The US in the 2016 Philippines Election

Share this:

How does America factor into elections in Asia? This special feature highlights how the US is discussed by the candidates of the Philippines 2016 Presidential Election, which takes place on May 9, 2016. Explore each candidate's background and experience in the US, as well as his or her positions on US-related issues.  

Lead Researcher: Melissa Newcomb 

Jejomar Binay Mar Roxas
Rodrigo Duterte Miriam Santiago
Grace Poe  

 

Jejomar Binay

Image: Official Facebook Page of Vice President Jejomar C. Binay

Background, US Experience and Connections  

  • 73 years old, Binay's parents were middle-class, a librarian and a school teacher. He was orphaned at the age of 9 and adopted by his uncle, Ponciano Binay. Grew up in poverty and became successful through education. [Source]
  • In 1967 he graduated with a law degree from the University of the Philippines College of Law and graduated. He passed the bar examinations in 1968, and went on to become a human rights lawyer. [Source]  
  • Attended a senior executive fellow program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University in 1992. [Source
  • Met President Obama during Obama's visit to Manila in 2014.
  • Spoke at CSIS in Washington D.C. on May 1, 2014.  [Available here]
 
Current Position: Vice President and head of opposition coalition, United Nationalist Alliance, which became a formal party for his candidacy (note: UNA sounds like “first” in Filipino) 

Past Positions: Former mayor of Makati City: 1986-1987 appointed by President Corazon Aquino; 1988-1998 elected; and from 2001-2010 elected. Former chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority from 1990-1991. [Source]

 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) 

  • On joining regional trade agreements such as the TPP:“Any move for integration will certainly be beneficial for the Philippines. Considering the integration countries who are enjoying a lot economic growth will have a lot of benefits. It will be negative for those who are having a problem with their economy.”   [Source Interview with CSIS, May 1st, 2014 
  • “With the looming integration of the ASEAN economies, greater economic engagement with countries in the region becomes a major component of the United States rebalancing strategy. And given [the Philippines'] long history and diversity of its economic partnerships with US firms, the Philippines expects a greater share of its benefits.” [Source]  Banyan Leadership Forum, May 1st, 2014 
 

EDCA and the US-Philippines Alliance 

The following quotes are exceprts from Vice President Binay's speech at the Banyan Leadership Forum held by CSIS in May 2014. 
  • “We therefore view the recently signed Enhanced Cooperation Agreement, or EDCA, as an important pillar of our regional security policy. As well as an important response mechanism to humanitarian and natural disasters. A stronger American military presence in the Philippines and great inter-operability between our respective armed forces dramatically increases our individual and collective defense capability. Providing an effective deterrent against external aggression.” [Source]  May 1st, 2014 
  • “Through the EDCA we have effectively upgraded our own security platform without shifting a significant portion of our limited resources to support an arms race and produce weapon systems that exceed our normal defense requirements. It enables us to focus better on developing a solid economic base.”    [Source]  May 1st, 2014 
  • “Let me stress, nonetheless, that our support for EDCA does not reflect a freezing of ties with China. Nor do we view the disputes in the South China Sea as the totality of our bilateral relations with China.” [Source]  May 1st, 2014
 

South China Sea  

  • Binay calls for cooperation with China on the South China Sea territorial dispute to improve trade relations: “China has money, we need capital." [Source] April 12, 2015 
  • “[EDCA] comes afterall on the heels of heightened tensions between China and its neighbors, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, and the Philippines over maritime and territorial control over one of the world’s most important sea lanes of communications, the South China Sea or the West Philippines Sea, as we now refer to it in the Philippines.” [Source]  Banyan Leadership Forum, May 1st, 2014
  • Promises that while negotiating with China on maritime dispute, he will support ongoing fishing and provide assistance to fishers. [Source] Final Presidential Debate, April 24, 2016 

 Back to Top

Rodrigo Duterte

Image: Keith Bacongco, Flickr

 Background, US Experience and Connections  

  • 70 years old, mother was a school teacher, father was a provincial governor. [Source]
  • Graduated with a BA in 1968 in Political Science at Lyceum of the Philippines and his law degree from San Beda College, passing the bar in 1972. 
  • Duterte is credited for restoring economic prosperity and rule-of-law to Davao City, a large port region of about 1.5 million people which was known for Marxist insurgents and a high homicide rate in the 1980s.  [Source

 Current Position: Duterte was elected the Mayor of Davao City in 1988 and has served in that capacity for 22 years.

