In Philippines' Presidential Race, A Chaotic Cast Of Characters : Parallels The U.S. presidential contest may seem crowded with more than a dozen candidates on the Republican side alone. But in the Philippines, a record 130 candidates have filed for the presidency.

In Philippines' Presidential Race, A Chaotic Cast Of Characters

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If you think the Republican presidential field is crowded, try the Philippines - 130 candidates have filed to run for president there in 2016. Michael Sullivan has more from the capital, Manila, on the world of Philippine politics and similarities to our own.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: A colorful cast assembled outside the election commission headquarters in Manila as the registration process got underway. There were dragon dancers.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).

SULLIVAN: And a man dressed as the hero of a recent blockbuster, Heneral Luna, a chest-thumping, jingoistic war pic that's landed right in the public's wheelhouse, given the hysteria over China's reclamation projects in the South China Sea.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

SULLIVAN: Among those who registered to be president - a self-proclaimed prophet who calls himself the Archangel Lucifer, a newspaper vendor who promises to make every Filipino a millionaire within five years, another man who says he was the former flight engineer for Osama bin Laden and the guy who wants to legalize the four seasons in order to get rid of just the dry and rainy ones. Arturo Pacheco Reyes also wants Filipinos to embrace the American dream. And he means all of it.


ARTURO PACHECO REYES: I like to make the Philippines one of the greatest nation on Earth through U.S. statehood - the 51st state of the United States of America.

SULLIVAN: Most of those who filed will ultimately have their bids rejected by the election commission, what the media here calls nuisance candidates. But the reason so many people have filed this time, says political consultant Malou Tiquia, is frustration - ordinary Filipinos who want their voices heard, however briefly.

MALOU TIQUIA: Most of them are poor. They don't have the wherewithal to launch a nationwide campaign. But the problems they are saying have not been solved. Corruption, poverty, employment, jobs - those are not new issues. So it is also a reflection of the inability of leaders to solve some age-old problems we have in this country.

SULLIVAN: Problems exacerbated by the dynastic nature of politics here, where the established economic elite calls the shots and has created political dynasties that put the Bush and Clinton clans to shame. More than 70 percent of members in Congress have family members who serve there, too. And, Malou Tiquia says, their influence extends everywhere.

TIQUIA: That is felt especially at the local government level, where families really control several municipalities, several districts, the province. You don't have to have an accomplishment. You just have to have the right name.

SULLIVAN: The current president, Benigno Aquino, has the right name. His mother was also president from one of the country's wealthiest families. The Marcos name works, too. The former dictator's son, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. - or Bongbong as he's known here - is running for vice president. His mom, Imelda, she of the fabulous shoe collection, is looking for another term in Congress. And there's a presidential candidate who's the adopted daughter of a former film star. In other words, Malou Tiquia says, nothing's going to change anytime soon.

TIQUIA: I think you need a strong leader to tell the oligarchs, come on, it's time that we do - you guys do something for the country. Hopefully we can find one.

SULLIVAN: The last one who did, she says, was Ferdinand Marcos. And that didn't end so well. But she says the Philippines needs a fighter. Wait a minute, they have one.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Body shot, body shot, bang, bang, bang, bam, bam, bam. Manny Pacquiao is blowing the roof off of Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

SULLIVAN: That's right, Manny Pacquiao may be the people's choice next time around. The boxer's rags to riches story, one that resonates with the public. But they'll have to wait. This election, Congressman Pacquiao is looking to move up a political weight class to senator as a possible steppingstone towards the presidency. Political consultant Malou Tiquia says he's definitely a contender, but probably would have been a lock if he'd beaten Floyd Mayweather back in May. He's got six more years to work on it. For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan in Manila.

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