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FULL TEXT: INQ&A with Senator Joel Villanueva

/ 08:30 PM July 29, 2016

Senator Joel Villanueva, self-dubbed “Tesdaman” and top two in the 2016 Senate race, sat down with INQUIRER.net on Tuesday for the pilot run of multi-platform talk show INQ&A.

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During the hour-long interview, Villanueva talked about his surprising ranking, his new role as chair of the Senate Committee on Labor and his take on President Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address (Sona).

INQ&A, hosted by INQUIRER.net Editor in Chief John Nery and Chief of Reporters Kristine Sabillo, is broadcast live every Tuesday, 8 to 9 p.m. via the recently launched INQ 990 Television (Digital Terrestrial Television), Radyo Inquirer 990AM, and INQUIRER.net’s Facebook and Youtube accounts.

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Inquirer 990 TV can be viewed on ABS-CBN’s TV Plus, RCA and Godan digital TV boxes.

Every week, INQ&A will feature an important political figure. Next week’s guest is Senator Leila de Lima.

Below is the full transcript of the interview with Villanueva.

INQ&A with Senator Joel Villanueva

John Nery: Every week we sit down with an important newsmaker, someone who has an impact on the news, or who can influence the news agenda. And tonight, we have a very special guest indeed, INQ&A is live, of course, on 91 DZIQ, that’s Radyo Inquirer,  we are live on Facebook, we are live on the Inquirer News Channel on Youtube. We are also carried on the various Chat apps of the Inquirer group, on Viber, Kakao, Firechat, Line, as well as on Twitter. My name is John Nery, I am Editor in Chief of Inquirer.Net and with me is our Chief of Reporters Kristine Sabillo.

Kristine Sabillo: Thank you, John. We are excited for the pilot run of INQ&A. We’ve done this during the election campaign with VP bets. And now we’re going to interview a lot of the new senators and cabinet members. Our guest for today is one of the very important figures right now in the legislative. He spent 9 years in Congress as representative of CIBAC partylist, he took up Economics in college before he went to Harvard for Business Administration and graduate studies. I don’t know if a lot of people know this but  he played basketball in college for the UST in UAAP and even made it to the national team. So here with us now is Senator Joel Villanueva.

Joel Villanueva: Ma’am Tine, good evening, sir John, good evening. To our tele viewers, and to all out there watching, a pleasant evening.

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John Nery: Good evening, Senator Tesdaman,  welcome to the Inquirer.

Joel Villanueva: Thank you, it’s a great honor and privilege to be here.

John Nery: Senator, we’re really happy that you made time. We understand that you came straight from the Senate, so thank you very much. So, speaking of the Senate, ang daming nagtatanong. You were one of the very, very few Filipinos who not only one a Senate seat, but won more than 18 million votes. Iilan lang kayo. Loren Legarda, Jinggoy Estrada, Frank Drilon. What made you win?

Joel Villanueva: First of all I’d like to give all honor and glory to the living God because this is something that, I had to admit, this is something that is more than what I’ve prayed for, more than what I dreamed of.  Imagine sir John, ma’am Tine, during the time that we were thinking of running for the elections, I was ranked 35-45. And then this year of 2016, I was ranking 15-17 of January this year.

So you can just imagine the pressure and the thinking as to whether or not you will continue campaigning or what, but praise God, who answered the question but I think it’s important that you have an authentic and unique message for elections, and what made it effective is the fact that I did not just come up with something, or invented something I did not deliver during my 5 year tenure in Tesda as the chief of Tesda.

Kasi po even in our FGDs (focus group discussions), we were thinking, should I be talking about my experience in Congress as partylist representative? A lot of people would not even be talking about my past performances and the laws I’ve passed during that time when I was a member of Congress. And so  86%, that’s what the report says,  FGD reports, they appreciate what I’ve done in Tesda. And so there came our strategy to link Tesda to the Chief of Tesda, which is TesdaMan.  And not too many people are aware that when we launched TesdaMan, I was actually giving opportunity for Tesda graduates na maitaas po ba yung dignity and yun pong dangal ng graduates natin because most of our graduates come  from poor families, marginalized sectors of our society.

So sabi ko, when you become a Tesda graduate and when you get certified, you become a TesdaMan. So that’s what TesdaMan really means. When I left Tesda, I transformed that program into a movement that if you wanted to be a part of a movement or crusade that would create jobs and give more opportunities to the marginalized sector of our society, then you become a part of the TesdaMan movement. So the rest is history and again the 18, 459,222 who voted for me, talagang taos pusong pasasalamat po sa lahat ng nanunuod, nakikinig, sa lahat ng naka-tune in po sa gabing ito.

Kristine Sabillo: But it’s not the first time that someone who handled  Tesda ran for the elections. What do you think distinguished your run, I mean you had a good message but  how did you package it? What do you think.. you were a surprise winner, I don’t think a lot of people.. during the first hours of the count you were actually number 1. What did you think change, or what did you give, how did you package your message in a way that it resonated with a lot of people.

