This is a bit premature because we do not know yet the final list of presidential candidates–the Noynoy candidacy and the Ondoy/Peping disasters have thrown all previous agreements on line-ups into disarray and negotiations are still going on for certain president-vice-president combinations (or re-combinations). Of course, these would affect the handling of election issues and even what these issues will be.
However, there are certain issues that are sure to be part of the 2010 electoral campaign and will affect the vote of major segments of the electorate. I list the following:
1. Corruption. This issue cuts across other issues and serves as the predominant negative image of the traditional politician.
2. Anti-people policy and posture. This is a perception issue (also cuts across a broad range of national, local and sectoral issues) and defines how people identify (or do not identify) with certain candidates.
3. Disaster mishandling. This is a new issue underlined by the Ondoy/Peping tragedies that affected to a significant degree the important middle class in major urban centers in Luzon. The proximity to the 2010 elections means this will become an important issue, particularly in areas hit by disasters (basically, the entire country).
4. Lack of or insufficient credentials for credible leadership. This is not so much a question of competence but of the willingness of the people to heed and follow an elected president. This is an outgrowth of the failure of the GMA leadership from the electorate’s point of view.
5. Noynoy Aquino. His being an issue is not so much of who he is or what his presidential aspirations are but rather because the opposition to him will need to bring issues against him. The uniform result of surveys put him in an unprecedented runaway pole position. Making him an issue is a daunting, if urgent, task for the other presidential candidates. If they do not do so even this early, they will be in danger of watching helplessly in the sidelines Noynoy’s ascendancy to the presidency.
The issues of the 2010 presidential elections are a mix of old and new ones. However, they could not be handled in the usual way. The elections themselves will not be in the usual way. Strategists, beware.