Time to figure out where we chose to go

Published May 12, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Diwa C. Guinigundo


Diwa C. Guinigundo

When Congress finally proclaims the winning candidate for president, as the indelible ink vanishes from our point finger, the so-called transition period from the Duterte administration will then begin. The Comelec partial and unofficial tally shows a big margin in favor of former Senator Bongbong Marcos who garnered 31.1 million votes over Vice President Leni Robredo’s 14.8 million votes, out of the more than 98.2 percent of actual votes transmitted. This preliminary result should promise to be a smooth transition. 

But while the whole nation awaits this transition, we see the broadsheets and social media reporting incidents of election irregularities. Some old 1,900 vote counting machines (VCMs) malfunctioned betraying as they did Comelec’s obvious failure to do a dry run prior to the May 9 election and business continuity plan to have standby VCMs that in some precincts never came until late in the afternoon.  There was power failure in about 1,500 barangays. If the people’s right of suffrage was not materially impaired, some lawyers are saying there could be no failure of election and therefore Congress can proceed to canvass the votes and proclaim the winning candidate. 

This is the ideal scenario.

This must be what Pantheon Macroeconomics was reportedly expecting, that is, the markets would be looking out for a definitive result of the 2022 presidential election. “What arguably matters most is that election day proceeds smoothly and the transition in government takes place without a hitch.”

1Sambayan’s appeal for calm and sobriety is therefore crucial in helping keep the country together as we all “continue with our quest to find the truth and ascertain the true will and voice of the people.”  The point is to minimize any negative fallout as we await the people’s official verdict. This call is also aligned with VP Leni’s exhortation that the people’s trust in the democratic processes should be fortified. “Mahalagang maging matibay ang tiwala ng tao sa proseso ng ating demokrasya. Gagawin nating lahat para maabot ang layuning ito…maging panatag sa inyong ambag…” 

She could not have been more prescient when she asked the Filipino people to continue to engage in issues concerning justice, rights and their dignity. We might as well be more inclusive to add our people’s economic welfare. This has become an issue if we are to consider J.P. Morgan’s decision to drop the Philippines to the bottom of its investment list that includes the country’s Southeast Asian neighbors.

In its “new order of preference in ASEAN,” the financial services outfit ranked the Philippines behind Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. It has even chosen to be more explicit as to advise its clients to reduce their exposure to Philippine equities. It has downgraded the Philippines to underweight. In fact, J.P. Morgan recommended to their investors “selling into a possible post-election hope rally.” This is hardly a good building block for a long-term view.

As expected, the investment bank raised the issue of the twin deficits in the current account and the fiscal position. Inflation is not about to ease but rather more of a surge is expected due to supply disruption and more expensive fuel. Public spending could slow down while we grapple with high public debt and the risk of lower potential earnings growth.   

For all these reasons, and to connect the dots, GoldmanSachs declared that “we are bearish on the Philippine peso as re-opening of the economy should lead to a widening of the current account deficit.” On top of that, the country’s foreign reserves dipped from $107.3 billion to $106.8 billion even as the stock remains sufficient to cover more than nine months of imports of goods and payments of services and primary income. 

These rather negative market views were not exactly unexpected.

Marcos Jr. mounted his presidential campaign with a big promise to make life better for the Filipino people by bringing down prices and opening more job opportunities, but offering very little details. How he intends to manage the continuing health pandemic and nurture economic revival, making more jobs available to millions of unemployed Filipinos and keeping prices stable remains a puzzle to many. With more than 30 million votes supporting him, and should he be proclaimed the president-elect, Marcos Jr is now challenged to share his vision for the Philippines in the next six years. He owes it to the voters who trusted him to lead them with barely a roadmap through the dark days ahead.   

He should leverage on the goodwill shown by various business chambers which expressed their cooperative stance “to keep the country’s economic recovery on track.” The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) could even stretch its patience as to say the incoming administration should be given time to draw up and share its plan.

But it was no less than the head of the Duterte administration’s planning authority Secretary Karl Chua who urged Marcos Jr. to lay out his full plan to allow the current government to assess the election results’ implications on the domestic economy. “It’s better he lays out his economic plan so we can understand.”

Indeed, it is time to figure out where we chose to go.