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Who are your choices for senators? Ponder and pick

/ 02:53 AM May 12, 2013

First of two parts

ONE MORE TIME, ONE LAST LOOK. Here are the 33 men and women who are candidates for the Senate and want your vote to put them there. With thumbnail sketches of who they are, this is a guide to help you choose wisely.

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As a thinking voter, please give each one a once over before you vote on Monday.   Check out their back stories and their record of  public service.

1.  ALCANTARA, Samson “Sammy” Savella, 77

FEATURED STORIES

Socialist Justice Society (SJS)

Chair and president, ABAKADA GURO party-list group  Law Professor

No.3 in the 1957 Bar Exams

SAMSON “Sammy” S. Alcantara calls himself “a candidate with no money.”  The indie Senate bet, a Manuel L. Quezon University School of Law alum, is national president of the SJS, a small political party of lawyers, and of ABAKADA GURO, a party-list of educators.  He has been an active litigant before the Supreme Court (SC) on many of today’s burning issues:

Filed a suit against the reproductive health (RH) bill, “not for offending moral or religious beliefs but for restricting the freedom of speech.”

Called an order for the Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia to desist from conducting any public opinion survey in connection with the 2013 senatorial elections to avoid “misleading, vague, unfair” questionnaires that could be slanted to favor other candidates.

Asked the high court to rule with finality on whether show business personalities in elected positions should be allowed to practice their professions, citing Section 90 of the Local Government Code.

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Pleaded with the SC to remove the Pandacan oil depot

Enjoined the SC to rule on the legality of oil price increases

Alcantara’s Senate agenda includes an antidynasty bill.  SJS, which he founded last year, launched a signature campaign against political dynasties. He also proposes amendments to the Labor Code and will craft a “Teacher’s Code,” and proposes a Teachers’ Bank—to free teachers from the grip of loan sharks and phony education plans.

Teachers are close to Sammy Alcantara’s heart, being a distinguished law professor and bar reviewer of long standing. He says: “We will not have quality education if we have hungry and unhappy teachers.”

2.  ANGARA, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Manalang, 41

Lakas ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LABAN)/ Team PNoy House Representative, Aurora Province (2004-present) Lawyer

THE QUIET, unassuming Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara of Lakas/Team PNoy would like to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious father, Sen. Edgardo Angara, lawyer/educator and former University of the Philippines (UP) president, who is about to retire.

But a percolating controversy looms in the background—the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco) Project, created through the collaborative effort between father and son and signed into law. Hundreds of indigenous tribesmen, claiming to be displaced from their ancient homelands to make way for Apeco, are on the march to Manila, voting with their feet in protest.

How Sonny Angara will handle such a minefield of a potentially explosive issue remains to be seen—if he makes it to the Senate, where he will have to debate on its pros and cons with the likes of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago or Sen. Serge Osmeña.

Then, there is the issue of the Angaras as a family dynasty, long having a choke hold on Aurora politics. Does he deserve to win on the back of the Angara name?

He says: “By all means, scrutinize the candidates.  Don’t give us a free ride, including myself.  Make things difficult for us.” He points out that the Angaras were never warlords in the old, feudal sense.  He is confident that his track record of nine years of hard work in Congress will stand on merit.  On that alone, he has earned his spurs.

Angara attended Xavier School in San Juan, Manila, for elementary and high school and finished his Bachelor of Science in Economics degree at London School of Economics and Political Science.  He obtained his Bachelor of Laws from UP and his Master of Laws from Harvard University.

Elected in 2004, Angara served as representative of the lone district of Aurora, Quezon for three terms. He was one of the spokespersons of the team of congressmen who prosecuted former Chief Justice Renato Corona in the Senate impeachment trial.

3.  AQUINO, Paolo Benigno IV “Bam” Aguirre, 35

Liberal Party/Team PNoy Youth Leader and Social Entrepreneur

PAOLO Benigno Aquino IV, or simply Bam, wearing those familiar horn-rimmed glasses, looks like Ninoy and sounds like Ninoy, talking in a fast clip that reminds one of his martyred uncle.  For that blatant impersonation and with massive help from cousins P-Noy and Kris to lift his Senate bid, he has endured nasty drubbing from influential critics aghast at another Aquino upstart attempting to crash government.

But reality bites.  Due to his political pedigree, a storied name in contemporary Philippine politics—governors, senators and two presidents in the family tree—Bam Aquino is beating more seasoned candidates in this race, easily pole-vaulting into the Magic Twelve.

Bam admits not having made a run for any public office, not even in his own barangay.  But as a youth leader and as a social entrepreneur, he has a wealth of experience.  He is applying his civics through microfinance.

His social contract empowering many small businesses started in 2006, way before he thought of running for senator.  He cofounded MicroVentures Inc., a social enterprise company, which has helped transform many neighborhood sari-sari stores into solar power stations or as domestic remittance and photo printing centers.

He also conceived Hapinoy to uplift poor families and poor women from the crush of poverty through microfinance and microenterprise.  For his work in Hapinoy, Bam was awarded a The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award (2010) and in 2012, he was chosen as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World.

He is one of the select young Filipinos recognized by “40 Under 40,” sponsored by the US-based Development Executive Group or Devex, the Bloomberg of the development community.

The young Aquino briefly headed the National Youth Commission during the Arroyo administration.  In Ateneo de Manila University, Bam was president of the university student council, graduating valedictorian and summa cum laude, with a BS Management Engineering degree.