Joel Villanueva: Tine, I was able to convey that message and that message became very popular with our people, I try, or do my best to ensure that this message can actually be localized and customized. For example if I go to Cebu, I have 3 or 5 Tesda graduates during my time, that I would say yung  from rags to riches. For example si Eric Binlot from Cebu used to be a tambay, and then took up welding course, now he’s in Canada and he’s making about 200,000 pesos a month.

Kristine Sabillo: Do you invite them to talk at your campaign rallies, to do interviews?

Joel Villanueva: I invited them to help me out in campaigning for hope, for techvoc..

Kristine Sabillo: So grassroots, like actually going to the people and talking..

Joel Villanueva: Yes, yes. Mark Escora for example from Negros Occidental used to be a jeepney barker. And for many years, kahit po may polio siya, PWD (person with disability) siya, jeepney barker siya. Then when we came in and gave away itong mga scholarship programs natin, nakapag-aral siya as a call center agent now he’s an escalation supervisor for Panasiatic Solutions in Bacolod City. When I went there, sila na mismo, talagang they would volunteer and they’d be part of the campaign.

I think yun yung key and at the same time I have to say na in almost all of the State of the Nation Addresses of Pnoy, he would always come up with stories, you know that lady from Pangasinan. Her name is Christina Reyes, dating OFW went home, gustong mag wakasan na yung buhay because she thought wala ng hope, nag-aral ng massage theraphy, now she has 5 habitat spa, all over Pangasinan and she’s now in franchising. I think she has 3, yung franchising ano nya sa, lalawigan naman ng Tarlac. So itong mga bagay na ito, nag-propel para maging mapakita sa ating mga kababayan na they don’t need to go into other provinces, an in their areas alone, I can pinpoint somebody, na for example dyan sa Isabela, yang Beauty Salon nay an, pag-aari yan ng dating nag-aral sa Tesda, etc. Siguro yung key, Tine, not a lot of many people are aware that during the campaign season I was averaging about 21-24 radio interviews a day.

John Nery and Kristine Sabillo: Wow.

Joel Villanueva: So you could just imagine at 5:30 in the morning. I wanted to share that there was a time na I was setting my alarm clock, and then nung nag lie down na ko sa bed ko, parang 5-10 minutes later nag alarm na yung clock, parang wow, babangon na ko. Then you have to fly.. Then the rest, sasabihin ko talaga na yung right strategy, I was able to have a lot of sessions with Senator Serge, who I consider one of the best pa rin sa mga ganitong pagbalangkas ng tamang stratehiya para sa isang national elections. Then I sat down with so many personalities, Chiz Escudero has been there, Allan Peter Cayetano, Senator Drilon, I was also paired with Senator Drilon who I believe is such a  great blessing during the time na nagca-campaign kami dun sa party.  Inassign kami into groups and I became part o Senator Drilon’s group so beterano, maraming alam, at marami akong natutunan. Sama sama po yun. And I think most importantly talagang yung approval nung nasa taas, para sakin ho, again. This is something I never prayed for, or dreamed of. You get 18,459, 000 is really something. And until now I get goosebumps every time I would talk about it, and as the Bible says na where much is given, much is required, dama ko pa rin po yung responsibility na ibinigay sakin ng tiwala ng mga bumoto.

Kristine Sabillo: You mentioned President Aquino,I remember in 2013 you were supposed to be included in the Senate lineup, but if I remember correctly you were asked to stay in Tesda and continue the programs. How did President Aquino help you during the elections? I covered Malacanang and I remember he would always attend the Tesda launch or graduation, and other events.

Joel Villanueva: I think he enjoys Tesda events. Kasi unique yung mga stories na maririnig mo at mae-experience mo firsthand dun sa mga programs natin sa Tesda. In this campaign, masasabi ko pa ring malaking tulong yung aprt ka ng administration. Merong organisasyon, very, I think more systematic than others, and considering thatPNoy still holds the most, loved president and highest approval ratings.. Remember when you go to Senate you only need about 35% eh, to make it, and that’s another strategy, parang uubusin ko ata lahat ng sikreto ko eh, sir John.

Kristine Sabillo: A lot of senatorial aspirants are listening right now, take notes..

Joel Villanueva: Madami talagang nagtatanong eh. When you cast your vote on May 9, did you expect to win?

Kristine Sabillo: You were doing well in the surveys, although not number 2, number 6..

Joel Villanueva: I did. A week before the elections nasa number 5 to 7 na po tayo. I was kind of confident, but still di ko naman po sasabihing siguradong sigurado. I was confident. I’d use that word confident na I would be able to make it. But to tell you honestly during the time when I saw the name,yung first 2 hours, I’ve been taking pictures and recording. Andun yung mga staff ko, I was telling them this is history, baka di na natin makita ulit to. And then for like, 2-3 hours na ganun.

