full details of his collegiate background.

Anyway, whoever wins next year is sure to possess a valid college degree, Manny Pacquiao included.

Yes, folks, he did miraculously earn a college degree from the University of Makati. Night classes did the trick, I think. Wink, wink.

My take on the 2022 polls is that Robredo will win the vote, but massive cheating may alter the results. The country will then have to live with a President Pacquiao or – groan — a second President Duterte for another six years.

After Gloria Arroyo successfully cheated FPJ of the presidency with a little help from a guy named Garci all those years ago, the insiders at the Commission on Elections have practically become all powerful, and may well decide who wins and who loses next year.

A second groan is called for here, huh?

(PS — I am hoping and praying that I am dead wrong about the cheating part, folks.)