Last night, November 22, GMA-7 premiered Isang Tanong, a News and Public Affairs feature that serves as an early primer to next year's national elections. Throughout the two-hour program, presidential aspirants were asked the most burning questions that affect Filipino voters.
Eight presidential candidates took the hot seat: Senator Noynoy Aquino, Olongapo Councilor John Carlos "JC" delos Reyes, action star and former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Bayani Fernando, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas, former Defense Secretary Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro, religious leader Eddie Villanueva, and Senator Manny Villar.
Mike Enriquez hosted the show. Mel Tiangco, Jessica Soho, Arnold Clavio, and Vicky Morales were his co-hosts.
The interrogation panel was composed of Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) director Malou Mangahas, Philippine Bar Association (PBA) former president Atty. Victor Lazatin, Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) editor John Nery, Institute for Political and Economic Reform (IPER) Executive Director Mon Casiple, GMANews.tv editor in chief Howie Severino, and Economist and PDI columnist Winnie Monsod.
Included in the panel were student groups from the University of the Philippines, Diliman; Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University (DLSU), and San Beda University.
The show had three rounds. In the first round, each candidate was asked three questions–the first from a GMA-7 news anchor, the second from the panel, and the third from a pool of questions sent by viewers of GMANews-tv.
Only two minutes were allotted for each candidate to answer each of the first two questions; only one minute was given to answer the third one.
In the second round, the candidates were asked to answer the same question from one mystery asker, who turned out to be CNN Hero of the Year Efren Peñaflorida. The founder of Dynamic Teen Company asked the candidates, "Paano ba maging bayani?"
For the third round, which will be shown in next Sunday's episode, the presidential aspirants will be given a chance to ask a question to co-aspirants.
NOYNOY AQUINO. Sen. Noynoy Aquino was the first on the hot seat during round one. The first question by Mel Tiangco obliged the Ninoy and Cory scion to round up his accomplishments as a three-term congressman and current senator. He mentioned three of the laws he authored.
PCIJ's Malou Mangahas asked about his platform of governance. Aquino said he will focus on job generation, education, health and judicial reform. "Magiging sandata ito sa pag-ayos sa tiwali sa gobyerno," he said.
Lastly, Aquino randomly picked a viewer-sent question. Would he readily relinquish his post as president if he were accused of corruption? Aquino said he would not immediately step down from power, but would appeal to due process. He gave the assurance that he had not used the government for his own gains during his terms as solon.
In answer to Peñaflorida's question, Aquino equated heroism with caring for others: "Sa lahat ng panahon... Pakikipagtungo sa kapwa na tama parati... lalo na sa panahon na kailangan ang pag-aaruga sa kapwa."
JC DELOS REYES. John Carlos "JC" delos Reyes finished his Public Administration degree in UP Diliman. He completed his theology studies in the United States
Mel Tiangco asked Delos Reyes if he thinks he could win even without much-needed political machinery. The two-term Olongapo councilor appealed to everyone to change the country's electoral system by voting for someone who does not rely on these machineries.
"Gusto natin basagin na ang mananalo sa eleksyon ay ang may pera... Kung mabasag po natin 'yan, ang mangyayari sa Pilipinas ay ang bagong simulain," he said.
UST student Jeanne Castillo asked Delos Reyes why he is against the controversial reproductive health bill. Delos Reyes said its main argument, that overpopulation is a problem, is a myth. He said vast unoccupied lands exist in the Philippines, proving that the country does not have a population problem. Congressmen and big businessmen should distribute these lands to the poor, he said.
Delos Reyes also explained that contraceptives being pushed among women today have been proven dangerous to their wellbeing. He appealed to the government to strengthen the implementation of laws protecting women.
What are his reasons are for running? asked a viewer.
"Sa pamamgitan sa pagtakbo binigyan ang Pilipinas ng choice, pagpili. Pulitikang nababase sa prinsipyo, hindi lang nagunguna, sikat, o may pera," he said.
To the last question on how to be a hero, Delos Reyes replied that the youth must venture into the "dirty world" of politics. "Kailangan magsakripisyo na pasukin ang maduming pulitika. Kailangan linisin ang pulitika... Yung mga kabataan na may kakayahan, pasukin 'yan," said the Ang Kapatiran Party standard bearer.
