MANILA, Philippines?It was the ?GG? question she didn?t see coming.
Even the most combative speaker in Monday?s Philippine Daily Inquirer 1st Edition Presidential Debate had to make a guess and put up an excuse when asked: Would you know the current price of ?galunggong??
?I think about P60 per kilo?? Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo ?Jamby? Madrigal replied, quickly drawing snickers from the bleachers at the University of the Philippines Theater.
The question, posed to her alone, was apparently a test of whether the lawmaker who hails from one of Manila?s Old Rich families could really relate to the grind and toil of the Filipino Everyman, galunggong being the proverbial ?poor man?s fish.? [There are two types of galunggong?galunggong babae (hard-tail mackerel) and galunggong lalaki (round scad)].
The fish had become an unofficial economic barometer for Filipinos since democracy icon Cory Aquino used it to shame the Marcos dictatorship in the 1986 snap elections.
In one of her memorable campaign tirades against Marcos, Cory Aquino then noted how the poor could no longer afford even the supposedly frugal viand under his regime.
Off the mark
Madrigal?s answer was way off the mark: The prevailing retail price of galunggong as of Feb. 6 was P120 per kilo, according to a government website.
Madrigal later conceded she wouldn?t have correctly guessed the price anyway because ?I?m a vegetarian.?
A follow-up query?how about the price of salted eggs??also caught Madrigal off guard, but she also managed to wiggle out of it. ?I also don?t eat eggs,? she said in Filipino.
For much of the two-hour debate, however, the lone woman contender in a field of 10 presidential candidates dished out the day?s most stinging remarks, pricking either the Arroyo administration or the one rival she had antagonized the most, Sen. Manny Villar.
If elected, Madrigal said, she would not let her husband Eric Jean Claude Valade be involved in government, though he may be addressed as ?FG? for being a ?French gentleman.?
?That?s as far as he goes,? she said. Valade may not engage in any business deals or negotiations or else ?I will cut his head, his tongue.?
?I will quarter him if he becomes like the present FG,? she said, apparently referring to First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, the President?s controversial spouse.
Children in political ads
Madrigal also complained about political ads that ?use children and actors who you have to pay P30 million just to endorse you.?
They are ?an insult to the Filipino intelligence,? she said.
The audience quickly sensed, though, that she was taking a stab specifically at Villar, widely perceived as the biggest ad spender so far among the presidential aspirants.
Madrigal spoke of people ?who have spent P2 billion [in] ads? and ?who think they can buy Malacańang??remarks heard from her on the Senate floor recently when she demanded that plunder charges be filed against Villar over the C-5 road project controversy.
?I have no jingles,? said Madrigal, who is running as an independent. ?My ads are merely a reflection of my political platform and my principles.?
A panelist, however, reminded Madrigal?and the audience?that she, too, had paid a celebrity endorser (Judy Ann Santos) to star in her campaign ads in the 2004 senatorial elections.
Madrigal then turned contrite: ?(I have) seen the folly of my ways. I will not repeat it because I do not believe you (must) repeat a mistake. But I also don?t believe you should perpetuate lies that are perpetuated by a big budget.?
Madrigal found another opportunity for more Villar-bashing?even when the question was about milk.
She blamed the ?boycott? staged by Villar and his supporters in the Senate minority for the chamber?s failure last week to pass ?a milk code that would have saved the lives of many infants.?
?We were curtailing milk companies from advertising (that) their products were substitutes for breast milk,? she said. ?This pro-poor bill would have saved lives because (certain baby food) products are really not meant to replace breast milk. They?re mixed with dirty water and the poor die because of it.?
She said the measure could have been passed if not for a ?very inconsiderate minority.?
When asked if she had anything good to say about Villar in the debate, she replied, without much of a pause: ?Maganda po ?yung pagtina ng buhok niya (His dyed hair looks good).? With a report by Alycia Gawthorne