John Nery: Nakakatuwa kasi parehas din ng sharing ni Senator Grace Poe nung 2013, she did not expect to top it. I think yung kwento niya, nugn unang lumabas, nung mga 4,000 votes pa lang, number 1 siya. Mga 4,000 precints palang sya, number 1 siya, kinunan na niya ng litrato kasi baka nga di na maulit eh.

Joel Villanueva: You know Sir John, 14, 000, I still remember that figure. 14,000 pa lang, picture na ako ng picture. Hanggang sa umabot ng 17 million nasa top pa po tayo nun nung 17 million, picture pa ako ng picture. Around 7 million something, yung trend nakikita mo na. Naluhod nap o ako nun and I started thanking the Lord, praying na parang na nag-start yung spirit of thanksgiving, parang this is it, we’re really gonna make it.

John Nery: When President Aquino assumed office in 2010, did you want Tesda, was it forced on you?

Joel Villanueva: No, no, no. This was really interesting. Again let me remind everyone, my father ran against him. And during that time, parang yung nangyari po ngayon ano, talagang overwhelming yung panalo ni Pangulong Noynoy. So when I was asked about it, I told them I had to talk to my dad first things first. Alam ho kasi ng lahat noon, bago tumakbo si Brother Eddie, I was against it. So parang ayoko din dahil baka masaktan ko yung kagrupo specially ng dad ko. But I seriously campaigned for my dad, obviously, So when I spoke to my dad, it didn’t take me 10 seconds to convince him an to go for it, if you think you could be of help.. Sabi ko parang there’s a great opportunity, specially that time in the House of Representatives, talagang may heart po talaga ako representing the youth sector sa Cibac partylist during that time. So maraming youth programs ho tayo specially dun sa skills training, kasi yun yung pinaka mas mabilis, mas madali, mas praktikal, compared to the 4 year course.  So yun nandun ho yung heart ko. So when I was offered that job, and okay sa dad ko, I grabbed the opportunity.

John Nery: Was that the first offer for you, or were there other offers?

Joel Villanueva: Nung time na nasa gabinete ako, dun po marami, sir. Siguro yung pinaka-famous yung spokesperson, yung PCOO, DOTC din ata nun.

Kristine Sabillo: That was formally offered to you?

Joel Villanueva: They talked about it, at ako na mismo yung nagsabi na kung meron talagang isang ahensya, siguro even before Secretary Jesse Robredo passed away, madami nang movement na mangyayari. Specially when Sec. Jesse passed away. Maraming.. yung mga ganun. Lagi kong sinasbai na hindi, pero balikan ko po yung 2013, ganun din po dahil nga ho because I was asked to stay, and I was again, di naman po offered but yung parang.. Is there any cabinet post or any agency na mas may gusto ka. I told the president during that time I’d rather stay with Tesda. Siguro hanggang ngayon it’s ingrained in my system, yung techvoc sector.

John Nery: Marami tayong tanong from social media, pwede I can ask one question right now, kasi directly related dun sa Tesda eh. Ang tanong niya, now that you’re in the Senate, do you have any plans to help continue what you’ve started with Tesda?

Joel Villanueva: Definitely, sir John, and one of my very first bills na gusto kong isulong is yung institutionalization of what we have done in Tesda. I believe yung just to name a few, yun pong, training for work scholarship program, that’s about 700 million for the longest time, and napalaki natin ito ng napalaki, and bago naman po lumaki ito, nagproduce tayo ng good results, I would say not just good results, for example 86 percent employment rate, 95 percent sa, for example animation industry, etc.  So nakita po ng mambabatas natin sa both Houses, HOR and Senate, yung magandang performance.

Tapos sa DBM, kay Pnoy, from 700 million po this year alone, that’s about 2.2 billion pesos yung budget for that particular  scholarship program and gusto ko ho talaga mag tuloy-tuloy po yun and hindi rin po madali yung naging journey natin sa Tesda. We were able to make Tesda as the first education agency na macertify ng ISO nationwide. So if you go to ARMM, ang first agency ng government to be ISO certified is Tesda. Tapos after po nitong mga nakaraang buwan lamang, yun pong highest exemplary recognition na binibigay ng Philippine Quality Awards, nabigay na rin po sa Tesda.

So yun po, having said that, ito yung gusto natin isulong sa Senado. Hindi lang yung scholarship na school-based, isama na natin yung community based, we had this program, yung STEP, yung special training for employment program, 2 years ago po nag-start ito, we were able to get a billion pesos from Congress, this is a special program for community base. Less than 30 days lang yung training .After the training program, if you trained for welding, you will be given a welding message. Isa poi to sa mga gusto natin talaga, napakaganda po ng programa na ito kasi as soon as they graduate from the program, they can start working within their communities and pwede na ho silang pagkakitaan. Yung gusto kong example dyan, dun po sa Batangas port, pag nakita niyo po dun, meron po silang naging samahan po doon na nagmamasahe dun sa port ng Batangas and I was told that they were earning at least a thousand two hundred a day, ito pong mga masahista na ito.