Past Positions:  Special Counsel at the City Prosecution Office in Davao City from 1977-1979; Fourth Assistant City Prosecutor from 1979-1981; Third Assistant City Prosecutor from 1981-1983; and Second Assistant City Prosecutor from 1983-1986. [Source]

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) 

  • No quotes on this topic from the candidate at this time. 

 

EDCA and the US-Philippines Alliance 

  •  Duterte has publicly opposed the Visiting Forces Agreement which allows the entry of U.S. troops in the country and once claimed that he rejected the request of the United States to make Davao a center of drone operations in the region. [Source]  August 12, 2013
  • Duterte says that Philippines gave EDCA “for free" and that EDCA does not promise US will come to Philippines’ aid if China attacks them. [Source]  March 1, 2016
  • Duterte has “reservations about the presence of foreign troops,” but will respect the Supreme Court’s decision that the EDCA is not unconstitutional. He also said that he will closely monitor the EDCA’s implementation to ensure foreign troops stay within the limit of the agreement. "We will not allow the building of structures.” [SourceFebruary 4, 2016
  • According to Duterte, if the Philippines wins the international case against China for maritime territory, the Mutual Defense Treaty goes into effect and the US is obligated to protect the Philippines from China. [Source] April 12, 2016
  • In reference to critiques from the US and Australia’s ambassadors, Duterte threatened to cut diplomatic ties: "It would do well with the American ambassador and the Australian ambassador to shut their mouths." [Source] April 20, 2016
  • Later, Duterte denied that he threatened to cut ties with the US and Australia, rather that he didn’t like the fact that the US and Australian envoys were making statements against him.  [Source] April 22, 2016 

 

South China Sea

  • Duterte speaking to visiting military attachés, including those from the United States and China, during a discussion of the South China Sea territorial:  “America would never die for us. If America cared, it would have sent its aircraft carriers and missile frigates the moment China started reclaiming land in contested territory, but no such thing happened.” [Source] July 30, 2015
  • In reference to Philippines’ case against China over disputed South China Sea territory: “Let’s not talk about ownership and I will not make noise about it. If you want, let’s do a joint exploration. Just give me my part [of the agreement] whatever it is, [it may be] a train system from Manila to Mindanao. For six years, I will shut up.” [Source] March 10, 2016 
  • Duterte on China’s encroachment of the Philippines’ maritime territory: “Why did they not just stop it?” [Source] Wall Street Journal Interview, March 12, 2016
  • “I have told you before, that piece of water there is ours. China should understand that. I will never, ever surrender sovereignty over that area.” [Source] April 12, 2016 
  • Duterte has also said that he supports international case pending against China on maritime territory, and “further believes that any military conflict involving the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea should not happen as it will derail Philippine economic growth.”  [Source] April 14, 2016
  • Of the South China Sea dispute: “I will personally go to one of the islands in the disputed sea and plant the Philippine flag to stake the country's claim. If they will kill be it's up to you to cry here in the Philippines." [Source] Final Presidential Debate, April 24, 2016 
  • After winning the presidential election, Duterte said he would pursue multilateral talks with China, the US, and Japan concerning maritime disputes. [Source] May 9, 2016

   Back to Top

Grace Poe

Image: Office of Senator Grace Poe, Facebook Background, US Experience and Connections  

  •  Endorsed by former President and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. [Source
  • 47 years old, Poe was found as an infant in a church and adopted by famous actors Susan Roces and Fernando Poe Jr. She was recently approved to run for President despite unknown origins and family who are US citizens. [Source]
  • Earned her BA in Political Science from Boston College in 1991, remaining in the US with her husband. They lived predominantly in Fairfax, Virginia until 2005. [Source]
  • Poe's husband was in the US Air Force from 1988-1992. [Source]
  • Worked on father’s 2004 presidential campaign in Philippines and returned to live in the Philippines in 2005 after death of her father. [Source]
  • In April, 2016, Poe's husband renounced his US citizenship to the Philippines' government, but has yet to complete the process with the US. [Source

Current Position: Senator since 2013 and independent party leader of Nationalist People Coalition (NPC).  

Past Positions:  Chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) from 2010 to 2012. [Source]

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

  • No quotes on this topic from the candidate at this time. 