4. BELGICA, Greco Antonious Beda Banta, 35

Democratic Party of the Philippines Manila Councilor (2004-2007) Businessman/Pastor  Elder, Lord’s Vineyard Covenant Community

GRECO B. Belgica is running under his “Triple B” platform: Bababa ang Buwis kay Belgica, Bababa Lahat ang Bilihin, Lalaki ang Kita.

Belgica strongly believes in a free market system. If elected senator, he will work for a flat tax rate of no more than 10 percent of the income of all salaried employees, including the net income of private businesses. He says: “We will be the tax haven of the world.”  He believes that a flat tax rate would:

Increase workers’ take-home pay and their purchasing power.

Attract more local and foreign investments and further accelerate economic growth.

He cites 43 other countries—such as Russia, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore—using the flat tax rate.  He will also push to abolish all current taxes, including the E-VAT (expanded value added tax) and the real property tax.  He will also work for free distribution of public lands for all Filipinos.

Belgica retired from Manila politics due to party squabbles, concentrated his energy on international trading and construction, and found his “real happiness” as a pastor in a Christian ministry founded by his father, Grepor “Butch” Belgica,  convicted in a sensational murder case, who has turned evangelist.

Belgica, a graduate of the San Beda College (marketing and management) and of the University of California, Berkeley (international trade and commerce) with units on law from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, dreams of “a kinder, gentler society with loving people,” of drug-free, happy families and safe, peaceful communities.

The youngest in the Senate race wants “a government that is kind to the Church, a government that will respect and safeguard the God-given autonomy of the Church and Family.”

5. BINAY, Maria Lourdes “Nancy” Sombillo, 40

Deputy Secretary General, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA)  Personal Assistant to Vice President Jejomar Binay for Housing Matters Personal Assistant to former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay

NANCY Binay stepped into the Senate race and quickly came under withering fire for having no political experience, no business background to speak of and a name that reeks of “political dynasty”.  Father Jejomar Binay, long-time mayor of Makati, is the Vice President; mother Elenita was once Makati mayor; brother Junjun is the current Makati Mayor; and sister Abigail sits in Congress.

Binay insists that the family business is a “dynasty of service.”  She has also dared her detractors to file a disqualification case against her before the Commission on Elections (Comelec).  Despite the pointed criticisms, hostile news commentary and a negative social media campaign, she has consistently landed in the top 10 senatorial candidates in survey after survey—on the strength and pull of the Binay brand.

As personal assistant to the vice president for housing affairs, Binay served as liaison between the Office of the Vice President and shelter agencies under the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and also with local government units.

As her mother’s personal assistant at City Hall, Binay handled official schedules, coordinated with the various departments and offices and assisted in the planning and execution of Makati government programs and services.

Binay has served as Board of Trustees member in various foundations, like Brighthalls, which provides temporary shelters and sustainable long-term placements for abandoned and neglected infants and very young children, and Serbisyong Tunay, offering personal accident insurance, medical reimbursement and burial assistance to Makati residents. She is also executive director of Bigay Pagmamahal, offering quality college education for indigent Makati youth.

Should she win, this Scholastican and UP Tourism alumna will focus mainly on child welfare.  Binay supports a nationwide legal adoption scheme under the auspices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development—for orphans to enjoy the same rights as biological children.

6. CASIÑO, Teodoro “Teddy,” 45

Makabayan Koalisyon ng Mamamayan   Party-list Representative, Bayan Muna (2004-present)   Secretary General, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (1999-2004)   President College Editors Guild of the Philippines (1991-1994)

IF TEODORO “Teddy” Casiño is running just on charm alone, he would look like he’s running a sleek, well-oiled campaign.  But it is more than his charm that’s drawing people to him, even if he’s been singing and dancing, just like any old trapo, to win votes.

But that’s part of the charm and the strategy to get out the vote to propel him to the Senate.  Plus a little innovation to add some cool factor.  Teddy thought of things that play around his name.  Teddy bears as handout souvenirs?  Brilliant.  There’s a Teddy to hug every time one feels like it.

And day after Labor Day, he staged a Teddy Day, something like the old miting de advance, in Plaza Miranda.

For his proclamation as Makabayan bet, he had a rousing send-off from celebrities, bands, dancers and rap artists.  House Speaker Sonny Belmonte came.  So did other senatorial candidates like Koko, Loren, Cynthia… and Boy Abunda.

A little of show biz mixed with a smidgen of old trapo gimmicks could give way to the politics of change, Casiño muses.  Or it could be that people are no longer shying away from anything, anybody Left.

Casiño presents Makabayan’s 10-point agenda, some of which are:

Power to the people:  To fight foreign and elite control until a government that is truly representative of the people is established.

Develop a propeople economy:  Terminate unjust impositions by the US: the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization.  Pursue genuine agrarian reform cooperativization, agricultural modernization, industrialization.

Build fair foreign relations:  To be based on respect for national sovereignty and mutual benefit.  Abrogate unequal agreements with the US, Japan and other nations.  Protect the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants abroad.

Promote a nationalist and progressive culture, including the advance of a national language and enrichment of our diverse cultures.  To renounce colonial, corrupt, and decadent culture.

7.  CAYETANO, Alan Peter Schramm, 43

Senator    Former House

Representative, Taguig

Lawyer

ALAN Peter S. Cayetano, now No. 2 as surveys consistently show, seems all but certain to return to the Senate.

So close to that desired sweet spot of being on top of the heap, that front-runner Loren Legarda has obliquely accused him of sabotage—of being the alleged mastermind behind the expose of her Manhattan condo unit.

Talk is rife that Senator Cayetano has higher ambitions, that his being No. 1 matters so much for a clear shot at the presidency in 2016.

