Some of the audience seats were remained unoccupied at the UP School of Economics Auditorium as thirteen candidates vying for senatorial posts meet at a forum on Friday, February 5.
The forum was entitled “The 6-Year Blueprint: A Senatorial Candidates’ Forum” featuring some of the senatorial candidates who shared their profiles and their platforms for the May elections.
The senatoriables who attended the forum were: Dr. Martin Bautista, Hon. Sylvestre Bello III, Mr. Rizalito David, Mrs. Jo Aurea Imbong, Ms. Kata Inocencio, Count Adz Nikabulin, Mrs. Sonia Roco, Mr. Reginald Tamayo, Mr. Adrian Sison, Mr. Vicente Sotto III, Mr. Alexander Tinsay, Dr. Israel Virgines, and Mrs. Pia Lacson, wife of Mr. Alexander Lacson, who served as his proxy at the forum.
The forum was conducted by the UP Economics Society and the UP Economics Towards Consciousness organization, and was sponsored by Dermclinic, One Health Card, and modelling agency John Robert Powers.
A lot of issues were tackled in the event which the candidates, whose a majority were UP graduates, answered and discussed under time pressure. Three minutes were given to each candidate in an alphabetical order to introduce themselves, and to give an overview on their platforms.
After everyone has spoken, selected members of the audience were given the privilege to ask questions on issues related to the 2010 elections. Each senatoriable was given one minute to answer. Some of the topics asked were on the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, Charter Change, and what they would do if a post is granted to them.
Various answers and explanations were heard from the senatoriables who were then on the hot seat. Some agreed with a colleague and others explicitly refused to believe the other camp’s views. Likewise, their body languages also revealed a little of what the Filipinos, particularly the youth, shall expect from them.
Here is the breakdown of the 13 (a great number) performance on the forum.
Who says a doctor cannot be a politician? Why not? He cures a social disease, after all. Dr. Martin Bautista who introduced himself first had more than it meets the eye. Being a UP graduate, he was a tough person, yet was toppled when his family migrated to the US a few years ago.
He says that instead of becoming a “iskolar ng bayan” (which has been the UP students’ pride), he was drawn to be a “iskolar ng ibang bayan”. He had no chance, he said, and in 1989, they flew to the US to seek a greener pasture.
In 2006, he came back to the Philippines and continued to serve the Filipinos in his profession as a doctor. He has never charged a single Filipino patient since then.
He views the Philippine political system as being filled with “unredeemable corruption” and, as someone who has the aspiration of becoming involved he it, he said that we “must take what is rightfully ours.”
His speech was ended by the bell uttering these words, “If you don’t do it, nobody else will.” A cliche but an appropriate sentence to describe his political will.
The Justice Man
“Walang karapatan ang Senado na mag-imbestiga ng kaso [nina] Hayden Kho at Katrina Halili!(The Senate has no right to investigate on Hayden Kho and Katrina Halili’s case!)” Honorable Sylvestre Bello, former Secretary of Justice, fiercely said shaking the audience. He is a former judge, a judge who wanted to be lawmaker. Sarcastic as he may be, he reiterated his appointment as Chief Justice for several years since the late Cory Aquino’s time until the present administration, except during former president and also presidential candidate Joseph Estrada.
“That was his (Estrada) biggest mistake,” Bello added.
His platforms were focused on “social justice” as he stated that the people cannot enjoy life’s amenities without social justice. He would advocate major reforms when he becomes a senator and would reexamine the credibility of the legislative body.
He further said that our country has been coated with corruption because of social injustice, and therefore a need for the implementation of his desires would save the nation.
“Justice, peace… peace, justice… Justice and peace” were his last words, from the speech.
We had a doctor and a judge. This time, a sociologist shall convince us. Rizalito “Lito” David graduated from UP Los Banos with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and a master’s degree in Environmental Studies.
He started his speech with the legendary anthem of his Alma mater. The colors green and red from the hymn meant hope and rage respectively according to him. The people are the hope of the nation, and the people would also be the ones to begin the battle when they are distressed.
David was once a student activist.”Yung luntian at pula, isinasabuhay ko [bilang] isang UP graduate (I live up with the colors green and red as a UP graduate),” he said.
Mrs. Jo Aurea Imbong, likewise a UP graduate, was the first woman who spoke in the forum. As she stood on the stage and panned her head over the audience who were mostly students said, “I can see the faces of my children as I [look at] your faces.”
Being a woman and a mother, she would push for family rights and human rights when she makes her way into the Senate. One of the worst problems of our country, she said, lies on the administration’s treatment to the families of indigenous minorities. Some of them were banned from fishing, were left hungry, and their lands have been taken away from them.
Her scales even went high when she said that the government’s focus shall not be on condom ads but on giving resolutions to these grievances.
“Kung malakas ang pamilya, matatag ang bansa (If the family is strong, the country would be firm),” this were one of her strong points as she believes that the family is the fundamental unit of our society, the backbone of development.
The Sultan, The Count
Incumbent senator Miguel Zubiri who ran for the Senate on the 2007 elections and won was a Congressman representing a province in Mindanao, but not a sultan. Now we have another candidate from Mindanao and an authentic sultan.
Reading his speech on the rostrum unlike the rest who spoke impromptu at the center stage, Count Adz Nikabulin advocated for a “righteous” leadership being part of Bro. Eddie Villanueva’s senatorial slate on the Bangon Pilipinas Party.
