October 3rd, 2012
02:52 PM ET

Obama: A big brother to Filipinos?

By Mong Palatino, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Raymond “Mong” Palatino is a member of the House of Representatives in the Philippines. This is the latest in a series looking at how the U.S. presidential election is viewed from abroad. The views expressed are his own.

The Obama phenomenon that swept the world in 2008 didn’t end that year. Well, at least in the Philippines anyway, where it continued to inspire my compatriots to look for national leaders in the Obama mold.

Indeed, the 2010 Philippine presidential election was quite surreal, what with all the candidates presenting themselves as a kind of Filipino Obama. They all offered hope, they promised change, they tapped the power of the ubiquitous new media, and they mobilized young voters.

But there could only be one winner in that race: Benigno Aquino III, the son of former President Cory Aquino and democracy icon Ninoy Aquino. The similarities between Aquino and Obama were evident to many. Both were young senators before becoming presidents of their respective countries. They were catapulted to power at a time when there was a huge clamor for change amid the various challenges facing the two nations. The United States was reeling from the Wall Street financial mess, which also affected smaller economies like the Philippines. Both Aquino and Obama inherited the presidency from very unpopular presidents. In short, there was an expectation among the people in both countries that their new leader would deliver results fast, with substantial reforms in governance.

After four years in the White House, the Obama presidency seems secure, although critics say it has failed on many counts, such as reversing the downturn in the economy. Some have also accused Obama of merely expanding the policies of his much-loathed predecessor.

But Obama has remained a popular figure in the Philippines despite some U.S. criticism of his allegedly weak leadership. Many Filipinos are aware of Obama’s domestic troubles, but this doesn’t seem to put them off. Maybe they agree with Obama’s excuse that the country’s problems were caused by the mismanagement of the previous administration. (An argument, incidentally, used by Aquino who, after only two years in power, is already accused of reneging on his numerous campaign promises).

Regardless, Obama’s enduring popularity in the Philippines is not entirely a mystery. The Obama magic may have waned, but the leader of the most powerful nation in the world still has widespread appeal here. And believe it or not, there are still many Filipinos who consider the half century of American colonial rule as a benevolent episode in the country’s history. Most Filipinos are proud of their special ties with the United States, and they expect American politicians to honor this friendship.

In many Filipino eyes, Obama has done more than maintain good relations with the Philippines – he has taken bold action on affirming the earlier commitment of American leaders to protect the security and defense of the Philippines against external aggressors. Filipinos  interpreted Obama's pledge to "consult closely" with Manila as a declaration of support for the Philippines, which is currently embroiled in a maritime dispute with China. They are grateful also for the steady arrival of U.S. military assistance. In other words, the U.S. under Obama is still a Big Brother for many Filipinos.

As for Mitt Romney, he is also relatively popular in the Philippines, but he is known simply as the political rival of Obama. Unlike John McCain, who spent time at the U.S. military base in the Philippines during the Vietnam War, Romney seems to have no special connection with the Philippines. Yet if he wins, he will still get the support of Filipinos in the same way that George W. Bush was still warmly welcomed here despite his disastrous foreign policies. No American president has been rejected by Filipinos since the country gained its independence from the United States in 1946.

One issue that has the potential to influence the opinion of Filipinos with regard to the U.S. elections is business process outsourcing. Some Americans complain that U.S. companies have been outsourcing some of their services to other countries. Next to India, the Philippines is a leading outsourcing destination, meaning Filipinos are naturally wary of policy statements from American politicians favoring the reduction of outsourcing investments to other countries.

As a result of all this, expect Filipinos to be watching what the candidates say very closely.

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Topics: 2012 Election • Asia • Barack Obama • Mitt Romney • United States

soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    No doubt a good relationship with the US might help Philippines solve some problems. The radical Islamist Abu Sayyaf group on the island of Jolo, reputedly linked to Al-Qaeda, has a history of violence towards hostages, and the government has declared all-out war on it. On the southern island of Mindanao, rebels have been fighting for a separate Islamic state within this Catholic country. The decades-long conflict has claimed more than 120,000 lives. Since 1969 the government has also faced a protracted guerrilla campaign across much of the country by the communist New People's Army (NPA). Despite agreement on a peace deal, mutual distrust remains a problem.

    October 4, 2012 at 7:24 am | Reply
  2. the truth

    Of course obama is a big brother, he is a muslim

    October 4, 2012 at 8:15 am | Reply
    • mikeinwyoming

      Such ignorant hogwash. Ignorance in the fact that the Republic of the Philippines is predominantly Roman Catholic. There are Muslims there, as there are in USA, and there is an insurgency for autonomous rule, but to equate the country with the Muslin religion is beyond foolish, it is dumb. Second, while you may not like our President, he is not a Muslim. He is what he professes to be. To argue otherwise has no more validity than if I were to argue you worship Satan.

      October 4, 2012 at 9:33 am | Reply
    • John Smith

      dumb azz, you are.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  3. Anggo

    No there is a big difference between Obama and Aquino. Obama failed the US economy after four years of services, while Aquino succeed in economic progress in Philippines for only two years. Way to go PNOY!

    October 4, 2012 at 8:57 am | Reply
    • John Smith

      Our economy was going down well before Obama took office. We are are so short sighted.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Reply
      • Anggo

        Same with Aquino! when Aquino took office, Philippine economy was way down. In fact if I'm not mistaken, it is second to the last rank of Best Asia economy.

        I believe it's all about Best Policy and Good Governance that took Philippines to the new heights.

        October 4, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
      • Anggo

        God Bless America! Mabuhay Philippines!

        October 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
      • Pinoy

        Philippines is a FRACTION of the size of the United States is. Aquino did a good job, but its a much smaller country than what United States is. Bush really F'ed our country up. He basically set up the new president for failure.

        October 4, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Ernest

      Economic progress in the Philippines ? What economic progress would that be? Securing work permits to send people west so they send back another $ 16 billion in remittances like they did last year? What you'd call 'Economic Progress' I'd called Economic Parasitism.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:49 am | Reply
  4. Joe

    who says he's a big brother? his economic policies favor china, which makes the country so rich and powerful that it now wants to take all islands in west philippine sea.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:53 am | Reply
  5. lol

    Filipinos also say that Michael Jackson was a Filipino

    October 4, 2012 at 11:23 am | Reply
  6. Brenda S

    Most Filipinos I've met here in the US are all Republicans, they're conservative, hard-working and very Grateful for having to opportunity to better their lives here in the land of opportunity. Though, the elderly and those young adultFilipinos born here tend to be Obama supporters.
    I think Filipinos in the Philippines mistakenly believes, Obama will save them from China (takeover of Scarborough shoals), not realizing the US (esp. OBAMA) is not willing to get into any altercation with China.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  7. oscar

    ARE INDIANS UBER TERRORISTS OR WHAT???? Forget Philipinos, focus on these murder statistics.
    In India, millions of girls are strangled, slowly starved or simply tossed in the trash. Moreover, in India, at least 1,370 girls are aborted every day. As a comparison, some 250 Indians die every day in road accidents. Terrorists killed about six people, on an average, every day in 2009. In the last two decades of economic progress, 10 million girls have died as such in India.
    Indians have killed more human beings (girls particularly) than Al Qaeda and Talibans put together.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  8. Realist

    Democrat administrations have always been nicer to the Filipinos.... If you read about the history of US involvement in the Philippines, you'll know what I'm talking about.,,

    October 25, 2012 at 9:40 am | Reply
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