The Cayetanos from Taguig are your typical political dynasty.  His sister, Pia Cayetano, is also a senator.  His wife, Laarni, is the current hometown mayor.

But Cayetano has a sterling record as an opposition lawmaker.  In Congress, his debating skills impressed even his elders, deferring to him as the “Batang Companero.”

He exposed graft and corruption, especially as the spokesperson of the Impeachment Team that sought to make the GMA administration accountable.  That reputation as a graft fighter did him well as a freshman senator, making him the easy choice to chair two major committees, the Blue Ribbon Committee and the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture.

Most notably, as Blue Ribbon chair, he ably steered the investigation into the infamous NBN-ZTE deal that became so scandalous then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had to drop it.

Cayetano is no shrinking violet, even daring to tangle with a seasoned, vastly more experienced Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on the chamber floor.  The MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) affair, involving Christmas gifts of cash from Enrile’s office to favored colleagues, was one topic of heated verbal exchange between them.

Cayetano is a product of De La Salle–Zobel.  He went to UP Diliman for his AB in Political Science and obtained his Juris Doctor from Ateneo School of Law.

8. COJUANGCO, Margarita “Tingting” Delos Reyes, 69

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Governor of Tarlac (1992-98)Undersecretary for Special (Muslim) Concerns, DILG Past President, Philippine

Public Safety College

HAILED by US magazine Harper’s Bazaar as one of the world’s 100 Most Beautiful Women in 1968, Margarita “Tingting” Delos Reyes Cojuangco—tall, beautiful, glamorous—married at 18 into one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful political clans.  Her husband is former Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco of Tarlac, brother of Ninoy Aquino’s courageous widow, the late President Corazon C. Aquino.   She is Tita Tingting to our President P-Noy.

But the former fashion model has a steely backbone behind that dainty, willowy, socialite image, venturing into male-dominated fields of expertise:  public safety and national security.

Cojuangco is a reserve colonel, with an MA in National Security Admnistration (MNSA) from the National Defense College of the Philippines and for eight years served as president of the Philippine Public Safety College, where she completed the Public Safety Officers Senior Executive Course.  Her impressive academic resume adds a Doctor of Philosophy, Major in History (magna cum laude) and a Masters of Arts, Meritissimus, Major in Philippine History, Minor in Theology, both obtained at the University of Santo Tomas, aside from completing units for an anthropology Ph.D. at UP.

In 1983, Cojuangco went to Muslim Mindanao, against the advice of academic peers, to research on Moro culture and history for her master’s thesis.  She was so warmly received by the Tausugs that eventually, she set up residence in Awang town in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, where she is also registered as a voter.

Her efforts to bring lasting peace to the volatile region were significant enough that her MNSA thesis was said to have been adopted as one of the principal references in the crafting of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Cojuangco is wont to speak her mind, even opposite her nephew, the President—like calling on P-Noy to hold direct talks with Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in search for a peaceful solution to the Sabah crisis.

She also vigorously opposed the cancellation of the ARMM polls to be synchronized with the coming May elections and the Palace move to appoint officers in charge of the regional government.  The government, she says, “has been treating the ARRM so shabbily.”

She supports, however, the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement for lasting peace in Mindanao.  “But,” she says, “there is a need for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front to patch things up.”

Cojuangco, if elected, aims to work for bills to improve public safety, a favorite advocacy.  “Everything is just about public safety.  We breathe it every day.”

Exasperated with leadership failure, Cojuangco in the Senate wants a review and amendments to enforce all existing laws.

9. DAVID, Rizalito “Lito” Yap

Ang Kapatiran Party

Legislative Executive Assistant & Political Affairs Consultant     Radio Commentator

ANG KAPATIRAN’S  Lito David stands foursquare against Goliaths in this race. Despite losing his initial Senate bid in the 2010 elections, he is not without hope.  He keeps on fighting.

David has had extensive experience in crafting laws, working for such personages like ex-Sen. Francisco Tatad, who instilled in him a sense of strict intellectual discipline; for ex-Rep. Hernando Perez, as political affairs point man and head of political operations for Mindanao; and for ex-Sen. Robert Jaworski, as executive assistant and political affairs consultant.

Having spent more than half of his career life in legislation, David was among those who toiled in the shadows, shepherding and fleshing out many of our existing laws, among them:  the Clean Air Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, the Clean Water Act and the Philippine Mining Law.

David was born in the Tondo slums; his father, a common laborer and his mother, a homemaker.  A sickly boy, he helped his mother tend to their little sari-sari store and walked one kilometer to school every day.  He wanted to be a priest but fate directed him instead to a life of science and scholarship.  At UP Los Baños (sociology and MA in Environmental Studies), David was an activist and inevitably found himself a military target during martial law.

As Kapatiran candidate, David aims to:

Push for an antidynasty bill

Abolish the pork barrel.

Fight for gun control.

Work to pass the  freedom of information (FOI) bill.

His resume speaks volumes of a first-class brain—as an academic, as a community organizer, as a strategic planner in government and more than a decade in legislation in the House and Senate.

10. DELOS REYES, John Carlos “JC” Gordon

Ang Kapatiran Party Olongapo City Councilor (1995-98);  2007-10)President, Ang Kapatiran Party President, Intramuros Tourism Council

JC DELOS Reyes is the rebel scion of an entrenched political dynasty—the Gordons of Olongapo.  In this Senate race, he pits himself against the acknowledged lion in the family, former Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon.

This is not the first time uncle and nephew locked in combat.  Both ran for President in the 2010 national elections and lost to Noynoy Aquino, now the President.

