2016 In Retrospect

2016 started with hope and promise.

Time, perhaps, to help change history both in the Philippines and the United States with our votes.  Depending on who you voted for, there was elation or disappointment.  But the verdict is not yet out.  The coming year, or years, will tell and history will judge.

In this “master” blog, I’ve included three blogs  which are retrospective views (although political in nature) of 2016.

Philippines – 2016 – The Year in Retrospect

The year, as with all New Years, started with a lot of optimism.  Noynoy Aquino ended his 6-year presidential term this year and, although his term was successful politically, financially, fiscally, and socially, there were some detractors (very vocal detractors, which is not unusual in Philippine politics).

In April 2016, I wrote:

During the past five years of the PNoy Aquino administration, the Philippine economy has grown steadily at an average rate of 6.2 percent a year, which has been the highest in the past 40 years.  After having lagged behind other Asian economies and dubbed the “Sick Man of Asia”, the Philippines is now one of the more dynamic economies in the world and the country is seen as having the potential of sustained economic growth in the coming years.

 There is renewed optimism and confidence in the country and a new sense of pride and respectability that the Philippines is becoming one among the vibrant and dynamic economies of Asia.  Progress on the economic front has come hand-in-hand with good governance, as evidenced by the anti-corruption efforts of the Aquino administration, legislative reforms to encourage entrepreneurship, support of the private sector and promotion of job growth, sound economic policies to manage inflation and interest rates and encouragement of foreign investment by promoting a friendly investment climate.

 We are on the right course to sustained economic growth, the institutionalization of good governance and anti-corruption measures, and a new-found respect in the international community for the turn-around of our economy.

The 2016 presidential elections brought 3 strong candidates – Jejomar Binay, Grace Poe, and Mar Roxas.


A latecomer was Rodrigo Duterte and he was a longshot.  His rating spiked 2 months after the announcement of his candidacy but, later, the man to reckon with was Binay.  As with all fish that are left out in the open, his baho started to smell and all candidates were practically in dead heat in March.  But Duterte started to pull ahead of the pack and would become the Philippines’ next president.

Why did Duterte win?

  • Suppress crime, stop the spread of drugs, stop corruption within 3 to 6 months after election into office
  • Spread economic growth throughout the country and decongest Metro Manila
  • Improve labor conditions for Filipino workers, including OFWs
  • Improve mobility of people and goods, i.e., solve Metro Manila transportation woes
  • Double salaries of teachers by the end of their term; build adequate classrooms, double classroom shifts
  • Require all hospitals to have a facility for very poor patients with government paying for the health services using PhilHealth reserve funds, sin tax revenues, and Department of Health budget

These election promises struck a strong chord with the Filipino people at this time because they wanted CHANGE.  No matter how strong the economy was, no matter how matuwid was the daan, no matter how peace and order had improved, these improvements did not trickle down to the common people, the masa.  The rich had become richer, the elite had become more powerful, and traffic had become worse (imagine commuting, being on a crowded bus as against air-conditioned cars for two hours).  Duterte did not represent the rich, the elite, nor centralized Manila (with all its ills, as opposed to Davao City).

As we close the year 2016, where are we?

  • Forecasted economic growth: 6.4%
  • Law and order:
    • Crime 32% down; murder up 50%
    • More than 6,000 extrajudicial killings in anti-drug war
  • On July 12, 2016, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said that traffic in Metro Manila would improve in 100 days
    • At the end of 2016, there have been no pronouncements from Malacanang Palace touting any improvements in the traffic situation

Are we there yet?  You be the judge.


USA – 2016 – The Year in Retrospect

On November 12, 2016 (after the results of the US presidential elections were in), I started writing:

I have been in a writing funk ever since . . . . I haven’t been able to write ever since April 2016, when Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines.  It was such a traumatic experience for me after supporting Mar Roxas wholeheartedly.  I told myself that this would pass and time will heal.

I looked forward to the US presidential election and focused my thoughts (happy thoughts, I thought) on the election of Hillary Clinton as the first US woman president.  My wife and my kids were Hillary all the way.  We looked forward to watching the election results the night of Nov 8, anticipating a celebration of Hillary Clinton’s victory.  Then the world came crashing down on us as the swing states swung towards Donald Trump.  Such a devastating letdown.  Ever since last Tuesday evening, I have been numb with disbelief . . . .

but I could not finish the article.

The 2016 US presidential election campaign started with a lot of optimism for the Democratic Party.  Although Bernie Sanders put up a good fight, Hillary prevailed and the optimism turned to unfounded overconfidence when Donald Trump was chosen as the Republican standard bearer.  You’ve got to be kidding – Donald Trump?

Well, the rest is history.  Donald pulled off one of the biggest upsets in US election history by winning the electoral votes although Hillary won by almost three million popular votes.  Although unfair and unconscionable, it is what it is and we have Trump for the next four years.

How did Trump pull it off?  He actually read the mood of the country correctly at the right time.  Among his election campaign promises were (although he kept on changing them):

  1. ‘Build a wall’ — and make Mexico pay for it
  2. Temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States
  3. ‘Bring manufacturing (jobs) back’
  4. Impose tariffs on goods made in China and Mexico
  5. Renegotiate or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership
  6. ‘Full repeal of Obamacare’ and replace it with a market-based alternative
  7. Renegotiate the Iran deal
  8. Leave Social Security as is
  9. Cut taxes
  10. ‘Bomb’ and/or ‘take the oil’ from ISIS

Clearly, Trump pandered to the dissatisfied and disillusioned voter, especially the white male voter.  A Democrat strategist described a variant of this behavior as “whitelash”.  But, in general, it was a rebellion against the political establishment elitism, the “swamp” (I will come to this later) in Washington DC.  Trump represented someone not of the political elite, who spoke the language of middle America, stoked the fears of middle America, and painted a rosy picture of America to come.  Trump represented CHANGE.  And 63,000,000 or 46.1% (as opposed to Hillary’s 48.2%) of voters bought his promises lock, stock, and barrel.

So where are we now?

Trump has not yet started his term but indications are that it will be a bumpy, if not disastrous, ride.

He has been changing his election promises or platform left and right.

For the New Year he has tweeted “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do.”

He promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington DC but he’s starting to fill it with his own people to overflow.

God help us and the USA.


Uncanny Similarities Between Duterte and Trump

Duterte Trump
Characterized as Dirty mouth, the punisher Misogynist, racist, narcissistic, homophobe
Marriage Once, now living with common-law wife Three times
National Political Experience None; local – mayor of Davao City None
Joined the presidential derby Late; 8 months before the elections Late; crept up the Republican primaries slowly besting experienced candidates
Underdog Entered the presidential race last among candidates and upset front runners Trailed Hillary Clinton all the way until Election Day
Did not win majority vote Garnered 39% of the votes Won 46% of votes against Hillary’s 48%
The “elite” Campaigned against the Philippine political, social, and economic elite, the status quo; change Campaigned against the established Washington DC political elite, the status quo; change
Political base The middle class who did not share the benefits of the emerging Philippine economy Middle America, white men voters who saw the American dream slowly slipping away
Political promises Spread economic growth throughout the country Make America great again.

‘Bring manufacturing (jobs) back’


Galen S. Altavas

Galen Altavas has worked in both the private and public sectors both in the Philippines and the United States, as a rural banker, fishpond operator, marketing manager, financial analyst, IT manager and IT project manager. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Ateneo de Manila University and an MBA in Finance from the Seattle University in Seattle, WA. He resides in Baybay, Roxas City, Philippines and Seattle, WA.