EDCA and the US-Philippines Alliance 

  • Speaking to US Ambassador Philip Goldberg at a forum organized by Rotary Club Manila:  "I'm sorry to say this Mr. Ambassador but I know the US is our ally. But we cannot fault [the Philippines] for thinking of their own interests. In pursuing any conflict, the first interest that we need to think of are our constituents." [Source] June 11, 2015
  • On November 6, 2015 Poe voted for a resolution drafted by Senator Miriam Santiago that EDCA should go through the Senate for approval. [Source]  
  • “[EDCA] should have passed through the Senate to scrutinize if it's a new agreement or not.... What can we get out of the agreement? Yes, they [US troops] are there. A superpower that can aide us. But do you remember? When they had bases here, they were at least paying rent. Because of EDCA, they will be staying in the country rent-free.” [Source] 1st Philippines Presidential Debate, Feb 21, 2016, 
  • "I agree with Senator Santiago. The Senate needs to review EDCA. We must put the country’s interests first. We can also strengthen our military, the way Singapore has. Let us take a leadership role in the Asean." [Source] 1st Philippines Presidential Debate, Feb 21, 2016

 

South China Sea

  •  “We really need to continue with our arbitration case. China and the Philippines are both signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. On the other hand, our relationship with China dates back centuries." [Source] June 11, 2015
  • “The West Philippine Sea is ours. We will protect our right through peaceful means, and according to international law. We will beef up our Coast Guard and armed forces so that we need not be intimidated by other countries.” [Source] Presidential Campaign Announcement, September 16, 2015
  • “The West Philippine Sea is not a personal aquarium of the Chinese. It's ours and we should persuade our allies. If they are true friends, they should help us and we should not give that up." [Source] Final Presidential Debate, April 24, 2016  

 

Filipinos in America 

  • Shortly before absentee voting began, Poe released a video encouraging Filipinos in America to pursue dual-citizenship between the US and the Philippines: “I encourage the more than 4 million of you living and working in the United States to apply for dual citizenship. I appeal to all of you to exercise your birthright. Become dual citizens because the Philippines is still your home. The advantages, I assure you, are substantial, including the right to vote and to own property in the Philippines.” [Source] Grace Poe to Overseas “Fighting” Filipinos, April 8, 2016 

  Back to Top

Mar Roxas 

 Image: Philippines Online Chronicle, Flickr. Background, US Experience and Connections  

  • Supported by current President Aquino. [Source
  • 58 years old, comes from one of the country’s richest families and his grandfather was  president of the Philippines in the 1940s. His campaign narrative has been that unlike other candidates (Vice President Binay and Senator Poe) he doesn’t have a dramatic life story but that the election is about the Filipino people. [Source
  • In 1979 earned a BA in economics and finance from Wharton School, the University of Pennsylvania. [Source
  • Worked for seven years as an investment banker in New York and became assistant vice president of the New York-based Allen & Company. [Source]

Current Position: Leader of ruling party, the Liberal Party, vows to continue Aquino’s platform “Daang Matuwid” (Straight Path or Righteous Path) 

Past Positions: 1993-2000 Congressman for First District of Capiz; 2000-2003 Secretary of Trade and Industry;  20040-2010 Senator; 2011-2012 Secretary of Transportation and Communications; 2012-2015 Cabinet of the Philippines as Secretary of the Interior and Local Government. [Source]

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

  • “Our entry into this international agreement [the TPP] is not automatic. We must first assess what the plusses and minuses are for us.” [Source]  November 23, 2015 
  • "Here's the political reality for any of you who've been following CNN, BBC: TPP is dead. There is no single American presidential candidate that is backing TPP today. I think that the way the dynamics are going in the US today, the chances for TPP are slim to none." [SourceMarch 30, 2016 
  • "For TPP as it stands right now, no, I would not be in favor of it because it will kill our agriculture sector." [Source]  March 30, 2016

 

EDCA and the US-Philippines Alliance 

The following is an excerpt from a speech given at the Philippine Bar Association Law Day Dinner:  

  • On the Supreme Court and Justice in the Philippines: “The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement allows foreign entities to preposition logistics within our shores; some quarters are raising concerns whether such an agreement can be entered into by the Executive, without ratification by the Senate. Again, given the assertiveness of our neighbor to the northwest, this issue must be decided by men and women who will interpret the law not just from a theoretical perspective but from the highest and broadest national interest.” [SourceSeptember 23, 2015

 