John Nery: Senator pagusapan natin ngayon yung committee chairmanship – ‘yung mga committees sa Senado. Today the news came out, you had voted formally on the committee chairmanship. Before we talk about Labor committee, how do you feel about other committee chairmanships, sa blue ribbon halimbawa?

Joel Villanueva: Okay naman po. Para po makasagot ako nang maayos, meron po akong kodigo dito para banggitin po. Na-elect po kanina:

Senator Leila De Lima—chair of the Senate committee on justice

Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao—chair of the Senate committee on public works

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian—chairs of the Senate committee on energy

Senator Risa Hontiveros—chair of the Senate committee on health

Senator Richard Gordon—chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee.

Senator Panfilo Lacson—chair of the Senate committee on public order

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri—chair of the Senate committee on trade

Senator Francis Pangilinan—chair of the Senate committee on agriculture

Senate Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon—chair of the Senate committee on constitutional and revision of codes

Senate Majority Leader Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III—chair of the Senate committee on rules

Senator Loren Legarda—chair of the Senate committee on finance

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara—chair of Senate committee on ways and means

Senator Grace Poe—chair of Senate committee on public services

Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino—chair of the Senate committee on education

Senator Nancy Binay—chair of the Senate committee on tourism

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito—chair of the Senate committee on urban planning housing and urban resettlement

Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II—chair of the Senate committee on national defense

Senator Cynthia Villar—chair of the Senate committees on environment and on social justice welfare and rural development

John Nery: Senator napag-usapan natin yung mga Sentae committees. You got Labor, What are your plans for the committee on Labor?

Joel Villanueva: Madami po. Unahin ko po ‘yung ating tinuturing na mga bayani ng ating lipunan, ‘yung mga OFWs. Gusto natin mas maging maayos ‘yung kalagayan po nila dyan. Natutuwa po ako nung nakaraang Sona nabanggit ni Pangulong Digong yung kanyang ninanais o pagnanais na magkaroon ng Department of OFWs na kung saan kukumpunihin ‘yung mga ahensya at ‘yung iba’t ibang offices ng ating pamahalaan concerning doon sa ating mga OFWs. So maganda po ‘yun.

Pangalawa po ‘yung issue ng contractualization and endo (end of contract) no napakainit po talaga n’yan eh. At ako ho may commitment po ako na talagang tignan nang mabuti ito dahil technically, bawal naman ho talaga. But the only thing is that wala namang nagsusumbong. Wala naman talagang maglalakas ng loob magsumbong para isumbong ‘yung amo niya. Baka tanggalin siya pag nalaman niya. Easily dun pa lang makikita mo na may kaunting problema tayo dun sa mechanisms natin on the regulatory powers of the government. So let’s look for right solutions tungkol ho dito.

Ilan po sa ating mga naiisip na, considering again yesterday President  Digong mentioned about the lowering of personal and corporate income taxes. So dun sa corporate income taxes, baka pwedeng incentivize natin; kung ibababa natin this much or kung pwede pang mas mabababa. Let’s give incentives doon sa mga kumpanya na mag-regularize ng kanyang mga employees. At dun naman sa mga kumpanya na magsasabi na: “Teka lang.” Tumataas na ang mga kilay ng nakikinig sa atin ngayon, gusto ko lang rin pong i-push na bago natin i-implement ito sa ating private sectors, sa pamahalaan na muna, sa government sector. Kasi nung nasa Tesda rin po ako ganun rin naman eh. May mga nakikita po ako ang tagal na po pero hindi pa rin regular. Pag tinanong mo naman kung bakit, because wala naman talagang item. Wala namang maibigay na item, yung plantilya. So importante talaga na balanse po ito – ‘yung trabaho. Kasi parang relasyon din yan, hindi pwedeng one-sided. So kailangan nako-konsulta din nating ‘yung mga negosyante.

And when you talk about creation of jobs, it’s not only training our people to be job-fit or job-ready. Kahit anong galing ho natin sa training regulation, kahit anong ganda ng ating curriculum in education, kung hindi po maganda ‘yung atmosphere ng negosyo at wala tayong naa-attract na investments, then balewala din po. Mahihirapan po tayo kahit anong galing nung ating mga tao. Ang mangyayari n’yan lalabas lang po talaga ng ibang bansa. Yan po Sir yung ilan sa mga gusto nating gawin kayo ho I support yung lowering of personal and corporate income taxes. And pag-aralan din ho natin ‘yung daily wage ano natin. Kasi ho kung titignan po natin, ang ganda-ganda ho nung ating average GDP. It’s about 6.16 percent in the past five years.

