Hillary Clinton would win hands down in the Philippines if the former American colony had a say, the SCMP’s survey found. Some 78 per cent of Filipino respondents would choose the Democrat over her Republican rival Donald Trump (22 per cent).
Although taking place far away, the US polls have Filipinos lapping up the twists and turns of the race and the interest is understandable: based on a 2010 census in the US, 3.4 million Filipinos live there, making them the second largest Asian minority after the Chinese. In addition, more than 60,000 visit the US each year, while thousands more wait to migrate.
Filipinos monitor the elections through Facebook, television, Twitter and newspapers. Some 68 per cent had a favourable impression of Clinton, compared to 26 per cent for Trump. They found the former US secretary of state “diplomatic” (51 per cent) and a welcome dinner companion (78 per cent).
Only 26 per cent would dine with Trump, while 60 per cent found him “arrogant” and 50 per cent “unpredictable”.
Despite Trump’s negatives, 51 per cent thought the former host of the reality TV show, The Apprentice, would be more effective than Clinton in combating Islamic terrorism. However, of the 401 respondents, 76 per cent thought Clinton would be better in helping ensure regional security in Asia.
“Which of the candidates would be better for Asia?,” one survey question asked. Clinton, replied 62 per cent. Trump, said 13 per cent. Neither, said the rest.
What the survey did not capture, though, is that many Filipinos view Clinton as “the lesser evil”.
“She’s a liar,” Gilda M said. She declined to have her surname published because she visits her daughter, an American citizen, in California. Gilda said she was for Trump because while he also lied, he was lying as a private citizen but Clinton was a government official.
The survey respondents gave both candidates very low marks for honesty – 8 per cent chose the attribute to describe Trump and 16 per cent for Clinton.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said most Filipinos would go for the familiar, “like Hillary”.
Asked who would be better for the country, Casiple, the executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said both had advantages and disadvantages for the Philippines.
He noted that Clinton was part of the pivot to Asia and said she would play “hardball” with President Rodrigo Duterte, who has publicly announced his own pivot – away from the US and towards China. “But Trump will probably make us pay for US defence” in the South China Sea as he has criticised US allies as “freeloaders”, he added.
“In the end, the history of American policy toward the Philippines has always been bipartisan – no matter who wins, the winner is always hard on the Philippines,” Casiple pointed out.
Recently, Duterte has declined to answer the question of whom he would prefer. But early in his presidency, Duterte called Trump “a bigot” because he “hates Muslims”.
Duterte himself has been branded the “Trump of the East” by some American commentators.
A keen watcher of both Philippine and US politics, however, said: “Duterte would probably want to see Trump win. Like him, the billionaire is also a big fan of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. Hillary Clinton was endorsed by outgoing US President Barack Obama, whom he called a son of a bitch for criticising his war of drugs.”
Clinton had backed Obama’s decision not to meet Duterte, saying: “When the president of the Philippines insulted our president, it was appropriate in a very low-key way to say: sorry, no meeting.”