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Fresh ideas by ‘new blood’ at 2nd Inquirer Senate Forum

Senatorial candidates (from left) Bam Aquino, JC de los Reyes, Risa Hontiveros, Greco Belgica, Marwil Llasos, Mitos Magsaysay, Christian Señeres and Bal Falcone join the 2nd Senate Forum of the Philippine Daily Inquirer at University of Baguio on Thursday. EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

BAGUIO CITY—Remove the expanded value-added tax and charge all Filipinos with a much lower flat tax to allow the breadwinner to bring home more money.

Let the government start offering college financing programs. Make people learn securitization, the process of collecting mortgaged assets covered by bad debts so these could be converted into bond investments and make more money for the country.

These were some of the fresh, and occasionally fantastic, ideas that were presented on Thursday by new political blood at the 2nd Inquirer Senate Forum at the University of Baguio here.

Taking center stage were senatorial aspirants whom the Inquirer editors called “new blood:” Entrepreneur Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, 36; Ang Kapatiran president John Carlos “JC” de los Reyes, 43; former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica, 35; former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, 47; and Zambales Rep. Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay, 49.

They were joined by another Kapatiran member, lawyer Marwil Llasos, 38; former Buhay Rep. Christian Señeres, 37; and business consultant Baldomero “Bal” Falcone, 68.

Like the first forum at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, on April 10, the Baguio event was theme-driven that followed the question: “What can new voices contribute to the Senate?”

Belgica proposed to introduce a uniform public tax, saying government officials control too much public funds to the detriment of the majority.

“Public money goes to the pockets of politicians…. Why can’t we allow the common Filipino to keep his earnings?” he said.

Flat tax rate

By reducing taxes to a flat rate of 10 percent of all manner of income, households can increase consumer spending, Belgica said, adding that the increase in demand would help lower prices of goods and services, including gasoline and electricity.

“Dapat hawak ng tao ang pera, hindi diretso sa bulsa ng pulitiko (The average Filipino should control money, and not let it go straight to the pockets of politicians),” he said.

Falcone proposed to increase public capital through securitization, which, he said, he wanted to teach all Filipinos. He said once bad assets were made viable, government should make better projects on which to spend the increased public revenue.

Education solutions

Team PNoy partymates Aquino and Hontiveros shared the notion that providing subsidy for aspiring college students would “complete the bridge” that the Aquino administration started when government reformed the basic education system with the K+12 program.

Aquino proposed to build a college loan facility.

Their rivals chimed in with their own education solutions. Belgica, for example, proposed to scrap the pork barrel and use the money to capitalize a tuition voucher fund.

Principled Senate

Aquino said the youth valued education these days because their outlook had become more global due to technology and to a broadening social conscience.

Llasos proposed to restore a “principled” Senate, after the moderators, Inquirer.net editor-in-chief Abel Ulanday and columnist Rina Jimenez-David, threw questions about recent Senate feuds that had gone public.

“Let’s bring back the golden age of Philippine politics to the Senate. We had the likes of [Claro M.] Recto, [Jose] Diokno, [Lorenzo] Tañada, Ninoy Aquino, who debated on the basis of platform and principle and not on the basis of personality. We should do leadership by example,” Llasos said.

De los Reyes said his campaign was to institute a God-driven governance and proposed to combat political dynasties, despite his own lineage. He is a nephew of another senatorial candidate, former Sen. Richard Gordon.

“I am tired of all the Binays and Enriles. Year after year, they try to turn our heads,” De los Reyes said.


Magsaysay reiterated her stance against the reproductive health law and agreed with Belgica when she stressed that population increase should not be blamed for poverty.

Magsaysay, a candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance, championed health and education during the discussions.

Señeres advocated change like the rest of the candidates. He said he planned to use his pork barrel, if elected, to build schools, sports centers and public libraries and to work for the passage of laws that ban dynasties.

Half of the candidates were too new for Baguio residents, and many campaigned unrecognized before and after the forum.

Belgica shook hands when he arrived at the UB in a T-shirt and some of the people he met looked surprised. He arrived here shortly before the forum started at 1:45 p.m. from Tuguegarao City, a 12-hour travel by land.


Many of the candidates said they spent some time doing rituals before the show, a process they learned on the road.

Llasos, a lawyer, cracked jokes at the lounge with his fellow candidates, to help him prepare for the discussions.

De los Reyes spent time at the UB chapel before the forum. Hontiveros, a staunch RH advocate, said her backstage ritual before she faced an audience was “to breathe deeply and collect my thoughts.”

“I’m glad to be part of this election. Although they say that we are not popular, our candidacy enabled us to equalize the elections,” Señeres said.—Reports from Vincent Cabreza, Frank Cimatu and Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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Tags: 2nd Inquirer Senated rorum , Baguio City , Elections , Philippines , senatorial candidates

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