ERAP ESTRADA. Jessica Soho asked former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada why he wants to run again. Will it be "serbisyo or bawi?"
Estrada explained that he does not harbor vendetta anymore because his former opponents have "sided" with him.
"Vindicated na tayo... nilitis tayo, walang napatunayan," he said. "That court was created to convict me." His main goal for another term in the top position in the land, he said, is to continue his pro-poor programs.
Student Council President Aimee Jane Chua of DLSU asked Estrada if he remembered any error he had committed in his last presidential term.
Estrada replied, "Hanggang ngayon iniisip ko pa, wala tayong pagkakamali sa pamamalakad. Ni isa sa cabinet members ko hindi nalagay sa anomalya. Siguro tiwala lang sa maling tao."
On a viewer's question about the solution to corruption, Estrada said it could only be remedied by political will. Before solving this problem, however, Estrada said the government must first ensure food security and peace and order.
On heroism, everyone can be a hero: "Para sa akin kahit isang basurero puwede maging bayani. Kung siya'y may malasakit, nagtatrabaho ng mahusay. Pamilya niya inaalagaan niya. Kusang-loob na tumulong sa bayan... kahit na ordinaryong tao puwede maging bayani."
BAYANI FERNANDO. In response to Jessica Soho's question, MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando denied he's a dictator, or that he does not believe in democracy.
"Ako'y wala pang naipakulong na tao, naipapatay na tao... Hindi ako diktador. Ang diktador, siya ang gumagawa ng batas, at siya ang nagpapatupad. Ako nagpapatupad lang. Wala akong nalalaman na ginamit ko ang karahasan," he said.
PBA's Atty. Victor Lazatin asked Fernando if he would continue his campaign in spite of garnering low points in surveys. The three-term former Marikina City mayor said he believes the ranking will improve once the Filipinos comprehend his policies.
"Ang Pilipino, iba ang paniniwala sa batas. Hindi sila naniniwala na ang batas ay solusyon. Sa akin, hindi pangako, ginagawa ko na 'yan. Ipagsasapalaran ko yan," he explained. "Nalalaman ko na mahirap ipaalam sa tao. Mauunawaan nila 'yan. Sa takdang panahon., 'pag maunawaan nila 'yan, may pagkakataon na manalo."
A viewer then asked Fernando about his platform. "Hangad ko'y kaligayahan. Nais kong maiahon tayo sa kahirapan.... Mabago ang pag-uugali ng mga Pilipino, building character," he said.
To be a hero, Fernando jokingly referred to his first name. "Pangalanan ka ng tatay mo," he said, soliciting laughter from the panel.
On a serious note, Fernando added, "Gawin mo lang ang iyong katungkulan... 'Pag ikaw ang naging produktibo, umaasa sa 'yo ang kapwa mo. Gawin mo ang trabaho mo."
NICANOR PERLAS. United Nations consultant and outspoken environmentalist Nicanor Perlas said he is pro-divorce. In reply to Arnold Clavio's question, Perlas said this additional law will "formalize" the rise in separation from marriage in the Philippines.
"Marami sa Pilipinas ang annulment, hiwalayan... Ang divorce ang isang important process. Actually, ganun na po ang nangyayari sa Pilipinas, it's just a matter of formalizing it," he said.
PDI's John Nery then asked Perlas to compare his enviromentalist platform to that of Sen. Loren Legarda's. The vice presidential aspirant is known for her Green advocacy.
"Hindi po ito simple environmental agenda. Magka-ugnay-ugnay. Mga nagawa ko, kaiba kay Legarda... Hindi po naka-focus sa kalikasan, kundi kabuuan," he said, adding that problems in the environment are connected to every other problem in the country, like corruption and lack of peace and order.
A viewer asked Perlas about his opinion on the Millenium Development Goals (MDG), sanctioned by the UN to "respond to the world's main development challenges."
Perlas said he's quite familiar with the MDG because of his work in the UN, and that it will be part of his platform.
Lastly, Perlas said all Filipinos can be heroes: "Lahat tayo ay may pagakakataon maging bayani. Importante, naniniwala sa ating prinispyo at konsiyensiya... May pananaw na hindi pansarili kundi pangkalahatan."