As the outsider in the Gordon clan, Delos Reyes is cognizant of the “the great evil in dynasties,” knowing whereof he speaks.  Dynasties, he says, “work for family interests, not necessarily for the welfare of communities.”  He cites himself as the exception, as one who stands up to fight for principle and conviction.

Though proud of the many good things the Gordons did for the people of Olongapo, he is against the Gordon monopoly of power politics in that city—and when he was in the council, he dared oppose another uncle, Mayor James Gordon Jr.

In the Olongapo council, Delos Reyes was chair of the human rights committee.  He put up a free legal assistance program for indigents and established Barangay Human Rights Action Centers, provided by law for the protection and prevention of human rights violations at the barangay level.  He campaigned against prohibited drugs and illegal fish pens, led the investigation of purported labor rights violations by the giant Hanjin shipyards at Subic, opposed more Subic casinos, joined marches in protest of a proposed coal power plant and filed cases before the Ombudsman against high-ranking Olongapo officials allied with uncle James Jr.

Delos Reyes, who taught philosophy at the Center for Research and Communication and studied theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, was the bishops’ top bet in the 2010 elections, the so-called Catholic candidate for president.

Delos Reyes, as the maverick Gordon in the Senate, will promote and advance the Kapatiran platform: staunchly antidynasty and antipork barrel, vote for gun control, pass the FOI bill and, as a good Catholic, will surely—and resolutely—work for the repeal of the RH bill.

11.  EJERCITO ESTRADA, Joseph Victor “JV,” 43

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA)San Juan House Representative (2010-present)San Juan City Mayor (2001-2010)

“JUDGE me for who I am,” Joseph Victor Ejercito Estrada, more popularly known as JV, asks of the voter.

His critics dismiss him as the egregious poster boy of an entrenched, if controversial, show biz political clan, with tentacles holding a firm grip on local and national politics—the Ejercito/Estradas of San Juan.  Dad, the former actor Joseph “Erap” Estrada, deposed as President in 2001 and a surprise second runner-up in the 2010 presidential elections, aims to replace Alfredo Lim as mayor of Manila.

Mom Guia Gomez is running unopposed for a second term as mayor of San Juan and half-brother, Jinggoy Estrada, is a senator of the republic.

Admittedly, the family name did catapult Estrada into the winning circle, name recall a valuable asset for a politician of any stripe but Estrada will tell you that he has solid accomplishments to crow about: the prestigious TOYM award for his 10 years as San Juan top honcho; 149 bills and 18 resolutions filed as a first-termer in the Lower House, most notably House Bill No. 6144, known as the Domestic Workers Act of 2012, recently signed into law.

Almost certain to land a Senate seat, Estrada will focus on youth issues, particularly education.  He promises to work for “a graduate in every family.” His Senate agenda includes student loan assistance programs and tuition rationalization, more funding for state universities and colleges, and investment initiatives to train young people in leadership, entrepreneurship and nation-building.

Political voyeurs will have delirious fun in watching Estrada and Jinggoy duke it out, debating on issues of import.  Who will stand out as the better man?  And if reason leaves the roost, will there be fisticuffs flying in the aisles?

Everybody knows there is no love lost between these sons of Erap.  As the brothers bickered openly, magnifying a hurt here or a snub there, Erap had to publicly call for them to reconcile.  Last seen, Jinggoy and Estrada were together, the former supporting the latter, in the campaign trail.

But the animosity is still palpably felt.  Jinggoy did not raise Estrada’s hand.  The next exciting episode of the Estrada family saga, with national repercussions, will soon unfold in the august halls of the new Senate.

12. ENRILE, Juan Ponce “Jack” Castaner Jr., 55

Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC)/United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Congressman, 1st Dist., Cagayan (1998-2007) (2010–present) President & CEO, JAKA Group of Companies (1994-1998)

MUCH has been said about Juan Ponce C. Enrile Jr., or Jack, as a bad-behaving princeling, with a father, Juan Ponce Enrile, the Senate President, as once the powerful minister of defense during the martial law era.

A notorious reputation—and allegations of a murder or two—still dogs his heels to this day.

Enrile is not afraid to face his critics and he is wont to meet them head on.

“I never fired a gun in anger,” says Enrile, who founded the Philippine Shooting Club.

He now speaks openly of the long, sad time of estrangement from a very busy father, of his Jack Kerouac years on the back of a Harley, on the road all over the US as the stereotypical hirsute biker, long beard brushing his chest.  Enrile was searching for some meaning in his life.

Along the way, Enrile found God, got married, dreamed of going as a missionary to Africa, and did some serious study at the very preppy Pepperdine University at swank Malibu, where he obtained a masters in business administration.

Enrile came back to the Philippines and reconciled with his father, joined Jaka, the family company, and eventually became its president and CEO.  His father again interfered in his life to steer him in the direction of a political career.

He objected vehemently.

But here he is, two terms as Cagayan representative added to his resume—and now, a fair chance to join his father in the Senate.

When he was in Congress, Enrile was the principal author of the Batas Kasambahay, the Credit Access and Protection Reform Bill, the Anti-Monopoly Bill and the Food or Filipino First Bill.

Enrile is passionate about food sovereignty because he believes: Walang Pilipino ang dapat magutom sa sariling bayan!  Food must be available anytime, anywhere.  So must food prices be within reach of every Filipino.  Those are the twin goals he aims to achieve, if he makes it as senator.

13. ESCUDERO, Francis “Chiz,” 43

Independent/ adopted by Team PNoy Senator

FRANCIS “Chiz” Escudero, a UP Law grad who studied for his Masters in International and Comparative Law at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., had a sure lock on the No. 2 slot in the winning circle.  Then, out of the calm blue, he got blindsided, thrown a curve ball, as a bruising scandal heats up over his relationship with actor/girlfriend Heart Evanglista.

