6 major contenders emerge in Philippine presidential election

An “intergalactic space ambassador” filed for his certificate of candidacy because the “aliens” who contacted him through wifi told him to run for president.

The Comelec has narrowed the list of presidential candidates to six

The Comelec has narrowed the list of presidential candidates to six

Another presidential aspirant, who wants to be addressed as “archangel Lucifer”, said he was running for president upon orders from his “master.” On the other hand, another presidential aspirant said if he wins, he will legalize the four seasons — winter, spring, summer and fall. He also wants to annex the Philippines to the United States.

One aspirant promised home improvement if she wins while another candidate only wants to get the attention because he has been struggling to get his pension as a retired police officer.

In the Philippines, the requirement to run for the highest position of the land is much basic than applying for a job.

Under the Philippine Constitution, a person aspiring to be president has to comply with the following requirements:

* a natural-born citizen of the Philippines;

* a registered voter;

* able to read and write;

* at least forty years of age on the day of the election;

* a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election

With such basic requirements, over a hundred certificates of candidacy for president have been filed. Some sectors say the Philippines’ system is “chaotic,” and “out of control.”

But James Jimenez, spokesman for the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the Philippines’ election body, said the system is “robust and democratic.”

The Comelec had already weeded the so-called “nuisance” candidates and narrowed the list to only six—Vice President Jejomar Binay (United Nationalist Alliance), Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago (People’s Reform Party), Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (Partido Demokratikong Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan or PDP Laban), Senator Grace Poe (Independent candidate), Mar Roxas (Liberal Party) and Party-list Representative Roy Señeres (Partido ng Manggagawa at Magsasaka).

Of the six candidates, only Poe is an independent candidate, meaning she does not represent any political party.

In the Philippines, while initial qualifications to run for President are very basic, applicants for the job have been narrowed down and one of the major considerations of the poll body is a candidate’s capability to carry out a nationwide campaign.

Under Republic Act 7166 or the Synchronized National and Local Elections Law, spending caps for candidates and political parties are the following:

P10.00 per voter for President and Vice President

P3.00 per voter for other candidates who are part of a political party

P5.00 per voter for independent candidates

P5.00 per voter for political parties

Currently, based on Comelec records, as of December 2015, there were 54.36-million registered voters. So, each Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate will have to spend a total of P540.360-million or using the current Peso-US Dollar exchange rate of P47.685 to $1, a total of $11.331-billion.

Of the six Presidential candidates, the richest is Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, former Interior and Local Government Secretary of President Benigno Aquino III. He was the grandson of a former Philippine President and namesake Manuel Roxas. His estimated net worth is P202.80-million ($4.245-million). He was the second richest member of Aquino’s cabinet.

Roxas is followed by Senator Grace Poe whose estimated net worth according to her Statement of Assets Liabilities and Networth (SALN) is P89.5-million ($1.8-million). She is considered the less inexperienced among the candidates, starting her career in government as head of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) in 2012. MTRCB reviews films and television shows. She then ran for the Senate in 2013.

Currently, her candidacy is beleaguered with controversy due to her citizenship being an orphan with no known parents. She was only adopted by a celebrity couple which, to a Supreme Court Associate Justice said she is “lucky.”

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, based on her SALN, has a net worth of P73M ($1.5-million). She is a former regional trial court judge and former head of the Bureau of Immigration. In 1992, she ran for President but lost to Fidel Ramos.

She is popular among the youth especially with her witty one liners and “pick-up lines” that are most often used to give hints on romance.

However, concerns are raised over her health condition because of her lung cancer.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, on the other hand, has an estimated net worth of P60-million ($1.260-million). Among the candidates, he has the longest stint in the government that started during the early 1980s under President Corazon Aquino, mother of current Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.

He, however, is facing various investigations on allegations of hidden wealth and corruption. His camp said the allegations are mere black propaganda considering he has been leading in political surveys.

On the other hand, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has a net worth of P1.35-million ($217,000). Some critics and human rights advocate believe that the “tough talking” Mayor has the makings of a dictator.

Some sectors said the law should be amended considering the unrealistic maximum allowable campaign expenses which are often pointed as the root cause of corruption including special favors to campaign contributors.

Poe, in a statement, assured that her campaign backers and donors would have no advantage over those who do not back her candidacy, if she does win.

She said she understands that businesses need to be assured that they would have a fair chance when they invest in the country, which could use the jobs and other opportunities stemming from more investments.

Other candidates also gave the same assurance that no special favors will be given to their contributors.

The Philippines’ poll body requires each candidate to submit a statement of contribution and expenditure.

It has already unseated local officials after it spent more than the allowed limits under the law but the Philippines has yet to see an action from the poll body to remove a President, Vice President or Senator from office due to over spending.

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