We’re the fastest growing ecnomy in the region and yet if you look at the real rate wage – real rate wage po, ibig sabihin po n’yan ‘yung kinikita natin minus po doon sa inflation na nangyayari which is sa ngayon po is about 1 percent po tayo dyan. I think we’re second lowest. Ang lowest ho yata ay Singapore. Ibig sabihin ho ‘yung growth rate ng ating wage increase eh hindi ho ganun kaganda kahit na mataas yung ating job creation, eh medyo kulang po. And how do we address it? One is ‘yung cost ng employment. Isa po sa pinu-push natin ngayon, pinag-aaralang mabuti eh itong telecommuting – ‘yung pag-compress ng work; ‘yung work flexibility, nakakatulong din yan sa traffic. So yun po mga tinitignan po natin yan dun sa ating committee. And marami pa hong iba. Baka masyado na kong maraming sinasabi. Sorry.

Kristine Sabillo: Senator, related to that, we have a question from Twitter from Carlos Antonio. As chair of the Labor Senate committee, name three of your priority bills. So I guess one of that is the reduction of the corporate income tax.

Joel Villanueva: Well ‘yun po, will go ‘yun sa Ways and Means. Although tama din po na pwede nating sabihin ‘yung incentivization – incentivize natin ‘yung mga corporations and firms para ma-encourage sila. So that’s another thing. ‘Yung Training Trabaho bill, very important din po sa akin para doon sa mga kababayan natin na para lumawak ‘yung programa natin – ‘yung job creation. ‘Yun pong financial literacy for our workers, especially abroad, gustong-gusto rin po natin yan dahil ‘yun ‘yung nakikita nating laging perennial problem – pag-uwi ho nila dito, they don’t know how to manage their own finances. Kulang yung kaalaman, kasanayan. Nung nasa Tesda po ako, we were able to launch this Tesda Online program. We had about 44 courses for free Sir at their own pace, at their own time – about 2 million registered users. Before, the government needs to spend about a billion pesos in order to subsidize about 200,000 scholars. Eh dito po halos ka-kaunti ‘yung ginastos mo. At dito ho pumapasok, President Digong ‘yung binabanggit nyong computerization. Napaka-effective ho dahil ang dami ho talagang nakinabang dito. Other than, siguro ‘yung mga bills in the pipeline madami pa rin po. So ‘yun, financial literacy; ‘yung incentives; ‘yun pong protection ng ating mga – ‘yun pong mga graduates natin ng tech voc, pinu-push ko rin po noon. Dati kinausap ko ‘yung House of Representatives na meron ka nang national certification, perhaps we can use it para sa soft loans sa mga government financial institutions na magamit po nila kahit pambili lang po ng gunting; pamibili lang po ng welding machine o ng kung ano man, dahil skilled naman po sya at maganda ‘yung pinanggalingan nya na excited syang i-apply ‘yung natutunan nya, pwede pa rin. Again this is part of job creation na gusto nating mangyari.

John Nery: Senator I have a pair of questions from social media also. Pero bago nun gusto kong balikan sana ‘yung Labor committee. Did you choose this or was this a consensus of the caucus?

Joel Villanueva: It’s one of my priority committees, I would say. It’s not my first choice but alam nyo ‘yung Senate medyo masalimuot din ‘yung Senado eh.

John Nery: So what was your first choice?

Kristine Sabillo: You had a short list?

Joel Villanueva: Tago ko na lang ‘yung mga choices ko nun. Dito na lang ako sa Labor, baka mag-create pa ng…

Kristine Sabillo: But you had a short list?

Joel Villanueva: Yes, 10 committees on my list. Ang decision making kasi, I could just imagine you’re talking about 24 republics. And it’s very hard. Well ang nangyari naman, grupo-grupo po yan – ‘yung mga partido. Hindi din natin madi-discount the fact na yung iba dyan talagang mga close na, magkakaibigan na at magkakasama. So ganun po ‘yung nangyari, and sa ngayon po, if you would see itong list ng na-nominate o na-elect na mga chairpersons ng different committees, puro tig-iisa p alang ho. So baka sa makawala, wala kasing session tomorrow eh, baka magdi-disccuss and mage-elect na rin po ng mga chair.

John Nery: But you’re also vice chairperson of Ways and Means and Education. Nasa short list mo rin ‘yun?

Joel Villanueva: Totoo po ‘yun. Sa totoo lang, ‘yung isa po dun mas priority ko.

Kristine Sabillo: So ‘yung isa ba dun ‘yun ‘yung top 1?

Joel Villanueva: But it’s okay kasi I’m very happy with what happened kanina. And tingin ko po talagang at the end of the day, what would matter is how you’d be able to contribute and ‘yun nga mapasa itong mga pinapanukala mo na batas na gusto mong gawin. And at the same time kung saan mo mae-exercise yung power, ‘yung oversight powers ng Senado, na masiguro na ito ‘yung nangyayari. Kagaya ho nung sinsabi nating kanina na topic ‘yung contractualization – kung hindi natin makikita ‘yung effectivity and effectiveness ng regulatory powers nung ating pamahalaan, baka maabuso ho talaga.

