Being More Than Just A Spare Tire: The Vice Presidential Debates By Kaia Camomot | April 12, 2016
“What will define your leadership as Vice President of the Philippines?”
The Vice President has always been perceived as a spare tire, put in that position only to be the President’s replacement if anything happens to him or her. So being asked this question, the six candidates had to make sure they emphasized on their own capabilities, breaking the image that they are merely a spare tire. Sen. Alan Cayetano, running alongside Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, drew attention to the need to choose between the interests of all or the interests of the rich, saying the people are the center of the election. Sen. Chiz Escudero, running alongside Sen. Grace Poe, pointed out that they chose white as their color because they didn’t want to be stained by politics. Sen. Gregorio Honasan, running under our incumbent Vice President Jejomar Binay, focused on unity, peace, prosperity, security, and building for the future generation. Sen. Bongbong Marcos, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s candidate, stressed on the need for a leader that isn’t in it for politics, one that is honest and puts the welfare of the people first. Cong. Leni Robredo, running alongside Sec. Mar Roxas, promised to lead the kind of administration that not only listens, but is also listened to. Lastly, Sen. Anthony Trillanes IV focused on peace, order, and leading an anti-corruption drive.
On Corruption “How can you ensure that you can fight corruption, especially for those of you accused or linked to this problem?”According to Transparency International, the Philippines ranked 95th out of the 186 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2015. Some of the candidates have also faced corruption cases. Escudero pushed for the passing of the Freedom of Information bill, of which he is a principal author. The Senate has already passed this, yet it still awaits its second reading in Congress. He also mentioned that corruption was due to discretion. Robredo then asked him what he did to remove his discretion in his PDAF. Escudero answered by saying he was part of those who abolished the PDAF, and he was also Chairman of the committee that passed the General Appropriations Act. From 2007-2009, under the Arroyo administration, Escudero did not receive PDAF. He admits to having met Janet Napoles, but says there was never any talk with her about his PDAF. Honasan suggested breaking down the internal mechanisms, with amendments to the Local Government Code, Auditing Code, and the Internal Revenue Code, and ensuring leaders are elected on the basis of platforms, not personality. Marcos emphasized on treating everyone equally. He also boasted of having no stains of corruption, despite having several cases against his family’s “ill-gotten wealth” and his PDAF. Robredo focused on accountability and transparency. With regards to having a People’s Council in LGUs, she filed an empowerment bill for people’s participation in governance (HB 4911). Trillanes proposed that government employees should have an adequate salary so that they will be disincentivized to receive bribes, and that auditing procedures should be changed. Cayetano claimed that no big firms are funding their campaign and resorted to pointing a finger at Marcos, saying the PCGG have recovered billions from their family, and questioning his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth. He then went on to quoting Imelda Marcos in her 1998 interview with the Inquirer where she said, “We practically own everything in the Philippines.” Marcos defended himself by saying that Cayetano’s accusations had no basis and no documents supporting it, that the numbers mentioned have never been brought up before. On the other hand, “Kung walang mahirap, walang corrupt,” is what Honasan believed in. He proposed solving poverty and the social injustice problem.
Although for a split second, Marcos mistakenly raises the thumbs up sign before quickly changing his answer.
Question for Sen. Cayetano: “What do you think is the appropriate penalty for graft and corruption?” “It’s not the actual penalty, but the certainty na mahuhuli ka.” Cayetano made the comparison between stealing a loaf of bread and stealing a large amount of money. He said the former would get you arrested, but the latter would elect you into office. He guaranteed being able to change the system in six months. When Marcos questioned if this is how Cayetano was elected into the legislative, he name dropped a certain Maya Santos, Marcos’ former consultant whose contract was terminated in March 2013, four months before the pork barrel scam blew open, claiming she was the connection between Marcos and Napoles. Trillanes, having accused VP Binay of corruption, also answered by proposing higher penalties for plunder, and giving chances for rehabilitation to those accused of smaller crimes.
On the Judicial System Question for Trillanes: “What can be done to improve the judiciary?” According to John Mangun from the Business Mirror, the Philippines has never been able to turn the corner on sustainable significant poverty reduction. Curing poverty entails economic growth, which requires investment, but investors feel that the Philippines has a weak rule of law, criticizing our country’s judicial system.
Trillanes proposed institutionalizing the internal ombudsman as a judiciary mechanism for them to police its own ranks. Honasan and Robredo also added their two cents, with Honasan blaming the lack of continuity in our government, to which he proposed enforcing a political party system, and Robredo saying the next administration should make sure that judicial appointments will no longer be political. To add to that, the next President of the Philippines will be appointing 11 to 12 new Supreme Court Justices.
On Economic Growth Question for Robredo: “What will you do to make sure growth continues?” Under the Aquino administration, the Philippines became the fastest growing economy in SE Asia.
Robredo responded that inclusive growth has yet to be felt in the country. The gains of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program are already measurable, yet the Congresswoman proposed four more P’s: pabahay, pagkain, panghanapbuhay, at paghahanda sa sakuna. Marcos also added that growth rates mean nothing if our country’s poverty and mortality rates are unchanging. Our poverty incidence declined by a meagre 2.1% from 2012 to 2014. Cayetano also raised the issues of increasing crime and drugs, even when crime rates actually decreased from 350 for every 100,000 in population in 2010 to 227 in 2012 (PSA).
