"Has this candidate not been making the rounds?"
Last week, while waiting for a friend at the coffee shop of the Manila Peninsula, I stumbled upon a news forum in one of the function rooms of the hotel which was ongoing at that time. As luck would have it, the organizers have three biggies as guests for that particular edition of their forum—Senators JV Ejercito, Grace Poe-Llamanzares and Presidential Adviser, Secretary Francis “Tol” Tolentino.
Poe-Llamanzares had to leave early after delivering her usual motherhood statement on the issue at hand—traffic problems and proposed solutions.
A veteran journalist called my attention and asked my personal take on Tolentino’s chances in the forthcoming elections. Barely knowing the former chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority except for things I had heard and read about him, I replied that he had a fair chance of winning this time as he placed 13thin the 2016 senatorial race despite running as an independent candidate, and amid allegations of large-scale cheating. In fact, Tolentino had placed the 2016 senatorial elections under protest, questioning Leila de Lima’s landing in the winning circle.
To my surprise, the veteran journalist challenged me to a friendly bet, declaring there is absolutely no chance for Tolentino to win. Not much of a gambler, I asked the veteran journalist to give a few days as I personally check on him.
Tolentino, who recently resigned as Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (so he could run for the 2019 senatorial elections), was, aside from being a former MMDA chair, also mayor of premier city Tagaytay for nine years from—1995 to 2004. He holds a ranks of Brigadier General as a reserve officer of the Philippine Army.
Listening to his proposed solutions on the worsening traffic woes,I learned that he already had initiated solutions. But the authorities failed to continue implementing them after his stint with the MMDA.
For a long-term solution and to prevent similar situation happening in the provinces in the future, Tolentino now calls for the creation of a Presidential Urban Planning Commission. I agree with this. I believe that it was the lack of urban planning that dragged Metro Manila into its present abyss of traffic problems.
I checked out Tolentino’s platform and this is what I found out: he wants the Local Government Code amended to pave the way for an increased allocation of Internal Revenue Allotment based on performance and its automatic release to local government units; create a Police Youth Reserve Corps to help in peace, order and disaster response; establish and support community colleges offering courses attuned to their needs of communities where these are located; and for LGUs with the most resources to shoulder a greater part of the funding for community colleges. Meanwhile, LGUs with the least resources will receive a greater share of funding assistance from the national government.
He also seeks disaster preparedness and speedy rehabilitation for greater resiliency in the face of climate change. He proposes that the national government allocate funds to a Community Rehabilitation/Recovery Trust Fund for LGUs, and then set up a well-planned system for rehabilitating communities adversely affected by natural and man-made disasters, with the assistance of the private sector, through appropriate tax incentives, and urban renewal programs.
Tolentino is solidly behind the protection of our natural environment, the integrity of the ecology and food security, which according to him, will enable future generations of Filipinos to live sustainably.
For this purpose, Tolentino is proposing the establishment of special environmental courts solely to try cases involving damages made to Mother Nature and its harmful effects on citizens.
He also underscores the importance of having clean, accessible and potable drinking water, and is proposing the creation of a Department of Water Resources Management to ensure the access of all Filipinos to safe potable water.
Tolentino wants children in school be automatically made direct beneficiaries of PhilHealth and educational health insurance saying this is an effective way of investing in their future and in the future of our country.
Tolentino seeks greater participation and empowerment of women in the labor force as he sees this as a means to unleash their full potential for economic development, proposing womens’ statutory right to wellness and health facilities for their children.
The former presidential adviser wants the establishment of a National Teachers Medical Centre to ensure their well-being.
Seeing an urgent need to improved quality of life for our senior citizens, Tolentino seeks their continued education and the reintegration of those qualified and willing to appropriate positions in the labor force, and increase retirement benefits.
Now, this guy as such a comprehensive program covering most, if not all of the interests and welfare of the different sectors in our society. Who would want this man not to win?
The only criticism against him, is that he is not that visible publicly, unlike other senatorial aspirants, who have been reportedly been active making rounds.
Armed with this background, I began tracking down Tolentino. And since Day One, it has been the same story, either he was out of town meeting with local townfolk, or gracing events of LGU officials, including Councilors’ League, etc.
When we finally met last Thursday, Tolentino was to host a Christmas Party for vice mayors and barangay officials in their old house in Ermita. I thought that was my chance to interview him. But he didn’t even have time to finish his own party as he was sheduled to meet with the officers of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.
And that eveninng, he was to guest in radio program in Hong Kong dedicated to OFWs.
Friday morning, I called him up long distance as I had to beat my deadline, but even that early, he was already meeting with OFWs in Hong Kong, personally attending to their problems.
So, who says Tolentino has been remiss in making rounds and making himself visible in the public? Maybe he’s just too busy attending to legitimate concerns of the people and those of the LGUs from which he hails, he does them without media fanfare.
I may not had my personal interview with him but God, this guy is so serious. And we, more than him, deserve someone like Tolentino in the Senate. I’ll bet on him any day of the week and maybe twice on a Sunday.