John Nery: Sige ito muna. Tatanungin ko muna ‘yung ano. Meron akong dalawa. I wanted to pair these kasi magkaiba sila eh. ‘Yung isa hindi ko mabasa ‘yung pangalan nya. Pagkatapos kayong magkasama ni Noynoy Aquino, nung tumakbo ka pagka-senador, bakit sinuportahan mo si Duterte? ‘Yun ‘yung isang tanong. ‘Yun isang tanong naman: Kung totoong may pagpapahalaga ka sa Diyos, bakit sumama sa mga Liberal?

Joel Villanueva: Thank you for that question. Una po gusto kong sabihin, I was with President Noy since 2010. Siya po ‘yung nagbigay ng break sa atin para maging parte ng gabinete. Ako ho’y pa-retire na nun. Siya din ho ‘yung dahilan bakit dumami yung puting buhok ko. So isa ho sa hinahangad ko talaga is makpaglingkod ako and makapag-produce ng deliverables. Kasi ho ‘yung mga unang taon namin sa gabinete, may ganun ho eh– may may ipe-present ho kayo. At gusto ko ho talaga hindi lang ma-deliver, kundi ma-surpass and alam po ng ating mga kasamahan sa gabinete how we work and how we worked hard during that time. So nagawa naman po natin ‘yun. That time, hindi natin magagawa ‘yun kung wala rin po yung big support ni Pangulong Noynoy. Kaya po, when I was thinking of running in 2013, as you mentioned Ma’am kanina, talagang magi-stay po ako with the administration. Not really joining the Liberal Party because alam nyo ho medyo may complexities po ito dahil until now ako po ang pangulo ng Cibac partylist. Kagaya po ni Senator Risa na taga-Akbayan, ganun din po ako sa Cibac partylist. It just so happen during the campaign – during the time na magsa-submit na ng mga names for the coalition ng Daang Matuwid, wala na pong masayadong oras para gumawa pa ng kung anu-ano. Pwede naman po ‘yun eh. Pero sige para mas mabilis, para mas smooth, I become part of Liberal Party.

So ‘yung Liberal Party po ‘yung dinala ko noong tayo po ay tumakbo. Doon po sa sinuportahan ko po si President Digong, hindi po totoo ‘yun kasi anywhere I go in the four corners of this country, I was campaigning for Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo. And kung hindi po sila maniniwala, wala naman ho akong magagawa po dun. Saksi ko po ang Diyos. Nakakalungkot lang, may mga kaibigan ka kasi siguro, may mga kasamahan ka rin sa simbahan, na iba ‘yung sinusuportahan. Parang dun ka jina-judge bakit sila iba ‘yung sinusuportahan ikaw iba ‘yung sinusoportaan. Ako I don’t have problems with that kasi mataas ang respeto ko sa kahit kaninong tao. Nakapag-aral man o hindi, mahirap man o mayaman, kung ano ang desisyon nya, I will respect. Lalo na po tuwing dumarating itong halalan dahil ito ‘yung kapangyarihan ng bawat isa sa atin, ng bawat Pilipino na i-exercise natin ‘yung right natin to suffrage.

Kristine Sabillo: May isisingit lang ako about Labor. I think we have 15 mins. left. So, how about underemployment during the administration of President Aquino? Employment was going up or unemployment was going down pero tumataas ‘yung underemployment. So it’s a question of the quality of the job. So what do you think should we do to address that issue?

Joel Villanueva: That’s a very good point. Even though tumaas ‘yung employment, gusto ko pa rin pong sabihin po as Tesdaman, hindi rin ako satisfied kahit na tumaas ‘yung employment at isa nga daw ho sa pinakamababa itong unemployment rate natin. But I’m still not satisfied because of the fact na if you compare it with the region, medyo parang we can do more. And dun sa underemployment, naniniwala pa po ako na ang laki pa ring challenge sa atin ‘yung tinatawag na job-skills mismatch. And now that K-12 is here nanniniwala din ako na malaking factor ito na maga-address nitong underemployment.

But let mo also introduce ‘yung tinatawag na Philippine Qualifications Framework. And this is also part of the measures that I will pursue in the next couple of weeks. I think we already filed it sa committee on Education. ‘Yun pong not only harmonizing our curriculums at all levels from DepEd, Tesda to CHed, but also ‘yung international alignments nya, ‘yung mga mutual recognition arrangements as we enter itong Asean Integration 2016, importante po talaga na meron po tayong framework. Ito pong framework na ito ang magde-determine din na – for example itong doktor natin bakit hindi ba nare-recognize na doktor sa ibang bansa? ‘Yung engineer hindi? Pero ‘yung kanina po ‘yung kinwento ko sa inyo, ‘yung welder [dito], welder din po doon sa ibang bansa. So ito ho ‘yung maghuhulma dito at malalaman natin ano ba ‘yung mga rehistrado o ‘yung mga parte ng curriculum na meron sila, na wala tayo bakit hindi tayo ma-recognize? And in that way if we wil be able to – kasi ho nagkaroon na tayo ng executive order dyan eh. So pagka nakagawa po tayo ng ganun, madali pong masusukat ‘yung tinatawag na levels of learnings. Kasi for example, ‘yung nag-aral – last na lang po – ‘yung nag-aral po ng small engine repair for instance sa Tesda, nagtayo po siya ng shop, ng mechanic shop. And then after sometime he realized: “I wanted to be a mechanical engineer.” After 5 years, 10 years na mekaniko po siya, he goes to UST, for instance. Meron na pong panuntunan na masusukat. ‘Yung Tesda experience nya, ‘yung experience nya ng 5 years as a mechanic, masasabi na po dun: “Oh dalawang taon ka na lang, engineer ka na.” When he becomes an engineer…