Evangelista’s parents, Rey and Cecile Ongpauco, of the family that built the famous Barrio Fiesta chain, came out in full press, guns ablaze, accusing their daughter’s senator/boyfriend, who is separated from his wife, of being a drunkard, of disrespect in their presence and of cynically manipulating Evangelista’s fragile emotions for his alleged presidential ambitions.

The political teleserye did shave some points for Escudero in subsequent surveys, but the Sorosogon native has managed to hang in there. As of last SWS survey, Escudero is safely cruising as one of the top 10, back to his old seat in the Senate.

He hopes that on Monday, voters will keep their eye on the ball—to remember what made him shine in the first place: as a key opposition leader who fought a discredited GMA administration and as a lawyer and lawmaker who pushed legislation to protect human rights.   He hopes the people will look to his record of leadership and service in the Senate—as he continues his anticorruption platform to sustain the economic gains of P-Noy’s Daang Matuwid.

As for the elder Ongpaucos’ biff against him, Escudero prefers to keep mum, refusing to respond to their charges of unseemly behavior. He hopes that the tiff between Evangelisa and her parents, with him “as collateral damage,” as he puts it, will mend in time.

14. FALCONE, Baldomero “Bal” Cordero, 68

Democratic Party of the Philippines Business Consultant

BALDOMERO “Bal” Falcone of the Democratic Party of the Philippines, describing himself as the poorest senatorial candidate, frequently rides the LRT and MRT as one of the common tao.  An opportunity, he says, that makes him touch base with ordinary folk at ground level, as it were—to feel the people’s pulse.

Last heard of, Falcone ran for Vice President in the 2010 national elections but was disqualified for having no political track record or wherewithal to mount a serious campaign.

This time, Falcone, born and raised in Leyte, is back in the game, gunning for a Senate seat, together with two other DPP bets.  But win or lose, he has ideas to throw out there—on how to fix decrepitude in a political system so damaged by family fiefdoms and the pork barrel.

These are the twin evils incestuously feasting on each other. If Falcone wins, he will take aim at the pork barrel.  Political dynasties, he explains, are nurtured by the pork barrel system that feeds on greed.  Eliminate the pork barrel and political dynasties will naturally wither on the vine.  He calls it hitting two birds with one stone.

Falcone wants pork barrel funds allocated as equity capital for housing projects for the urban poor, instead of being used for so-called pet projects of congressmen and senators, as is the practice.  Under his proposal, pork barrel funds will be pooled together and turned into securities, the interest of which will be used to provide loans to the poor, without requiring land titles as collateral.

“Credit should be available to ordinary Filipinos with good character through viable projects that can give them a chance to improve their lot in life,” he says.

Falcone,  a former seminarian, has a masters in philosophy from the University of San Carlos, a masters in business administration from the Asian Institute of Management and a book to his name, “Christian Economics:  The Philippines’ Developmental Ideology,” published in 1984.

The business consultant is president of Cebu-based Millennium Industrial Commercial Corp; Global Interphase Security Services Provider, Inc. VP; cofounder of Consultasia Management Service, Inc. and FG Finance Co., a lending firm.

He wants government support for cooperatives:  “Imagine if SM malls were owned by a cooperative.  A lot of Filipinos would be happy.”

15.  GORDON, Richard “Dick”

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Chair, Philippine Red Cross Former senator

RICHARD “Dick” Gordon, former senator, is not the sort of man who sits on his hands, especially when faced with a crisis.

In 1991, Gordon was mayor of Olongapo City, host of the largest American naval base outside the mainland US in Subic Bay.  The Philippine Senate was about to vote no to the presence of US bases in the country.  Mt. Pinatubo shook, rumbled and erupted.  The Americans decamped in haste.  Clark Air Force Base in Pampanga was being looted, scraped of everything that stood.

Gordon swung into action.

He mobilized the people of Olongapo, whipped them into shape as action teams for rescue and relief operations.  At the same time, he called on volunteers to guard the Subic base from the looting. Thousands heeded his call.

Seeing the potential of an abandoned naval base as an economic zone, Gordon embarked on a campaign to persuade the world’s biggest manufacturing companies to locate to Subic.  Many of them, like FedEx, looked around, liked what they saw and set up shop.

He eventually came to head the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, imposing strict traffic guidelines.  Subic came to feel like somewhere clean and green in California that it became the du jour weekend vacation destination for Manila’s chi chi crowd.

For his work as head of the Red Cross, Dick had a ready template—his considerable investment in Olongapo’s rescue and relief operations. Olongapo has been sending disaster relief teams wherever in the country is visited by a calamity for close to two decades.

Now, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) is doing far more than just collecting blood donations.  Gordon has expanded its mandate, transforming it, a columnist says, “into a full-service organization with emergency medical services and state-of-the-art rescue units.”

Under Gordon, the PRC is also involved in nationwide rehabilitation, building nearly 50,000 housing units for communities dislocated by natural disasters.

Gordon may lose this election, as he is placing poorly in the rankings.  But Gordon thankfully, will stay in the Red Cross.  And when disaster strikes, Gordon will come running—first on the scene—before government moves.

16.  HAGEDORN, Edward “Ed” Solon, 66

Independent Mayor, Puerto Princesa, PalawanMember, National Executive Board, Boy Scouts of the Philippines Assemblyman, Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development

HAGEDORN served for 20 years as mayor of Puerto Princesa.  Now, he aims to break out nationally, running as an independent in his first Senate bid.

But he is already a legend in his own right.

