Who are your choices for senators? Ponder and pick (Part 2)
Last of two parts
ONE MORE TIME, ONE LAST LOOK. Here are the rest of 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, which were started yesterday, this is a guide to help you choose wisely.
As a thinking voter, please give each one a once over before you vote today. Check out their back stories and their record of public service.
18. Hontiveros, Ana Theresia “Risa” Navarro, 47
Akbayan Representative/Team PNoy NGO Worker
Akbayan’S Ana “Risa” Hontiveros, tall and fair, with the exclusive Catholic school finish (St. Scholatica’s College, Manila and Ateneo De Manila University) knows how to choose her adversaries—and to disarm them with a straightforward question.
During a TV forum, on the subject of human rights, she pointedly asked Makabayan’s Teddy Casiño: Why does he remain silent about human rights violations committed by the CPP-NPA? It was a question pregnant with meaning.
That’s Hontiveros. She goes for the jugular.
There is perhaps no one in this campaign who has been as forthright, who refuses to fudge the issues and who is as intellectually honest as Hontiveros. Speaking softly, evenly, she can put one squirming in his place.
But if she can fling down a challenge to a newbie like Nancy Binay to engage her in debate, she can be just as magnanimous. She openly came to the defense of the hapless Binay, subject of merciless cyberbullying—and declared that the latter had every right to run for the Senate.
Hontiveros has been a student activist since she was 15, in junior high at St. Scholastica’s, where she organized the Nuclear Disarmament Group. She even flirted with liberation theology. “I did not share the view that armed struggle and revolution is the highest expression of political commitment. It was not for me.”
At age 22, she joined the Coalition of Peace and in 1988, she served as member of the government panel for peace talks. For her work in the peace movement, she received a Jaycees’ The Outstanding Young Men award for peace advocacy and a Nobel Peace prize nomination in 2005 for her work in the peace talks with the National Democratic Front.
In Congress, she worked for the Cheaper Medicines Law and the Carper Law, and was one of those who pushed hard to have the contentious reproductive health (RH) bill finally passed into law.
19. Legarda, Loren Regina Bautista, 53
Nationalist People’s Coalition Legislator/Senator
Loren Legarda always comes out No. 1, as in this Senate race or in any undertaking: honors from Assumption College, a cum laude in broadcast communications at the University of the Philippines (UP), topping her class at the National Defense College and best broadcast journalist during her time at ABS-CBN.
Legarda thinks far ahead. She was already planting trees before the idea took hold among politicos, just now taking to it because it’s the fashionable, though necessary, thing to do. She has long embraced culture and the arts before they became topical in the Senate hallways.
As a consummate politician, she was destined for higher things. As one colleague said of Loren: ”Let her follow her star.”
To follow that star, Legarda ran for Vice President twice. First, in 2004, with the late actor, Fernando Poe Jr., and then in 2010, as vice presidential candidate with Manny Villar for president.
Today, she is with Team PNoy.
That’s plain opportunism, her critics have charged. Or rather severely, political prostitution.
But as a legislator, Legarda has seen many of her initiatives passed into law, two of which she is particularly proud of: the Climate Change Act and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, cited by the United Nations as “the best laws in the world.”
In the Senate, she is regarded as Ms Goody Two Shoes, not a whiff of scandal or a scent of any dirty dealing to her name. But then…
As the gallops to the finish line, Legarda got gobsmacked by an expose about her owning a Park Avenue condo unit in Manhattan, which she allegedly misdeclared, or underdeclared, in her statement of assets and liabilities. She came out swinging to deny the charges, indignant tears welling in her eyes.
Come Election Day, Legarda is still sure to be No. 1 among her peers. And what about that Manhattan apartment? Investigative journalists are already doing some serious digging.
A suggestion for a way out to avoid a probable Senate investigation-in-aid-of legislation, addressed not just to Loren but also to other senators who own properties abroad: Give them up, like P-Noy did. In the face of intense criticism, the President sold his beloved Porsche.
24. Magsaysay, Ramon “Jun” Jr., 75
Liberal Party/Team PNoy Former Senator Businessman Gentleman Farmer
Ramon Magsaysay Jr. Such a quiet man. When he retired from the Senate, he disappeared like a bubble from public view. Without a fuss, he went back to an early love—farming.
