During the ABS-CBN Harapan 2013 Senatorial Debate held last 28 April at La Consolacion College, Bangon Pilipinas senatorial candidate Bro. Eddie Villanueva claimed that he would replicate the People’s Bank program implemented by Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand in his home country if he ever got elected.
It is a stance he has echoed before in a previous interview.
Going into more detail, the People’s Bank was one of the major projects of Thailand's former Prime Minister.
It was created with the aim of encouraging the rural poor to engage in micro-enterprises by means of improving credit accessibility.
This not only offered financial support to those without access to a formal banking system, but likewise stimulated entrepreneurship among the poor and small-village producers.
The People’s Bank formed part of the dual-track policy or Thaksinomics,introduced by Thaksin, which aims to alleviate the plight of the poor by simultaneously cultivating development and economic growth both at the national and local level.
Described in the literature as populist policies, Thaksin’s platforms were not only designed to eradicate poverty but were likewise packaged to generate votes among the rural poor.
In fact, the popularity of his platforms has also been considerably favorable to his political party, Thai Rak Thai.
Bro. Eddie Villanueva’s political platform is the Politics of the Fringes or Pulitika ng Sagigilid.
Explained in his campaign website, Bro. Eddie aims to improve the condition of the marginalized sector (modern-day sagigilid) through an aggressive and inclusive economy; through education, particularly the kind instrumental in industrial development; and 'entre-pinoy', which aims to benefit the common Filipino.
While Thaksin promised to eradicate poverty, Bro. Eddie likewise strives to assuage the plight of the modern-day sagigilid which he says is in line with the platform of his party, Bangon Pilipinas.
There is little doubt that each platform is designed either to address a prevailing issue of the country or alleviate the plight of a particular sector, perhaps both.
Thaksinomics became popular, especially among the poor because it offered a promise to improve the conditions of the rural poor – an uncommon approach among Thaksin’s political contemporaries.
However, as the literature also reveals, Thaksinomics offered a platform which, though supposedly crafted in favor of the rural poor, failed to guarantee its own sustainability and meet expectations.
Bro. Eddie Villanueva’s promise to replicate the People’s Bank of Thaksin reveals more than his dedication to provide accessible credit to those most in need.
For one, it raises the question of its applicability to the Philippine setting and its re-alignment with existing government-led micro-finance programs such as the KALINGA para sa mga Manggagawa Fund and the Agri-Fishery and Microfinance Program (AFMP), among others.
There is also the question of how it will be implemented considering the Philippine government, unlike Thailand, does not operate as a constitutional monarchy.
It will therefore take not only the initiative of a Senator, but also a sufficient budget and an institution to manage the proposed program once it takes off.
How soon this promise can be implemented, given the all the necessary bureaucratic procedures, must also be considered.
The platforms of Bro. Eddie Villanueva and Thaksin share a similar sympathy for the deprived.
Let us hope, however, that these promises are more than a replication of an election strategy to appeal to the majority and generate votes that could benefit both the candidate and the party even more.
(This fact-check was conducted by University Extension Specialist II Corinna Frances O. Cabanilla of the Center for Policy and Executive Development, UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP NCPAG), UP Diliman. UP is a partner of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs for the May 13 elections.)