Manitobans watch as boxing icon, son of late dictator vie for Philippine presidency
Those voting from Canada consider pandemic response, well-being of loved ones still in Phillippines
From his home in Winnipeg, Nico Bryle Alfafara is watching a presidential race unfold and thinking about how he plans to vote — though the candidates who will end up on the ballot are thousands of kilometres away.
Elections in the Philippines in May 2022 will decide who will replace outgoing and controversial president Rodrigo Duterte.
"I think it's important because of my heritage as a Filipino," said Alfafara. "It's important to also know what's still happening out there in the Philippines because I still have relatives there. I still have families and loved ones there."
People living in Canada who are eligible to vote in the upcoming election have until Oct. 14 to register for overseas voting, according to the The Embassy of the Philippines in Ottawa.
While election day is still months away, some have already announced they're joining the race. That includes Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr, the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and internationally known boxer Manny Paquiao, among others.
And there's still time for others to enter the race, according to Leonora Angeles, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Community and Regional Planning.
Angeles, a dual citizen of the Philippines and Canada, said she plans to vote.
She thinks one of the key issues for voters will be the pandemic response in the Philippines. That includes questions surrounding how money earmarked for the pandemic was spent, she said.
"Top in the minds of Filipinos is how do we get out of this pandemic crisis," she said.
Another focus, she said, will be on human rights and what will happen to democratic institutions.
"Particularly when you have a president, the incumbent President Duterte, who is very much well known for his strong anti-crime and war against drugs that had led to the loss of due process."
A formal investigation has been launched by The International Criminal Court (ICC) into killings that occurred during Duterte's war on drugs.
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Angeles said she's active in the global Filipino movement to support the opposition, though she said it's still not known who that will be.
"I wish I have a crystal ball to, you know, tell you what's going to happen," said Angeles. "Right now everything is in flux. The situation is so fluid."
Like Alfafara, Karla Atanacio is watching closely from Winnipeg and planning to vote.
"All I know is that we don't need people with views as strong as Duterte and so we need to bring back, you know, that non-partisanship, that ability to work with different political views and different political parties," said Atanacio.
"Human rights and education and getting more kids to school, sanitation like those are the top issues that should not be debated."
Right now, she's waiting to see who else joins the race.
When it comes to Pacquiao, she said while there's no denying his popularity, she's not convinced he's the right person to be president.
"He's this figure that is so powerful that he could stop traffic whenever he fights 'cause we all pay attention to what he's doing," she said.
"But… whenever I have a chance to engage people in this talk it just sometimes becomes super bleak cause they're like 'Well he's like a billionaire, what does he know about our problems?' It's not an easy conversation to have."
Atanacio said she's encouraging those living in Manitoba who are eligible to vote to do so.
20,000 voted from Canada in 2016
Ronaldo Opina, Honorary Consul for Manitoba, says he's noticed a high turnout of people looking to register for absentee ballots, though he can't say how many people in Manitoba have registered to vote.
The embassy said in the 2016 elections, more than 22,000 Filipinos in Canada participated in overseas voting.
Alfafara is still in the process of registering to vote from here, and he's looking at the background and track record of those who are running.
He's also not convinced Pacquiao, who is also a senator, is the right person for the job.
"I do recognize the goodness of the heart of Manny Pacquiao to serve and to help individuals," he said. "But I think it's not enough for a position that's so high, that requires a lot of accountability and responsibility."
He said a key issue for him is looking at the questions surrounding the pandemic response and allegations of corruption.
He's been hoping to see the country's current vice president, Leni Robredo, enter the race for president. Robredo is the opposition leader and was not Duterte's running mate in 2016.
She announced she would be running for president on Thursday.
"It's important that after the election, the one that will win will be able to try and solve those problems that were left unsolved by the previous administration," he said.
Duterte's daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio, who is currently the mayor of Davao city, has denied the speculation that she will join the race.
With Files from Reuters and Associated Press