In the Senate, he sponsored some of the most important bills that would have impact on generations to come. Two of them stand out: the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, which is considered the most comprehensive statute on agricultural development, and the Electronics Commerce Act, a piece of work so complex and difficult, highly technical but evidently revolutionary.
Magsaysay—who brought cable to the Philippines—is regarded as the Father of the E-Commerce law.
When the fertilizer scam broke out, Magsaysay was relentless in looking for witnesses and nailing the crooks—and found that the long, winding road of corruption led through a man with a funny name—Joc Joc Bolante—straight to the doors of the Palace.
Said an admirer: “His findings on the Joc Joc Bolante case constitute one of the most courageous acts of legislative inquiry” in recent memory.
Magsaysay is proud of his father’s legacy. When his father died before his time at the pinnacle of power, his family opened his office safe—and found that the President, his father, left only P2,000 to his name.
It took an act of Congress to come to the aid of the family of President Ramon Magsaysay. But that was the father he knew and loved, the President a whole nation loved and respected: He died poor but honest to the bone.
Magsaysay has done well to protect his father’s legacy.
28. Poe, Mary Grace, 44
Team PNoy (Liberal Party) Convenor, Kontra DayaPast Chair, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (2010- 12)Vice President and Treasurer, FPJ Productions and Film Archive Inc. (2005-10) Teacher, Montessori School of Cedar Lane (1996-1998)
Grace Poe is the adopted daughter of Philippine movie icons, actors Susan Roces and the late Fernando Poe Jr., who ran against then incumbent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the tumultuous 2004 presidential elections.
Through her father’s untimely death and as the “Hello, Garci” tapes exposed the trail of venal manipulation of election results, leading straight to seat of power, Poe emerged to carry on her father’s fight against massive electoral fraud, becoming a convener and active participant of the multisectoral Kontra Daya. The shy but articulate Assumption-bred young woman, married to businessman Neill Llamanzares and a mother to two children, took up developmental studies at UP and is a graduate of political science from the Jesuit-run Boston College, Massachusetts, USA.
As chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), Poe served with distinction before she was personally drafted to run as senator by President Aquino himself. In the MTRCB, Poe focused on reforming the classification regime in the right and proper context, and providing institutional support for the local indie film industry. She also partnered with relevant government agencies and major TV networks to strengthen TV programming in the interest of the general public, especially in behalf of young children.
Poe wants to institutionalize electoral reforms and good governance, as well as work for peace and order, and bat for laws benefiting Filipino children:
— Day care centers in every barangay and in the country’s largest companies.
— A nationwide feeding program
— A national policy encompassing the plight of street children and the vulnerable young—particularly, the abandoned and abused.
— A stronger antichild labor law.
This is her vow of service—to continue Ronnie Poe’s platform of government: POE, which stands for poverty alleviation; opportunities for all, especially for young children; and electoral reforms.
29. Señeres, Christian Maano, 37
Demoratic Party of the Philippines NGO Worker
Christian M. Señeres of the Democratic Party of the Philippines (DPP) was born to excel—and lead.
As a high school student in the US, he garnered honors: the 1992 Science Exposition Silver Ribbon, the Certificate of Merit from the Spanish Honor Society and the President’s Award for Educational Excellence awarded by US President Bill Clinton. He joined the National Business Honor Society and the Mu Alpha Theta Honor Society, and graduated with a financial management bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Southeastern University.
Coming home, he studied Rizal, Philippine history and nationalism at UP and organized the Nationalist Leadership Council, composed of student leaders from UP Diliman, Ateneo and San Beda College offering scholarship grants to promising young people imbued with exceptional leadership and love of country.
Señeres, a Northwestern School of Law alumnus with a Juris Doctor degree, Major in US Constitutional Law, could have embarked on a political career in the US. But his father, Roy Señeres, a former Philippine Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and once National Labor Relations Commission chair, persuaded him to pursue his dreams of higher office in the home country instead. Unlike former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who wished he could make a run for the White House, the young Señeres could not quite see his ambitions terminated at that level, a political dead end for people not born in the US.
As the youngest in Congress, Señeres showed much promise. As a party-list member of Buhay before he fell out with old colleagues, he used his pork barrel funds to construct school buildings, sports centers and public libraries. He distributed computers to many schools and built a drug rehabilitation center in Batangas.
