MANILA, Philippines—’Tis again the season for promises.
On Thursday night, most of the 14 senatorial wannabes wooed students of the University of the Philippines to vote for them with promises of more education and health reforms.
The candidates—both newbies and old-timers—tried their best to convince the students, some of whom will be voting for the first time in May, by dangling more scholarships and even universal health insurance coverage.
Even the issues of political dynasties, church and state separation and the controversial Reproductive Health law and the Cybercrime law found their way into “The Rundown 2013,” a forum organized by the UP Economic Society and its partners.
“This is part of our efforts to promote honest and clean elections through voters’ education… We want voters to choose their candidates not because of ads, personality politics etc. but based on their analyses of problems, policy positions etc.,” said UP President Alfredo Pascual in his address.
Those who attended the forum were Representatives Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Mitos Magsaysay and JV Ejercito, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, Christian Seneres, former Manila councilor Grego Belgica, Rizalito David and JC delos Reyes of the Ang Kapatiran Party, Baldomero Falcone of the Democratic Party of the Philippines, Risa Hontiveros of the Liberal Party, former Sen. Ernesto Maceda Jr.;
Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, and Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas.
The candidates were given only two minutes to discuss their platforms, and one and a half minutes to answer questions from panelists and the audience.
All of the candidates professed support for the Freedom of Information bill without the right of reply provision, while most were for the repeal of the Cybercrime Law.
Most of the common platforms, aside from health and educational reforms, were on peace and order, jobs creation and entrepreneurship opportunities for the poor.
Angara, for one, advocated an increased health insurance coverage especially for the poor and a unified health care system.
Belgica seconded this, saying the pork barrel could be diverted to health insurance for universal coverage for all.
Aquino, for his part, said health care reforms like insurance coverage and improvement of hospitals “should happen side by side.”
Meanwhile, Ejercito also stressed health insurance and housing as a means of improving the lives of underpaid teachers without having to go through the budget department.
The most applauded statements were quips to touchy issues, like political dynasties and reproductive health.
When asked if he would file an antipolitical dynasty bill, Aquino said it was “about time that it was defined.”
“Let’s define what a political dynasty is. Then we can see who can run and who cannot,” he said during the open forum.
Sex ed for HS only
Magsaysay, who has opposed the RH law in the past, reiterated her stand that more important than sex education in schools is values formation for students.
Meanwhile, Maceda opined that sex education should be “for high school seniors only” while Hontiveros pushed for sexuality education as “ignorance breeds illness and death.”
Most of the candidates like Poe and Trillanes opposed the right of reply provision.
Trillanes said he was opposing the right of reply provision “for it is simply not right.”
“It will hinder media men from expressing facts and opinions,” he said.
Poe meanwhile branded the right of reply provision as “tedious and unnecessary.”
She pointed out that this might lead to government “encroaching on how news is expressed.”
Panelist Carlos Celdran of “Damaso” fame posed a provocative question, asking for a “non secular answer” to the candidates’ views on divorce.
While Hontiveros said it was about time that the country talked about divorce, David countered the question by asking if America benefited from having divorce laws in place.
“Mr. Celdran, you should also know that the Church’s teachings are based on empirical evidence,” David told the panelist.
David also found an ally in Magsaysay, who urged the strengthening of marriages as a foundation.
The head of the UP student government, Heart Diño, asked some candidates on their views on church and state separation.
Villanueva noted that more important is moral leadership, adding that “no state religion should be established and that religious freedoms should be absolutely protected.”
On other hand, Delos Reyes advocated “the politics of conscience.”
“If society exists for the welfare of the people, then I believe in pushing for a politics of conscience,” he said.