Dems in PH: Obama in for rough 4 years
MANILA, Philippines – Democrats in the Philippines celebrate the reelection of US President Barack Obama but recognize that his 4 more years will be tough.
In their victory party in Makati on election night (Wednesday, November 7), members of Democrats Abroad Philippines said Obama won a huge mandate but partisan gridlock will continue to challenge him in his second term.
In an interview with Rappler, Democrat Fred Garrido pointed out that Republicans retain control of the House of Representatives.
“You hope for the best but you also have to be realistic about it in the sense that you have a Republic Party that’s extremely partisan, and they’ve been taken over by the fringe of the right-wing. They are not going to give Obama an inch. They’re going to try to diminish his mandate and frustrate any reforms he tries to make,” said Garrido, who is also publisher of PhilNews.com.
“So it’s gonna be a rough 4 years unless something changes. It’s going to be very difficult to get anything done with the current system the US has.”
Among the challenges Obama faces is the so-called “fiscal cliff” of scheduled tax increases and spending cuts that may harm economic recovery, barring a deal with Congress.
Democrats Abroad Philippines Chairman Rom Vildzius is more optimistic.
“[My expectations] would be significantly higher because he doesn’t need any more elections to prepare for and he’s had the 4 years experience,” Vildzius told Rappler. “I think he will be more decisive.”
Immigration, health care on wish list
Filipino-American Emmanuel Leyco also has great expectations of Obama, particularly because of his promise of immigration reform.
“I always say I supported Obama not only for myself but also for my kids. I look forward to a situation where my kids will not be stopped on the streets and asked for their identity card, and someday discrimination in the US will be totally eliminated. I think the victory of a black American as president is a major step towards that.”
Leyco, a legal immigrant, said the Obama administration should issue amnesties to undocumented immigrants who came into the US as children, and now contribute to the American economy.
The Dream Act will give illegal immigrants brought to the US as children a path to citizenship if they attend college or serve in the military. Obama had vowed to try to get the bill passed in Congress if reelected.
Another wish of Leyco involves health care. He hopes Filipino-American immigrants will be able to use their health care benefits even in the Philippines.
“We’re hoping the Obama administration will look at portability of health care benefits for all immigrants including Filipino-Americans who want to settle back to the Philippines and use their health care benefits. I think that will benefit a lot of Filipinos who are looking forward to retiring in the Philippines,” Leyco said.
For Lisa Kircher Lumbao, the economy and climate change must be top priorities. Lumbao has been living in the Philippines for 20 years, and is now vice chairperson of Democrats Abroad Philippines.
“We’ve seen with [superstorm] Sandy, it’s wrecking incredible economic havoc in addition to human impacts. People say we can’t afford to do anything about it. We can’t afford not to do something about it because the cost of inaction is so much higher.”
Election lessons for PH
Having observed how both the US and the Philippines conduct elections, the Democrats in Manila said Filipinos can draw lessons from the US voting process to fast-track the release of the results.
Lumbao said, “The Philippines made some great strides in the last elections with the voting machines. I hope it’s going to continue. We saw in the US although there were some problems, it’s quite a successful election.”
Leyco said another lesson can be learned from defeated Republican candidate Mitt Romney who conceded after it became clear that Obama won.
Like Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr, Leyco said Filipino politicians find it hard to accept defeat and end up contesting election results for years.
“There is no point in perpetuating challenges to a political contest that will only throw us back. What is nice in the US political contest is there is an expiration date. November 6, it’s over. November 7, the real work begins,” Leyco said.
‘Be careful what you wish for’
Garrido, who got his American citizenship in the 1980s, hopes that Filipinos will be able to distinguish what political parties stand for.
“It would be nice to have parties with defined ideologies unlike what we have now where you can switch from one party to another and it doesn’t make a difference because they’re one humongous stew.”
Garrido, however, admitted that America’s two-party system is not perfect either, causing gridlock in Capitol Hill.
“There’s this saying be careful what you wish for because there are a lot of Americans right now who are saying there’s a problem with the two-party system because they become so polarized and there’s really no movement at all as far as legislation is concerned.”
“But if you ask me, it would benefit [Filipinos] that we have clearly defined issues that a party should have,” Garrido said. – Rappler.com