John Nery: May equivalency.

Joel Villanueva: May equivalency, opo. Because of that and the international recognition, as an engineer he goes to Singapore or Thailand, he can also work as an engineer. I know it’s a long process, it’s a tedious process but I think we really have to start the ball rolling.

John Nery: Senator let’s talk about President Digong. What was your reaction to the Sona, yesterday?

Joel Villanueva: How would I describe it? It was fascinating and interesting and I can also say na it’s inspiring and unique. Parang wala ho tayong nakita pa and narinig na State of the Nation Address na kagaya po nun. And tingin ko nagustuhan ng taong bayan because somehow [they] relate at all times during the Sona. And napaka-straight forward; napaka-direct to the point nya. Ang tingin ko lang, para sa akin po, it would be interesting kung ano ‘yung mga nitty-gritty part. For example, ‘yun pong sa emergency powers, I wanted to find out kung anong klase ‘yung kailangan talaga. Doon po ba sa exemptions ng procurement? Saan po ba? And if they say, for example ‘yung sa federalism, French models. So ibig sabihin wala nang sariling Constitution. Papaano bang hahatiin ‘yung mga states, etc.? I’m open to these suggestions and itong mga measures na gustong isulong ng ating administrasyon. And I don’t want to be that person na magba-block nitong napakagandang hangarin at pangarap ng ating Pangulong Digong.

John Nery: Anong tingin mo dun sa federalism? Mukhang sigurado nang magkakaroon ng Constitutional Convention. Parang ganun talaga ‘yung thrust ng Duterte administration. Sang-ayon ka ba doon? Do you think it’s the right way to go?

Joel Villanueva: I’m open to discussion. And I would also say na it’s important na maintindihan natin lahat ‘yung nitty-gritty part no. At least nagsalita nga ang ating Pangulo na nasa isip nyang modelo ay ‘yung French model. Kung gagawin din po to ng charter change, I would suggest also, ako po I’m supporting ‘yung con-con, if we’re going to do it. But I think, importante talaga na kung gusto nating tumakbo for instance, alamin muna natin. Kaya ba ng tuhod natin? Ano ba ‘yung kaya nating takbo? Anong klaseng marathon, etc.? ‘Yun ho ‘yung gusto kong makita kasi ho for example, if you’re supporting the idea na pagbibigay ng funding sa iba’t ibang malalayong lugar ng ating mamamayan, bakit di mo na lang itaas ‘yung – kunwari, just for the sake of the argument – ‘yung 60-40 baliktarin natin. Gawin nating local ‘yung 60; 40 ‘yung national. Ito pong pinu-push namin ni Senator Ping Lacson, ‘yung BRAVE – ‘yung Budgetary Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment. Kasi po for the past 6 years, parang naga-average tayo ng about P250 – P270 billion na nase-save eh. Why don’t we give it to the provinces, cities, municipalities, even barangays? Ang interes po ni Joel Villanueva dito is to ensure na about 10 – 15 percent of the program will be allotted to skills and development training plus giving of starter tool kits. Para in that way we can make sure na makaka-create even the lowest barangay will have a mechanism to create more jobs.

John Nery: We need to ask you also about the spate of killings. Meron kaming listahan na over 350 names na ang nandun. Siguro from election day, mga 500 na ang napatay. Anong tingin mo dito?

Joel Villanueva: Ako, hindi ho ako magmamaruong at sasabihin ko na ito dapat gawin, ito’ng dapat gawin. Gusto ko pa rin hong tignan ‘yung data. Gusto ko pa rin hong pag-aralan kung meron bang sasabit na casualty na talagang alam ng lahat na talagang nadamay lang, napagkamalan etc. Kung ang question also is about investigations, etc. marami na pong nagi-investigate eh. So why not wait for them? Dahil baka naman ho talaga masayang yung momentum ng paglaban natin dito sa veils of illegal drugs. Sa ngayon po kasi parang wala naman ho yatang magsasabi ni isa sa atin na hindi ito epektibo – itong nangyayaring drive. Imagine in my own hometown alone, biglang 700 individuals ang sumuko, nag-surrender, umamin na sila’y gumagamit ng illegal drugs. So para po sa akin this is a welcome development.