Now, with a hope and a prayer, he aims to land a Senate seat. Despite the lack of campaign funds, DPP candidates, he says, are running on a sound platform: self-reliance, minimal government interference, lower taxes, greater personal freedoms and the promotion of traditional social values.
“We have a fighting chance,” he believes, with a people finally waking up to the evils of dynasties. “They just need to know who the alternatives are” to children, spouses or cousins of those in power.
30. Trillanes, Antonio IV “Sonny” Fuentes, 42
Nacionalista Party/Team PNoy Rebel Navy Officer Spokesman, Oakwood Mutiny/Senator
Antonio “Sonny” F. Trillanes IV, then a Philippine Navy officer, first captured the limelight in 2003 as the face of the “Oakwood Mutiny” in the upscale Makati CBD, an earnestly deadly protest against the rot of corruption in the Arroyo government. Taciturn, brusque, passionate—he cut a dashing figure in combat fatigues while brandishing an assault rifle by his side.
The Magdalo mutineers eventually surrendered but for their effrontery, the leaders landed in jail, including the brash Trillanes, incarcerated for seven-and-a-half years.
He would briefly emerge again in the public eye, with a dramatic court trial walkout. With supporters noisily trailing him, he then encamped at the posh Manila Peninsula, holding out for several hours until an armored vehicle was sent smashing through the elegant hotel lobby.
Back in jail, Trillanes hit the books for a UP master’s degree in public adminstration—and plotted to invade the Senate, this time, as a candidate in the 2007 elections. He won, riding on the growing universal sentiment against malfeasance in the Arroyo government.
By December 2010, he was free, granted amnesty by the incoming Aquino administration, quickly and quietly discharging his legislative duties, churning out an impressive output of 734 bills and resolutions, 30 of which were passed and made into law.
The rebel-turned-senator, however, inevitably clashed with no less than Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, 88, over the unusual speed to “gerrymander” a new province out of Camarines Sur. Their tense, very public exchange saw the junior walking out as Enrile fished out the “Brady Papers,” calling Trillanes a “traitor” to the country as the backdoor channel to Beijing.
Long used to the battlefield of war, Trillanes is learning to navigate the treacherous minefields of politics. “In the field, the enemy fires at you but at least you know where he is. Here in the Senate, people smile at you but knives are pointed at you.”
But his adversaries are warned. Trillanes is tenacious, resilient—and he could be just as badass as they come.
31. Villanueva, Eduardo “Eddie” C., 66
Bangon Pilipinas Party International President/Spiritual Director, Jesus is Lord Church Worldwide
When Eduardo C. Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas, also known as Bro. Eddie, first threw his hat into the 2004 presidential ring, he drew excited chatter from a despairing thinking class. The good pastor emerged as a viable, intelligent alternative to the two main contenders: then incumbent President Arroyo, widely despised due to the rampant corruption in her government, and the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., with his superstar wattage, feared as the resurrection of the short, debauched, unlamented Estrada administration.
Bro. Eddie lost in that election, marred by the “Hello, Garci” scandal and purported massive fraud. He lodged an electoral protest that went nowhere, as did Poe, who nearly made it by a thin hair.
Villanueva ran again—and lost again, trailing dismally in 2010. But by then, he was just a blip on the radar screen, with a resplendent Aquino, against a galaxy of presidential wannabes, easily sprinting to the homestretch to claim the prize.
He withdrew from active politics, concentrating on just being Bro. Eddie. He is the founding head of the Jesus is Lord Church. He is also the national chairman of the Philippines for Jesus Movement and chairman of ZOE Broadcasting Network Inc. A son, Joel Villanueva, was a party-list congressman, until he was appointed by Aquino to run the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Turning his back on an earlier decision to sit this election out, Villanueva is now one of 33 senate hopefuls. He has heard the clamor for him to run, he says. “I am so inspired by the daang matuwid program of our President Aquino.”
If elected, Villanueva will work for the benefit of the saguiguilid, the marginalized and disadvantaged sectors of society. He’s got a full plate: free education at all levels for poor students, reforms at the Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education, promoting alternative learning systems, reorganization of the Department of Science and Technology into a National Academy of Science and Technology and raising higher education up to par with international standards, among many other concerns.