Hagedorn will be the first to admit that, in a past life, he was a notorious jueteng lord. It was jueteng money that fueled his campaign and made him win when he first ran for mayor in 1992.   But in taking charge of Puerto Princesa, he stamped out jueteng from the city.  He hired jueteng collectors as street sweepers and logging marshals.  He also served briefly as ex-President Arroyo’s antigambling czar.

“If the mayor does not want it, there will be no jueteng,” said Hagedorn.  He became a fierce environmentalist, banning mining and logging within city limits.  That firm resolve brought pride of place to what was once a sleepy frontier town.

Under his watch, Puerto Princesa, endowed with huge forest reserves and white, sandy beaches, became an outstanding model of environment protection.  He cut back carbon emissions and implemented an annual tree-planting drive.  Million of trees have been added under his initiative to the city’s vast forest cover.

Puerto Princesa is now a major ecotourist hub, a hall of famer as the country’s cleanest and greenest component city, and recognized nationally and internationally for many innovative programs.  Hagedorn also mounted a vigorous campaign to include the Puerto Princesa Underground River as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature—and succeeded.  The famous subterranean River National Park is also recognized by the Ramsur Convention, an international treaty among 163 countries, the goal of which is the conservation and wise use of the world’s wetlands.

But Hagedorn is not one to rest on his laurels.  He is now looking for a job in the Senate.  As mayor, he made Puerto Princesa clean and green.  As Mr. Senator, he vows to do likewise for the whole country.

17.  HONASAN, Gregorio “Gringo” Ballesteros, 65

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA)Senator Soldier

THE PASSAGE of time has perhaps tempered a once impetuous Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, acclaimed Edsa hero, rebel soldier, and serial coup plotter.

Impatient for government reforms, Gringo engineered several coup plots against the Cory government, the most deadly of which was the 1989 golpe, where a future president was almost killed on the way home to Malacañang.  That coup attempt also decimated an economy painfully and slowly reviving from the plunder of the Marcos years.

Today, Honasan is just a senator of the republic, in the most placidly civilian phase of a checkered life.  Could the rebel soldier in him be finally at rest?  He is more intent on hunting for another stint in the Senate, where he must measure his opponents across the aisle through debates and spend his energy in the drudgery of crafting bills.  A far cry, indeed, from the excitement of commando missions, from the sound and din of battle and, yes, from the plotting of a putsch or a coup d’ etat in secrecy.

Honasan is running under the banner of UNA, acting more like a “loyal opposition” to P-Noy, whose mother’s administration he sought to overthrow.

Says Gringo: “UNA is not the enemy.

“Can you imagine the development potential that can be unlocked”—if P-Noy, Vice President Binay, ex-President Erap Estrada and Senate President Enrile—would come together and “look beyond 2013 and 2016 with vision, statesmanship and combined political will?”

Imagine such a world, so pregnant with promise.

Despite all the problems, Honasan says: “This is such a beautiful country.”  He was born here and intends to die here.  “And if possible, I will convince my children and grandchildren to stay here.”

20. LLASOS, Marwil N., 38

Ang Kapatiran Party Lawyer/ Educator

MARWIL N. Llasos is one of three Kapatiran bets on a quixotic quest for Senate seats, ranged against a formidable wall of the usual suspects—tradpols (traditional politicians), celebrities, heiresses, and scions of political dynasties.

But the lawyer/educator harbors no illusions about winning.  Kapatiran candidates lack the resources for a wall-to-wall, down-to-the-wire election campaign—no posters, no flyers, no billboards, no TV or radio ads, or cutesy thingamajigs as souvenir handouts—to toot their horn.

Still, he plods on, if only to offer voters “a credible choice,” one who will slay the Hydra—dynastic politics and the detested pork barrel.  He is motivated to run especially because of the pork barrel—in order to abolish it, as well as all forms of discretionary funds—the root, he says, of graft and corruption.

He proposes to place the pork barrel and other discretionary funds into the General Appropriations Act.  There is, for instance, the barangay development council, tasked to identify and monitor a community’s exigencies.  Barangay officials, as people close to the ground, know better, he points out.  “We don’t need a congressman for that.”  Instead, a comprehensive system is warranted to address the people’s development needs.

Llasos, a consecrated Dominican lay preacher, is a political science cum laude, with an MA in Public Administration from Bicol University.  Armed with a master of law from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, he worked for his post grad in humanitarian law at National Academy of Legal Studies and Research in Hyderabad, India.

His legal expertise sought after, he was, to cite a few undertakings, executive assistant and legal consultant for the Department of Agrarian Reform, law education specialist at the UP Law Center, congressional resource person on agrarian reform, legal officer in the investigation of the Rapu-Rapu mining disaster and had drafted bills for Congress.  He even found time to serve with the Philippines Deaf Resources Center.

Of transactional politics so ingrained in the culture, he puts the onus of blame on politicians who act as sports promoters and legislators dabbing as contractors.

“Our leaders have failed us.”

21.  MACEDA, Ernesto “Manong Ernie” M., 78

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA)Former Senate PresidentFormer Ambassador to the United States

ERNESTO Maceda started out “so young, so brilliant, as the youngest Manila councilor to being the youngest member of the Cabinet that, for half a century, he was known as the quintessential political animal, admired for his acumen, and envied as the true master of the game.”

Manong Ernie served in the highest of councils, had the ear of Presidents—from Ferdinand Marcos to Cory Aquino to Erap Estrada—a mentor and teacher to legions of politicians in the art of survival.

He was the Cardinal Mandarin in the halls of power.