Maybe not a single paragraph on his read speech did he not mention God. He said that love of country is love of God, and God is the nation. What the country needs, according to him, is righteousness.
Wearing a yellow collared shirt and pants, Sonia Roco stood on the stage and we were suddenly in the classroom. Her trademark has been the long-standing “Inang Guro” for she believed to the mothers’ power on educating their children, being their first teachers, and how our academic instructors are treated as our second mothers/parents and classrooms our second home.
Three minutes seemed not enough for she had a lot to say. She wanted to continue the unfinished business of her late husband, Raul Roco on educating every Filipino. “Ang bawat bata ay [dapat] nag-aaral (Every child has to study),” she said. According to her, only 12% get into college.
She also emphasized that every home shall have a job, and that knowledge would give us a change that is beyond measurable doubt.
She did not ask the audience to vote for her but asked them to vote wisely for everyone has got the freedom to choose. “Ang malayang isip ang sa bayan ay sasagip (A free mind would save the nation),” she addressed.
In the Spotlight
Reginald Tamayo served initially as Councilor in Cagayan where he was deemed as one of the 10 Most Outstanding Councilors by the Philippine Councilors League (ph.politicalarena.com).
His platforms include the development of local government units through a Local Development Council. He believed that it shall not always be the mayor who would decide on what councilors enact but the people themselves.
Furthermore, he wanted a revision of the Local Development Code of 1971.
He wanted to react and make changes on the evolution of laws concerning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) from a temporary order during Marcos’ time to an institutionalized one at present.
Vicente Sotto III
He arrived late on the forum coming minutes before 6:00 pm and the program was supposed to begin at 4. Thankfully, the program did not and began at 5 pm. He was late because he “completely miscalculated the time”.
Before laying down his platforms, he spoke of many political backgrounds he has been into and told the audience that if he ventures on one thing, he would certainly exert the maximum effort on it.
He had boasted of his 64 authored bills when he was still senator and congressman and mentioned some including the Calamity Fund. He said that he had more bills passed but just “can’t remember them”.
Added to his concerns likewise was the revision of the Dangerous Drugs Act (1992) for there were loopholes on it according to him.
‘Tunay Na Pagbabago’
A broadcast journalist and a former reporter from GMA-7, Alexander Tinsay grips onto his fact that the root cause of Philippine society’s problems is corruption. There is no righteous leadership in the country according to him.
When he succeeds in being senator, he would go against the implementation of pork barrel, would modify, if not to eradicate, e-vat, and would demilitarize government agencies.
Another Doctor? Or Housekeeper?
“Why are we the sickman of Asia?” This was the question Dr. Israel Virgines, master of Business Administration, posted on his speech and answered them well on his own.
His said that we are sickmen because we don’t exercise our house management skills for our country is our house. “Maraming basura ang ating bahay,” he added. The bad management and the garbage both pertain to corruption, and it starts with every decision.
“Pag masama ang kanyang values, masama rin ang konsiyensiya niyan,” Virgines noted. And these values are developed by the environment.
Kayang-Kaya Ni Kata
Her speech focused more on the fate of Filipino women in these trying times. She wanted to solve the problems on Pinay human trafficking and sex slavery. According to her, the Philippines ranks 3rd on the number of victims of human trafficking next to the leading China and India. 55% of all human trafficking in Asia are from the Philippines. Her figures were horrible.
To escape these, we must change according to Kata. “Kayang-kaya natin ang pagbabago sa ating bansa,” she pointed out. I hope it doesn’t reflect one TV station’s tagline.
Supporter of the Poor
Like Bautista, she and her husband left the country once but in the end realized that the change they want for the nation would not be put into reality if they remain foreign to their homeland. They eventually went back to the Philippines.
Listed on Lacson’s platforms as relayed by his wife were job and education generation, and support for the poor Filipinos.
Now that we knew how they presented themselves to the audience, let us take a look at their responses when asked on trending issues the country faces as UP students bombard them questions.
Ano ang Magagawa Mo Bilang Senador?
Bautista: 1-year term for a senatorial post
Bello: I will charge the president whoever she is.
David: morality at pagbabago sa sarili
Nikabulin: promised zero corruption for six years
Lacson: set by example
Imbong: information, transparency, abolish pork barrel
Inocencia: zero corruption for 6 years
Roco: landas ng pagbabago, “laban ng tapat, laban ng lahat”, “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”
Sotto: impeach the corrupt president
Sison: search for evidences of corruption, against pork barrel
Tamayo: impeachment on president who failed to take on the duty
Tinsay: Con-con after elections
Tamayo: make proposals, if Cha-cha is for economic amendments, he’s into it; if only for extension of power, he’s not
Sison: If the present Constitution is being violated, why Cha-cha? No at present but make it under people’s plebiscite
Sotto: no to Cha-cha
Roco: There are already enough laws, they aren’t just implemented.
Inocencio: pro-federal form of government
Imbong: depends on what you want to change
Lacson: no to Cha-cha this time
Nikabulin: yes to Cha-cha but not right now
David: “Let’s give it a rest… Let’s make it (present constitution) work… It’s a very beautiful constitution.”
Bello: deserves a level of permanence (but must be dynamic)
Bautista: But no constitution is perfect.