February 18, 2022, Naga City – Less than three month before the elections, the Ateneo de Naga University Office of Student Affairs (OSA) livestreamed this school year’s National Situationer Update (NatSit) to a virtual audience of more than 1,500 students, faculty, and student affairs and services practitioners from ADNU and other higher education institutions nationwide, via Zoom and ADNU OSA Youtube Channel.
The NatSit is an annual forum of OSA under the Ateneo Leadership Development Program (ALDP), which aims at informing students regarding the ongoing socio-economic and political issues prevalent in the country. The recent NatSit focused issues relative to the ongoing health crisis and the May 2022 polls. It also covered the local situation in Camarines Sur.
For the National Situationer, Dr. Ronald U. Mendoza, Dean of Ateneo School of Government, returned as resource speaker for the second time, having been the resource speaker of NatSit last February 2019, during the Midterm Elections. His presentation, “From Pandemic to Endemic: Towards Inclusive Recovery from COVID19”, focused on the COVID-19 pandemic management challenges and the political landscape of the upcoming elections and emerging prospects of the new administration.
Mendoza noted that inequality, one of the challenges currently faced by the country, has been a lingering social issue and has been exacerbated during the pandemic. He shared that, based on the data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the poverty rate increased, with the headcount of poverty estimated at about 3.6 million poor Filipinos in 2021. The pandemic has made it more difficult for individuals coming from the lower economic classes to avail decent jobs and securities needed.
Dr. Mendoza argued that the political system reflects the inequality in the economy, manifested in the concentration of power in political dynasties. He classified dynasties into two types: (1) Thin – those that observe succession in a singular electoral post and (2) Fat – those who have 2 more members who are elected and serve simultaneously. He further notes that political dynasties are no longer confined to electoral posts and have branched out even to the judiciary and government agencies.
Dr. Mendoza then proceeded to discuss the political situation for the upcoming elections by presenting the top three priorities of each of the presidential candidates and contrasting them to the needs and risks being faced by the country. He then shared a survey conducted by BOSES Pilipinas on what issues voters want elected officials to address, including: fighting graft and corruption, creating more jobs, controlling the spread of COVID-19, and others. He said that voting in the Philippines is something “personalistic” because of the weak political party system, wherein voters not only look at the candidates’ platforms but also their qualities in choosing who to vote for.
Dr. Mendoza then offered remedies to the “Inequality Trap” the country is facing, namely: (1) Inclusive Society, (2) Inclusive Democracy, and (3) Inclusive Economy. A contrast to the inequality, concentrated political power, and concentrated economy which are predominant in the country.
For the Local Situationer, Rolan Jon G. Bulao, Director of Partido Institute of Economics, Partido State University, delivered the local economic and political landscape of Camarines Sur through his presentation “Ini an Camarines Sur: The Local Socio-Political and Economic Situation.”
Bulao highlighted the economic picture of the province by discussing the Regional Economic Activity, citing the drop in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the region by 8.2 % during the surge of the pandemic, and the closure of some industries due to restrictions. He also noted that in 2019 the province ranked 49th among the provinces of the country, registering “Medium Human Development” in the Human Development Index, a tool used in monitoring a person’s literacy, life expectancy and per capita income.
Bulao emphasized that the unemployment rate in Camarines Sur increased by 8.9 % on average during the pandemic due to the lockdowns and decrease of demand from certain industries. He also said that the increase in poverty incidence among families in the province grew from 19.3% in 2018 to 34.6% in 2021. He notes that those who suffer in poverty come from the marginalized sectors, particularly the farmers and fisherfolks.
In terms of pandemic response, Bulao underscored that the Bicol Region has a vaccination rate of 55.68%, which is still under the 70-80% needed for herd immunity, which would bring positive impact on the local economy by improving mobility.
For the political landscape, Bulao discussed the impact of presidential aspirant, Vice-President Leni Robredo, on the political picture in Camarines Sur. Unlike in other countries wherein a two-party system is observed, Philippine elections consist of multiple parties fielding candidates in electoral posts; however, opposing local parties and politicians in the province, even those vying for the same post, have endorsed Robredo’s run for the presidency. However, he also pointed out that there are certain politicians within the province and region who have aligned themselves with the candidacy of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., thus challenging the “Solid Leni Bicol” mantra.
Bulao concluded his presentation by encouraging the participants to do their part as citizens of the country for its betterment and advancement.
The OSA invited Renne Gumba, Chief of the Naga City Public Safety Office and Atty. Ma. Carmela Peña, Director of the ADNU Ignatian Legal Apostolate Office to be the reactors during the open forum, followed by the “Question and Answer” segment with the participants, who asked questions pertaining to the upcoming elections, certain candidates, issues regarding corruption, and the like. Dr. Marshal Q. Murillo, Deputy Director of ADNU Center for Local Governance, served as the emcee and moderator of the webinar.
Watch the webinar thru this link: https://tinyurl.com/NatSit2022