He knew how to excite drama, how to titillate the imagination, how to draw attention to an important issue, a scandal brewing or an anomaly hidden in high places. In the Senate, everybody knew when Manong Ernie was about to reveal some rot, some misdemeanor in the government, or out of it—be it the PEA (Public Estates Authority)-Amari imbroglio or the “Brunei Beauties” affair.”

He would come suited up, impeccably dandy in a white Americana—“Mr. Expose,” speaking in a stentorian voice, calling on the nation to listen.

He was, many times, like a butterfly hovering close to the flame.  One wonders why Maceda, indispensable for his counsel for so long, never ran for the presidency.

Erap Estrada once said of Maceda, who encouraged him to run for president: “Manong Ernie may not have been president but he saw to it that he passed on his vast knowledge to someone he believed could be President.  He knew what to do as President, how to do it and had confidence that I can do it.  For this, I will be forever grateful to him.”

In the hustings, Maceda may be showing his age, as he tries to recapture his glory days as esteemed senator.  He has survived the rigors of a tough campaign, even gamely dancing to the beat and rhythm of Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”

He has courted young voters, with scant memory of the flash, dash and flair of Mr. Expose, admittedly so ’90s that he dropped it for a slogan which he hopes would resonate: “Sa akin, una ka sa eksena.”

22.  MADRIGAL, Ma. Ana Consuelo “Jamby,” 55

Liberal Party/Team PNoyFormer SenatorBusinesswoman

MA. ANA Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, definitely HNWI, comes from the wealthy Madrigal clan, with illustrious grandparents: On her father’s side, Vicente Madrigal, a senator and Manuel L. Quezon’s friend and confidante, founder of the fabled family fortune based on shipping, logging, coal and real estate and her mother’s father, SC Justice Jose Abad Santos, World War II hero, martyred for refusing to collaborate with the Japanese invaders.

That family tradition of service, of sacrifice for the nation had been instilled in Madrigal even as a young girl.  Even before she entered politics, she was already deep into foundation work.  Her Books-for-the-Barangay Foundation, Inc. has shipped more than P2.5 billion worth of books to public elementary and high schools.  The Abad Santos Madrigal Foundation Inc. empowers women and children through relevant and accessible livelihood programs.  Its flagship project, the Basic Reflexology Training Program, has trained more than 10,000 reflexology therapists nationwide.  The ABLE Foundation, Inc. provides scholarships to poor, but deserving, youths.

“Ayoko ng corrupt,” Madrigal reminds us.  So Madrigal, the neophyte lawmaker, came to the Senate, armed figuratively with a wicked broom—to sweep away the dirt and grime of the Augean stables of government, especially the graft and corruption stubbornly embedded in the previous dispensation.  She was one of the Senate’s most vocal key players in the jueteng payoffs and the NBN-ZTE deal embroiling the Arroyo government.

Madrigal, in dispensing with her legislative duties, authored, sponsored, and defended the Magna Carta for Women, which had languished in that chamber for nine years.  Madrigal pushed hard for it to pass and be signed into law.

She worked for a sin tax law, voted against the Japan–Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement. She fought for human rights and for the disappeared, filing charges against the Arroyo government before the United Nations.

Jamby ran for president in 2010, the only rose among the thorns.  In the hustings and in debates with other contenders, she was tenacious and scrappy, if need be, and unrelenting, especially about corruption.

23.  MAGSAYSAY, Ma. Milagros Esperanza “Mitos,” 49

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Congresswoman

MITOS Magsaysay could be quite in-your-face in confronting executive officials.

One explosive encounter was with Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, who somewhat haughtily deflected a query from the three-term Zambales representative on whether his department was responsible for what was then the new President’s falling survey rankings—with another question: “Was that a rhetorical question or do you want me to answer that?”

Magsaysay lit on Carandang like raging fire, accusing him of arrogance.  “Your breed,” she lashed out, “has no place in public service.”

No doubt, the woman voted Most Outstanding Congressman for six consecutive years makes good copy.  Magsaysay is articulate, speaks her mind, and is not afraid to call attention to what she perceives as shortcomings of the present dispensation.

She is active on Twitter, once sparring with P-Noy’s deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, over what she said was poor government planning and preparation during a disastrous storm in 2011.

The UNA candidate is unabashedly oppositionist—a turn of the page, as it were, as she is remembered as one of the great defenders of an embattled ex-President Arroyo. For such loyalty, she has been denied her share of the pork barrel which, the Budget Department insists, goes straight to her constituents.

Magsaysay, a UP Business Administration graduate, firmly believes that investing in education and health spurs economic development.  The government has to offer people, especially the underprivileged, “the tools they need to become self-sufficient and productive citizens.”

In her Zambales bailiwick, Magsaysay has planted the seeds of her vision.  Known as “Congresswoman Libre,” she has implemented programs she wants replicated nationwide:  a health center, free laboratory testing, scholarships and free skills training for more than 10,000 beneficiaries.

Magsaysay, whose father-in-law, Vicente Magsaysay, is a former Zambales governor, is  tangling with her uncle, former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. of Team PNoy—for the bragging rights to plant the Magsaysay flag in the Senate.

25. MONTAÑO, Ramon “Mon” Enriquez, 76

Independent  Major General (Ret.), Philippine Constabulary – Integrated National Police

Former Adviser to Pres. Fidel V. Ramos on Police Matters

Businessman

ONE WONDERS why this old, crusty general never became a senator—as easily as former coup plotters and renegade soldiers who sought to bring down this republic.  Retired Major Gen. Ramon Montaño may not be as young, as handsome or as charismatic but he has as much cojones.  He could be as tough, as brave, and he has the spurs and the battle scars to prove his worth.

