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Bello hounds the vice president debate

Former Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, for story: Bello takes first VP debate

Walden Bello (INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines — Left-wing activist Walden Bello on Saturday made up for his poor performance in voter preference surveys and dominated the first televised debate among eight vice presidential candidates.

The 76-year-old former congressman, one of the tailgaters in voter preference surveys since October, aired opinions widely held by Filipinos on a range of topics, including the rice tariffication law and political dynasties.

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All the eight candidates were given time in the debate limelight, but viewers agreed that the debate, organized and televised by CNN Philippines, was taken by Bello, who did not even hold back expletives.

The seven other vice presidential bets who attended the debate, organized and televised by CNN Philippines, were Rizalito David, Manny Lopez, Dr. Willie Ong, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Carlos Serapio, and Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

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Rep. Lito Atienza was absent because he had to undergo surgery while Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the leading vice presidential candidate, declined to attend.

Sara called ‘a coward’

Bello heaped insults on Duterte for not attending the debate and facing her rivals.

“Mayor Sara Duterte, why are you not here to defend your positions? Nganong talawan man ka, Inday (Why are you such a coward, Inday)?” Bello asked.

“I’m really terribly sorry that Mayor Duterte is not here to face the people. She is a coward just like Bongbong Marcos is a fucking coward,” he said.

“I think the main problem that we face is the Marcos-Duterte tandem. I think they just spat on the face of the Filipino people, telling them you’re not worth my giving you our programs because they have fucking no programs,” he said.

But Bello also had choice words for Sotto and Pangilinan as he slammed Congress for giving huge tax breaks to big businesses by passing the law that lowered corporate income taxes.

Both Sotto and Pangilinan said that the law was needed to encourage foreign investment and provide more jobs to Filipinos and open up the economy.

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Bello also accused Sotto of “rewriting history” on his stance on the bloody war against illegal drugs and the 2017 arrest of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima.

He also claimed that Sotto “never dissented” to the President’s priority legislation such as the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Rice Tariffication Act and amendments to the Public Services Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and the Foreign Investment Act, among others.

Sotto disputed Bello’s claim that 37,000 were killed in the war on drugs and said there were 378,000 arrests from 2016 to October 2021, 258,000 operations, and only 6,021 drug-related deaths.

He added that he did not allow De Lima, an opposition senator and former justice secretary, to be arrested within Senate premises.

Pangilinan, the running mate of Vice President Leni Robredo, also agreed that the country should cooperate with the probe of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that has been deferred since November last year.

Lopez of the Labor Party Philippines, said he supports the Duterte administration’s war on drugs as he sees “the implications of our nation becoming a narco state” while recognizing the need to protect human rights.

As to having the Philippines rejoin the ICC, Sotto, Serapio of the Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi and Ong of Aksyon Demokratiko all agreed that the country should rejoin the international body.

The vice presidential bets also bared their preferred positions in the next administration.

All chose existing departments, except for David, who said he wanted the next president to create a commission for moral renewal and cultural restoration.

Cabinet positions

Bello said he wanted to become finance secretary as he and his running mate plan to tax the top 750 billionaires in the country to fund social programs.

Lopez said he wanted to be trade secretary to craft a new investments code, improve the legal framework for business, and provide no-interest loans.

Ong, a doctor, could head the Department of Health or lead the distribution of aid.

Pangilinan said he wanted to be involved in agriculture and fisheries.

Serapio said he wanted to lead the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Sotto said he wanted to head the Dangerous Drugs Board and the Department of the Interior and Local Government so that he could see to the proper implementation of the country’s drug laws.

The candidates also urged the incumbent administration to impose measures to stem the steady increase of fuel prices amid the war between Ukraine and Russia.

Bello said the government must find a way to impose price controls during times of emergency, such as the raging dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Ong said he and his standard-bearer, Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso are proposing to lower taxes on fuel and electricity by 50 percent.

Sotto said a bottom-up approach to government budgeting would prepare communities from any eventuality.

Economist Lopez said the government should strike a balance between protecting the local economy, making investments in the country attractive to foreign capitalists.

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TAGS: #VotePH2022, 2022 vice presidential race, vice presidential debates, Walden Bello
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