“If I had my way, I would ask each of the presidential bets for their answers to each.”
So we’ve reached a point where we now have six “serious” presidential candidates: Sen. Ping Lacson, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Vice President Leni Robredo, Sen. Ronald de la Rosa, and former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“Serious” because they come from major political parties and are presumed to have the political base as well as adequate financial resources to mount a nationwide campaign.
But that list of “serious” candidates could still change by November 15, when the substitution clause in the Omnibus Election Code kicks in and we could well see one or more of the six withdrawing from the race and being replaced by someone from their own party. Or even outside of it, through some deft legal maneuver.
In fact there were 97 people who filed their certificates of candidacy for president in the first week of October. The 91 will in all likelihood be declared as nuisance candidates by Nov.15 because they are not capable of launching a nationwide campaign, perhaps even convincing their own families or immediate neighbors to vote for them. After all, as Andy Warhol once reminded us, everyone is entitled to 15 minutes of fame. Except that, many of those nuisance candidates gave television audiences outlandish or bizarre reasons for running and may now safely go back to oblivion where they rightfully belong. Or maybe not, because they might be back with a vengeance in the run-up to 2028.
What concerns us now, however, is how the presidential bets will convince voters that they deserve the presidency, through debates on key issues organized by the Comelec, media or interest groups.
We are well aware that some, if not many, Filipino voters choose candidates not on the basis of issues, but whether they come from the same province or region, are good in song-and-dance routines in campaign sorties, or expect to be paid in good, hard cash on election day. But we would really like the six candidates to explain to us their stand on key issues in the political, economic and social spheres because we should know where they’re taking us in the next six years: to peace and prosperity, or hell and high water.
If we had our way, we would ask the candidates the following questions.
(1) What political reforms do you consider as your first priority?
If it’s corruption, how do you intend to go about it? Will you go after the corrupt even if they happen to be your relatives, friends or campaign contributors?
(2) How do you intend to solve the longstanding communist insurgency? Will you go for an all-out military solution, or would you rather try to reach a negotiated settlement with the rebels? Or perhaps a combination of the two?
(3) Can you categorically say that you will protect and uphold the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, including freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble for redress of grievances?
(4) How will you deal with criminality, including possession and trafficking in illegal drugs? Will you continue the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs, or deal with it differently?
(5) What will be your policy with regard to China, particularly on the ruling of the Permanent Arbitral Tribunal validating our maritime claims in the West Philippines Sea that’s part of our Exclusive Economic Zone?
(6) How different from previous ones will be your program to fight poverty? Will you, for instance, continue the Conditional Cash Transfer Program for poor families started by previous administrations?
(7) How do you propose to revive the Philippine economy after the loss of many jobs and the economic slowdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
(8) How do you intend to modernize the country’s infrastructure in the next six years? What will be your priorities?
(9) Do you agree that we should amend the economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution that prohibit full foreign ownership of certain industries so we can attract more foreign investments?
(10) What will be your policy toward agriculture? Should the Rice Tariffication Law be amended? How do you intend to achieve long-term food security?
(11) What is your stand on contractualization? Should it be abolished as a matter of policy?
(12) What will be your administration’s program on energy security and policy on renewable energy development?
(13) Will your administration give priority to stable and affordable Internet connectivity throughout the country?
(14) How do you propose to improve the country’s healthcare services given our experience with COVID-19?
(15) Will you expand free universal education so that children of poor families can avail of learning opportunities even if they live in far-flung areas?
(16) How do you intend to solve the housing shortage in the country? Would you be willing to provide affordable housing to the homeless?
(17) What do you plan to do to protect the rights and welfare of various social sectors, including the youth, women and children, indigenous peoples?
(18) What program do you envision to make the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or BARMM work to achieve peace and development?
(19) Will you give all-out support to sports development and to Filipino athletes so they can bring honor and prestige to the country? And,
(20) What support would your administration give to culture and the arts?