As NCRDC commanding general, Montaño was personally responsible for the capture of then Lt. Col. Gringo Honasan, now seeking another senatorial term, who waged deadly coups against the Cory government from 1986-89.

A frontline warrior, he actively led field campaigns against insurgents, apprehending many top leaders of the CPP-NDF-NPA.  In the drug war, his meticulous strategizing and planning netted spectacular results: 20 notorious drug traffickers arrested and P100 million worth of prohibited drugs and paraphernalia seized.

As head of special operations of the PC/INP Anti-Drug Task Force, high profile crime syndicates were neutralized.  When he led the PC Anti-Kidnapping Unit, he broke up five of the most villainous kidnap-for-ransom gangs.

But it is the memory of the 1987 Mendiola Massacre that dents an otherwise spotless service record.  In the chaos following thousands of peasant groups charging through barricades protecting Malacañang, 13 farmers were killed and more than 300 injured.  Montaño, along with 32 other military and police officials were held responsible but were later absolved.  Soon after, the Revolutionary Proletariat Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade had him marked for liquidation for supposed “crimes against the people.”

In retirement, the old general refuses to fade away.  Of the war against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, Montaño once voiced this unsolicited advice:  Engage the enemy.  The soldiers “should, dammit, move, move, move!”  He criticized a military moving in battalions, of using tanks. There should be more combat patrols—search and destroy—on foot.

Montaño plans to make laws to improve police and military service and work for his natural constituency—forgotten veterans, retirees and seniors.  For them, he wades into his “last battlefield”—the 2013 Senate run.

26. PENSON, Ricardo “Dick” Lagdameo, 60

Independent Corporate Executive/Social Activist

RICARDO “Dick” L. Penson, Independent candidate, will push for a divorce bill, if he gets to be senator.  “An annulment is just another term for divorce.  People may hide behind some moral veil but, believe me, it’s one and the same,” he said in a TV forum.

The now single Penson was previously married to four women, one of whom was the actress Dina Bonnevie.  During their short-lived marriage, show biz denizens called him “Mr. D,” as then wife Dina had a TV talk show called “Ms. D”.

In 1998, when he ran for—and lost—a congressional seat in Quezon City’s 3rd district, Penson showed up with Ms.D in a Lakas-NUCD rally in Kamias, quickly upstaging the other candidates.  But then businessman Ramon S. Orosa protested, insisting that he was the official Lakas-NUCD bet, not Mr. D.

Penson was not a Lakas candidate anywhere in Metro Manila, Mr. Orosa claimed in a letter clarifying the kerfuffle to this paper.  In that rally, says Orosa, Mr. and Ms. D “were denied access to the stage for they were not invited.”

The multimillionaire aviation businessman/contractor/boat builder, who has a Wharton MBA, describes himself as a social activist and states in his resume that he is a “friend of PNoy”.  Despite his claimed Malacañang ties, Penson—youngest brother of Margie P. Juico, once the powerful appointments secretary to the late President Cory, now lady chief of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office—filed a syndicated estafa case against a cousin of the President over a soured business partnership in relation to the development of what is now Clark International Airport.

Penson himself served in the Cory administration as the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) deputy director general.  The NICA is our premier spy agency, like the CIA of the United States or the UK’s MI6.

Penson wants to end the perpetuation of political family dynasties.  As he pursues his Senate dream, he has recently launched the Krusada Kontra Dynasty (Kontra). “People should stop depending on politicians… and start standing up for their own rights,” he said. “Hindi na puwedeng bigay ng bigay. Di natin kailangang makiluhod sa mga pulitika dito sa bansa.”

With intriguing life episodes as Dina Bonnevie’s “Mr. D.” and President Cory’s Top Spy No. 2, candidate Penson, indeed, is quite the colorful, enigmatic character.

27. PIMENTEL, Aquino Martin III “Koko” Dela Llana, 49

PDP Laban/Team PNoy Senator/Lawyer

Aquino “Koko” Pimentel III topped the 1990 bar exams with a grade of 89.95 percent.  It was inevitable that he would one day follow his father, ex-Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, into the Senate.

In the meantime, he lectured at the MBA-JD Consortium of the De La Salle Professional Schools, at FEU Institute of Law, and at UE College of Law.  He still continues to give free lectures to bar exam hopefuls.

In 2007, he decided to make a run for his father’s old seat and his crucible began.  Despite the Namfrel count putting him in the winning circle, the Comelec refused to proclaim him.  His problems were compounded by a 7-7 deadlock in the SC, where his motion for a temporary restraining order against the supposed winner, Migz Zubiri, was denied.

The fight for No. 12 was a very close contest.  Pimentel knew that he had won the baseline No. 12, as that election saw massive cheating and fraud especially in Maguindanao. But it was Zubiri who went on to seat in the chair, which Koko felt belonged to him by right.

Pimentel filed an election protest before the Senate Electoral Tribunal and waited four long years in limbo.  But when victory came, it was bittersweet.  Zubiri resigned from the Senate, giving way to Pimentel, who served just two short years in a full six-year term.

In the Senate, Pimentel continues to fight for clean, honest and credible elections as chair of the Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation and the Select Oversight Committee on Suffrage.  To protect all Filipinos from cheating and corruption, he founded the Kontra Pandaraya Movement.

In this Senate race, Pimentel again faces his old nemesis, Zubiri, in another epic fight for the right to be called the real Mr. Senator.

Monday: Hontiveros, Legarda, Jun Magsaysay, Poe, Señeres, Trillanes, Villanueva, Villar and Zubiri

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TAGS: 2013 elections, Philippine Senate
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