John Nery: Kailangan din siguro kilatisin. Titignan kung sino ‘yung mga nag-surrender. Baka naman professional surrenders kayo?

Joel Villanueva: Yes, yes. Importante po talaga ‘yun. And that brings me to my next point na pag hindi po natin na-control ito, then again ‘yung rule of law na gusto nating i-espouse, is the same – ang mangyayari ho dyan eh magka-crumble din ‘yung rule of law. So again importante ‘yung pagbalanse po nito. And sa ngayon ang masasabi ko lang po, napakaganda nung nangyayaring drive but in the end, pag tinitignan natin ‘yung dulo, we’ll see. Siguro we need more time. ‘Yung profiling these cases; these reports na naririnig po natin. Madali ho kasing magsabi eh na ganito ‘yung nangyari, especially kung ang tatanungin mo eh ‘yung pamilya nung biktima. So ganun lang po. But again, importante talaga sa atin ‘yung pag-care po natin dun sa legal system po natin.

John Nery: Senator we have three and a half mins to go. Tine, do you have one more question from social media or you wanna talk about the higher office?

Kristine Sabillo: That’s one of the question that I was hoping to ask. Do you plan to run for higher office like your father?

Joel Villanueva: No. ‘Yung sinasabi ko po lagi dyan, nakita ko po ‘yung trabaho ni Pangulong Noynoy firsthand kaya po ang taas ng respeto ko at saludong-saludo po ako sa kanya. By the way itong nangyari sa international tribunal, I think hindi masyadong napapansin na siya po talaga ‘yung nag-push nito at talagang todo suporta. And having said that, hindi ko po gustong maranasan ‘yung naranasan nya.

John Nery: Senator last few mins. na lang. Mabilisang sagot lang, tanong ko lang po kay senator, galing kay Abera M.: Kailangan po ba ng diploma sa Tesda?

Joel Villanueva: Hindi po. May mga courses nga po sa Tesda na kahit hindi po kayo high school graduate, pwede po kayong kumuha. At gusto ko rin pong i-take ‘yung opportunity. If you log on to the Internet, www.Tesda.gov.ph, meron po tayo dyang Tesda online program 44 courses libre po yan at your own pace at your own time. Wala ho kayong babayaran. It’s just that we are strongly recommending that after the program, mag-undergo po kayo ng assessment para kayo ay pumasa ho kayo dun, right away ay bibigyan ho kayo ng lisensya at magkakaroon po kayo ng certification kagaya po nito. Ako po’y isang certified barista.

John Nery: Ito galing kay Nel Doliente: Bakit po sa Tesda, 18 pababa ang edad na may bayad?

Joel Villanueva: Baka po ang binabanggit po ninyo ay ‘yung scholarship program. May isa pong part, may isa pong item ng scholarship program, ang tawag po training for work scholarship program. So that particular item po ng programa na ‘yun ay dapat employable ka na. So you must be 18 years of age, kung matapos mo na ‘yung programa dahil as the item dictates: training for work scholarship program. But there are also other scholarship programs kagaya po nung PESFA – ‘yung Private Education Student Financial Assistance program, eh yan po kahit 15 years old lang po kayo pwede ho kayong maka-avail nung scholarship program na yan.

John Nery: Senator last one minute, sinong pinakamagaling mag-basketball sa Senado?

Joel Villanueva: Si Sonny Angara, Si Pacquiao also, professional basketball player.

Kristine Sabillo: ‘Yung head ng video team namin sabi kayo daw ang pinakamagaling eh.

Joel Villanueva: Siguro sila na lang po ‘yung mag-decide pagka may game. But aaminin ko po, naglaro po kasi ako sa UST. I was part of the UAAP Growling Tigers basketball team that bagged the ’94 and ’95 championship. And I represented the country twice in international competitions. Kung noon pwede kong sabihing right away ako. Pero ngayon ho, I underwent major 3 knee surgeries. I have a titanium alloy on my right knee.

John Nery: Sa ano yan sa pagluhod. Sa pagdadasal.

Joel Villanueva: Nako, baka magalit sa atin ang Lord. Hindi naman po. Sa paglalaro ho lahat ng basketball.

John Nery: The reason I asked about this is there a room for a basketball diplomacy? Maglalaro kayong mga senador tapos may paguusapan kayong legislation?

Joel Villanueva: Kanina po kami ni Senator Sonny played sa Cuneta astrodome. Tapos we’re preparing for a league coming up. I’m not sure, in the next couple of months. So very competitive kasi mga ex-PBA players naglalaro. So ayun pinagbibigyan kami ni Sonny.

John Nery: Senator unfortunately we ran out of time. Ang dami pang tanong but we have to call it a day. On behalf of Tine, I would like to thank Tesdaman, Senator Joel Villanueva, for being our first and most important guest on INQ&A. Thank you and good evening.

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