GILBERT TEODORO. Lakas-Kampi-CMD and administration bet Gilberto Teodoro denied that his low ranking in surveys has to do with his association to Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In his answer to Arnold Clavio's question, the Master of Laws graduate from Harvard Law School in Cambridge said his low ranking may just have something to do with less exposure on television, brought about by his hectic work as the former secretary of National Defense.
"Ginalang ko ang Defense. Hindi ko ginamit sa pamumulitika," he said.
Teodoro also appealed to the public to forget political ties during the elections, and just focus on every candidate's platform: "Lalabas din ang tunay na pasya ng sambayanan hinggil sa isa sa atin."
IPER's Mon Casiple asked Teodoro about his plans to solve the country's insurgency problem. Teodoro said the government should invest more in the armed forces.
"Hindi sustainable ang development sa isang lugar, dahil kulang ang investments sa sundalo, kapulisan. Maliit ang gastusin sa National Defense," he said.
A viewer then asked Teodoro if he would agree to have his assets "frozen" if he wins the presidency. Teodoro declined, but said he advocates greater transparency in government funding.
"Ang aking lehitimo na pag-aari dapat na i-disclose. Lehitimo, dapat alam ng publiko," the Philippine Air Force Colonel said.
To stamp out corruption, Teodoro said government officials and employees should be given more "motivational schemes," like bonuses and tax incentives.
On being a hero, the licensed commercial pilot said, "Ang pagiging bayani ay pag-exert ng lahat ng regalo ng Diyos. Pagsilbi beyond the call of duty, tulad ng sundalo na ginagawa lang ang trabaho nila araw-araw. Sila ay ang aking bayani."
EDDIE VILLANUEVA. Jesus is Lord leader Eddie Villanueva is a former economics professor and political activist. Villanueva ran for president last 2004 but lost by a wide margin.
To answer Vicky Morales's question about his winnability, Villanueva claimed he was cheated out of the presidency during his last run. The Bagong Pilipinas political party standard bearer added that he's now more than ready to go on a nationwide campaign.
"Meron na kaming nationwide machinery up to baranggay level, up to precinct level. Sa medaling salita, ang Bagong Pilipinas party ay handang-handa, na," he said.
Howie Severino of GMANews.tv asked Villanueva about his stand on the separation of Church and State. He replied, "Ang relihiyon ay hindi puwedeng makialam sa pagtayo ng lipunan, pagwasak sa korupsyon."
What are his plans for the middle class? asked a viewer. He said his platform will involve "tunay na pagbabago mula sa mahihirap patungo sa mayayaman."
On being a hero, Villanueva said a hero should not be "beholden" to other powers.
MANNY VILLAR. Multi-millionaire Sen. Manny Villar was the last presidential aspirant to take the hot seat. Vicky Morales asked him what his stand is regarding the alleged corruption in Arroyo's administration. Villar replied that his Nacionalista Party actually led the investigations against the President.
He also denied allegations that he is Arroyo's "secret candidate." "Hindi pa kami nagkikita ng Pangulo simula nung naalis ako sa senado [Senate as President]," he said.
UP Economics professor Solita "Winnie" Monsod compared Villar's alleged corruption practices to those of deposed Pres. Estrada. Why should the people vote for Villar, who allegedly used his government seat to enlarge his wealth, just like Estrada?
In reply, Villar claimed that the accusations against him, like the alleged double insertion of funding for the C5 road project, were false.
"Ang C5 na-dismiss na ng Senado. Nalinis na ang aking pangalan. Maski piso hindi ako kumuha sa gobyerno. Lahat po ng kinita ko ngayon, galing sa sipag at tiyaga, " he said.
A viewer then asked Villar what his plans are to uphold labor rights. The realty developer answered that he wants to create more jobs for the people.
On being a hero, Villar said, "Magandang gawain. Pag naiahon natin sa kahirapan, 'yan ang isang paraan para maging bayani. Pamamahala nang maayos. Pagtigil ng korupsiyon."
The third round of Isang Tanong will be aired next Sunday, November 29, in the timeslot of SNBO.