He is all for overseas Filipino workers’ rights, expanding universal health care and health insurance coverage, and inclusive growth to embrace the “underserved, underrepresented and the poor.” Though he opposes divorce, Villanueva supports the RH bill and on Church vs state issues, he is emphatic: “No state religion should be established and religious freedom should be absolutely protected.”
32. Villar, Cynthia Aguilar, 63
Nacionalista Party Social Entrepreneur
Cynthia A. Villar, with nine years in Congress behind her, looks to replace her husband, real estate mogul Manny Villar, in the Senate. A likely winner, she wants to focus on “oversight,” as she calls it—that existing laws are properly implemented. She is running on a platform of creating more jobs and livelihood opportunities to mitigate poverty. As her folksy TV ad says: “I believe life is hanepbuhay (fantastic) if there is hanapbuhay (work).”
Villar comes from the wealthy, landed Aguilar clan of Las Piñas City. She went to UP for her business administration degree and to New York University for her master’s degree. Before she joined politics, she worked as a financial analyst, college professor and businesswoman, and founded the Villar Foundation, where she is also currently the managing director and, recently, the Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance, or Villar SIPAG, a think tank complex for researchers, students, nongovernment organizations and local government units.
With Manny in the Senate and Villar in the House, both took a prolife stand against the RH bill. There is no lack of laws for women’s rights, she said. In Congress, Villar worked with other colleagues in crafting and passing such laws as penalizing violence and trafficking laws against women and children, reforming the juvenile justice system and the landmark Magna Carta for Women.
But since the RH bill has been signed into law, the ever pragmatic Villar is resigned to its eventual implementation. But she will say no to a divorce bill. Instead, she plans to introduce a measure to amend the Family Code, to address the “unjust abandonment of a husband”—a simple mechanism to obligate a husband to support his family despite renouncing his marital and familial duties.
Her ride to a Senate landing seems so smooth-sailing if not for a rough bump, as thousands of nurses took umbrage at her unfortunate remarks about their profession. “It’s not necessary for nurses to finish their BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing),” adding that Filipino nurses only aspire to be a “room nurse,” or that they’re just like “caretakers” in the US and other countries. “They don’t really have to be that skilled.” Still, she managed to survive that faux pas.
As a Nacionalista Party bet running under the Team PNoy coalition, Villar is looking beyond bad vibes from the bruising 2010 presidential elections, which saw her husband landing a poor third. As a couple, they’ve moved on, she said. “If you want to help your country, you move on.”
33. Zubiri, Juan Miguel “Migz” Fernandez, 44
United Nationalist Alliance Businessman
Jose Miguel “Migz” Zubiri did an uncommon, selfless act in a political environment filled with unrepentant barnacles. He resigned from the Senate, with such easy grace, keeping his integrity intact.
Zubiri recalls: “That was my proudest moment.”
Zubiri refused to cling to his office, not a day or an hour longer, and gave way to the man who would forever bitterly hound him—Sen. Koko Pimentel, who accused the gentleman from Bukidnon as a cheat, of robbing him of a full term as senator.
Now comes 2013. Zubiri and Pimentel, as the incumbent, are again fighting it out to win a Senate seat. But should he lose, Zubiri is prepared to move on.
“Win or lose,” he says lightheartedly, “me and my wife (Audrey), we’re gonna make baby No. 3.” Zubiri claims to have a clear conscience, adding he wouldn’t lose any sleep over being defeated.
Politics, he says, “is just a job I have to do well. It’s not my life or the reason why I live.”
And he did take his job seriously as a congressman and as a senator. He boasts of a perfect attendance since day one as a legislator. He has authored bills on organic agriculture, wildlife conservation and protection, disaster risk management, rent control and the Mindanao Development Authority, among others.
He is called Mr. Clean Energy for institutionalizing renewable energy, or the Biofuels Act, nursing these bills through the legislative mill until they became law.
Zubiri is also considered the father of the New Cooperative Code as its principal sponsor and as author of the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008.
Should he win, “I will be a better public servant than I was before,” he vows. On his list of urgent things to do are laws to ban open-pit mining, as he has seen first-hand the environmental degradation caused by mining in Tampakan, and a national “socialized health program.” He claims to have done it in Bukidnon and he wants to see to it that such a bill would be passed as law.