On Political Dynasties
Cayetano’s sister and father were both senators, while his wife is the mayor of Taguig. Marcos’ late father was the President, while his sister is the former representative of Ilocos Norte. Escudero’s late father was the representative of Sorsogon, with his mother replacing him when he passed away in 2012.
Question for Escudero and Honasan: “In the absence of an Anti Political Dynasty Law, how do you keep political dynasties in check?” Escudero claimed he did not support his relatives who ran for office, and that he fights for what is right. Honasan questioned the definition of a dynasty and stated that we should make decisions based on public interest. Trillanes agreed to this, saying voting should be based on corruption not on their surnames. Marcos brought up Article II, Section 26 of the Constitution which states, “The State shall guarantee equal access to public service and prohibit political dynasty as may be defined by law.” The Sangguniang Kabataan reform bill, where Marcos is a co-author, has the first Anti-Dynasty provision amongst all the laws in the country. Here, it is defined that a person running for SK should not be related to any incumbent official up to the fourth degree of affinity or consanguinity.
On Human Rights Abuse Question for Marcos: “As the son of the late President, do you acknowledge that human rights abuse was committed?” Marcos answered by acknowledging human rights abuse in every administration. He apologized for any wrongdoings he had done, but said he can only apologize for himself. When asked by Robredo to recognize their wealth that was stolen from the Filipinos, Marcos responded with, “I cannot give what I do not have.” He also blamed the Liberal Party for being the barrier to compensating human rights claimants, despite the Aquino Administration passing the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
Robredo stated she is for civil unions. She was quickly interrupted by the hosts, as explaining is not allowed.
On Peace in Mindanao Question for Trillanes and Cayetano: “How do you propose to achieve long-lasting peace in Mindanao? Trillanes proposed adding security provisions to the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and creating two autonomous regions: one for Central Mindanao, and one for Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Cayetano emphasized that the problem in Mindanao is poverty and historical justice, and that federalism will solve this since the MNLF agree to this, and are uneasy over the BBL. Marcos pointed out that the terrorist group ISIS is trying to get into the Philippines, and that we should continue the peace process in Mindanao to make it harder for ISIS to enter.
On Crime Question for Cayetano: “How will Duterte eradicate crime in 3 to 6 months?” Political will was Cayetano’s answer. Trillanes doubted this, pointing out that Duterte has been in office for over 20 years yet he has not completely eradicated crime in Davao.
On Traffic and Transportation Question for Honasan: “What is your solution to the traffic problem and how soon can people feel the difference?” Honasan proposed improvements on engineering, public education, and enforcement. Marcos added that vehicles on the road should be lessened, and the public transport system upgraded. Robredo and Trillanes proposed fixing the mass transport system. Escudero wanted DOTC Sec. Abaya to be removed from office.
“What are you going to do to improve provincial transportation in the next six years?” Marcos suggested finishing the North and South Rail system. Robredo wanted to infuse more capital. Trillanes wanted to win peace in Mindanao first before developing the transport system there. Cayetano called for planning in accordance with what’s best for the people, not the funders. Honasan said to stop politicizing national development, and to relocate centers of government and commerce outside of the Metro.
On Connectivity “How do you free up the market for competition?” The country’s internet speed is the second slowest and one of the most expensive in Asia, with Afghanistan being the slowest.
Robredo proposed having the government deal with connectivity so as to not have it monopolized by telcos. Trillanes and Escudero proposed having the government build infrastructures. Marcos proposed letting international service providers enter the market, as competition is good for consumers.
On Foreign Policy Question for Trillanes and Robredo: “How would your future administration deal with China and the competing claims to the Spratly Islands in South China Sea?” Robredo proposed modernizing the military and looking for peaceful and multilateral means to negotiate. Trillanes added that he will create alliances with strategic partners.
Question for Escudero and Marcos: “What is your message to the next US President about how the alliance should evolve and who do you think is fit for the alliance, Trump or Clinton?” Marcos reminded the US and the people that the government is working towards the national interest, and not the interest of Washington. Escudero called for equal footing with the United States.
Trilanes refused to answer, saying it depended on qualifications.
On the Future As Vice President, what cabinet position would you prefer?” Trillanes said he wanted to handle DILG since it would be an opportunity for him to focus on peace, order, and good governance. Marcos wanted to handle DOLE, where he will focus on protecting laborers and OFWs. Cayetano, Escudero, and Robredodid not state any department, but Cayetano wanted to be an agenda setter to make sure all their plans were being followed, Escudero wanted to focus on housing, and Robredo wanted to be in charge of streamlining anti-poverty policies.
To wrap up the debate, the candidates were asked, “Why should the Filipinos vote for you?” Cayetano aimed for a Philippines that was safe and free from crime and drugs. Escudero pointed out that it is not in him to step on others to bring himself up. Honasan wanted people to know that he is an honest and hardworking man, and that he wanted a country that is free, strong, and safe. Marcos said that the country needs leaders who look to the future and not to the past, and that he will unite the Filipino people. Robredo promised she would not leave any Filipino behind, stating her famous quote from the debate, “May the best woman win.” Lastly, Trillanes said he would focus on running after people behind the problems of our country, in order to achieve a clean society.
Overall, the debate last April 10, hosted by CNN Philippines, was deemed a success by the viewers. Some even said that it was better than the past two Presidential debates. People have voiced out their thoughts on the candidates’ answers, and some even claimed that the debates helped them choose who they were voting for.
What did you think of the debate?
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