South China Sea 

  • “There will be increasing competition between the US and China. It will be felt in the West Philippines Sea.” [Source]  November 2, 2015
  • In reference to the final decision-making on the Philippines’ case against China over disputed South China Sea territory: “We have to protect our territory. So the President made that decision and I would have made the same decision...of filing that case. So, you take in all the best inputs that you can, and at the end of the day, it's pass your papers time – ready or not – and you have to make that decision, and I will make those decisions.” [Source] December 10, 2015 
  • Roxas does not believe that the Philippines can match China militarily, and so supports the arbitration case currently underway at The Hague. He believes that Filipinos can rely on help from the international community if the Philippines wins the case. [Source] Final Presidential Debate, April 24, 2016   

  Back to Top

Miriam Santiago     

Image: International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Flickr.

 Background, US Experience and Connections  

  • 70 years old, eldest of seven siblings to a father who was a lawyer and a mother who was an educator. [Source
  • Known for her intellectual prowess, has a large following among the youth but many are worried that for her health as she is battling cancer. [Source]
  • Graduated with her BA in Political Science in 1965 and her Bachelor of Law in 1969 from the University of the Philippines. [Source
  • In 1972, Santiago was in Dallas, Texas as a Fellow at the Academy of American and International Law for the Southwestern Legal Foundation.
  • Santiago earned a Masters of Laws at the University of Michigan in 1975.
  • In 1985, she was a graduate at the University of California at Berkeley.
  • In 1996, Santiago was in a Summer Program of Instruction for Lawyers at Harvard University. [Source]

Current Position: Current Senator, elected for first time in 1995, member of the People’s Reform Party (PRP) 

Past Positions: Worked as speechwriter for President Ferdinand Marcos, 1970-1980 was a law clerk for Secretary of Justice, 1979-1980 legal officer for the UN High Commission for Refugees, 1983-1987 judge for Metro Manilla, served in President Corazon Aquino’s cabinet in 1988-1989, and  previously ran for President in 1992 and came in 2nd place. [Source]  

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

  • No quotes on this topic from the candidate at this time. 

 

EDCA and the US-Philippines Alliance 

  • Drafted a resolution in Senate that EDCA go through Senate review which was approved by 14 Senators, including Grace Poe in November 2015. [Source]
  • On EDCA and protection from China: “You know, these diplomatic ins and outs are extremely complicated. There is no possible basis for saying it’s simple—let us side with America and it will fight the Chinese for us and that will be over. Of course not, what are you saying?” [Source] November 6, 2015 
  • In January 2016, Santiago drafted another resolution against EDCA and the Visiting Force Agreement (VFA) with the United States: “Philippine sovereignty, as well as the rights and dignity of its citizens suffered immensely during the 17 years of operation of the VFA. Let us assert our sovereignty and call for the total abrogation of this agreement. ” [SourceJanuary 17, 2016
  •  “I am against the EDCA. It should’ve first passed the Senate, not just the executive department […] Let us stand for our sovereign rights.” [Source] 1st Philippines Presidential Debate, Feb 21, 2016 
  • Santiago is against Chinese reclamation activities in the South China Sea, which violate the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and supports the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) but draws a line against the Philippines calling on treaty ally the United States to back the law with might.  [SourceMarch 3, 2016
  • Santiago says that if elected president, she will not depend on the U.S. to resolve the China takeover and instead will negotiate with China and other countries to put the matter to rest. [SourceMarch 3, 2016
  • “The Philippines will have to once and for all abandon its full-spectrum dependence on America as a guarantor of its national security.” [Source] April 7, 2016 
  • "The Philippines must ensure that it adopts, as much as possible, an equi-balancing strategy towards both China and America. To push back against Chinese adventurism by deepening Philippine dependence on another power runs counter to the very logic of protecting its national sovereignty.” [Source] April 7, 2016 

 

South China Sea 

  • “The government seems to have grown complacent on the issue of the West Philippine Sea dispute, confident that the international tribunal now hearing the memorial it has filed against China will rule in its favor.” [Source] March 3, 2016
  • Santiago says that if elected president, she will not depend on the US to resolve maritime disputes with China and instead will handle negotiating with China and other countries so find solutions. [Source] March 3, 2016
  • On maritime disputes with China: "If they are in our waters and take our fish, I will call the coast guard, I will bomb those." […] We will talk with them then tell them we have world public opinion behind us. The world believes the water is ours. That's why, they should bully us." [Source] Final Presidential Debate, April 24, 2016