For the third leg of the PiliPinas Debates 2016, the presidential candidates presented their plans for a better Philippines.
The forum was held on Sunday, April 24, at the PHINMA University of Pangasinan, and aired on ABS-CBN. The moderators were Kapamilya news anchors Tony Velasquez and Karen Davila.
All the candidates were present: Vice President Jejomar Binay, former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) chief Mar Roxas, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senators Grace Poe and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
The five politicians used the three-hour program to answer questions from the audience, and to present their platforms on several issues relevant to the country.
The first three topics tackled were the sovereignty issue involving China and the West Philippine Sea, the worsening traffic situation and job security.
SOVEREIGNTY. ABS-CBN presented the story of a fisherman in Pangasinan who faces livelihood issues because Chinese forces had taken over their fishing area. The fisherman then asked the candidates on how they can solve the row between China and the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea.
All five candidates agreed that the arbitration process should continue so that the Philippines can stake its claim on the islands that China had taken.
Binay added that the needs of farmers should be addressed. The fisherman should be given livelihood, their healthcare should be improved and their children should get free education.
Roxas wanted to give the fishermen access to a cash-for-work program, PhilHealth, and automatic 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, a cash dole-out scheme).
Poe said the fisherfolk need better support from the coast guard. She said she’ll provide them a way to contact the navy so that they can be defended when they meet Chinese forces while they are fishing.
Santiago opted for a more aggressive option, where she talked about the bombing of these foreign forces.
“Kagaya nung sinabi ko nung immigration commissioner ako, tatawagin ko yung coast guard. Bombahin ko yung mga ‘yan,” she asserted.
For his part, Duterte's “take charge” plan bordered on gallantry and self-sacrifice. He said he’ll risk his life if China does not agree during the negotiations.
He said, “Pupunta ako sa China. Ngayon kung ayaw nila, I will ask the navy to bring me to the nearest boundary diyan sa Spratly, Scarborough.
“Bababa ako, sasakay ako ng jetski. Dala-dala ko yung flag ng Pilipino, at pupunta ako a irport nila tapos itanim ko.
“Then I would say, 'This is ours, and do what you want with me.' Bahala na kayo. I will stake that claim.”
Duterte added, “Matagal ko nang ambisyon ‘yan na maging hero rin ako. Pag pinatay nila ako dun, bahala na kayong umiyak dito.”
TRAFFIC ISSUE. The next issue was the heavy traffic faced by commuters in Metro Manila and around the country. All the candidates talked about the improvement of mass transit, and all of yhem mentioned the creation of efficient railway systems to connect Metro Manila to the provinces.
Santiago added that the next President must strongly appeal to Filipino drivers to practice discipline on the road. She also believes that there should be stricter rules to get a license.
“He should deal on the LTO to make sure that those who get licenses are qualified persons, because you can get a license anytime right now,” she said.
Duterte also wants to remove old vehicles on EDSA.
“Dilapitated and earlier models must be out of EDSA. That’s the only solution. Nothing else would solve the problem,” he stressed.
Poe said she will appoint a government secretary to terminate traffic, and to make sure that public works will be completed on time.
“Wala siyang gagawin kundi babantatayan ang bawat proyekto na matapos,” she said.
Binay said traffic woes can only be solved if there is a leader who is competent and effective enough to manage it. He also wants to separate the Department of Transportation and Communication into two departments so that the transportation aspect can have more focus.
Roxas disagreed with Binay’s proposition.
“In fact, sa isang malawakang pag-aaral, isang dahilan kung bakit ma-traffic sa Metro Manila ay dahil hiniwalay yung DOTC, yung transport sa DPWH, kaya hindi magkatugma ang mga plano. Yung mga kalye, yung mga riles, hindi magkakatugma,” he retorted.
He also plans to review the franchises given to bus companies.
“Pero mas importante yung pag-overhaul ng mga prangkisa. Iisang bus, ibi-bid out natin iuto para hindi nag-aagawan ang mga bus sa pasahero at ino-occupy nila napakaraming mga lanes,” Roxas added.
LABOR ISSUES. The next topic was about security of tenure among minimum wage earners. A laborer asked the candidates about the concept of contractualization, and how they will end the “endo” (end-of-contract) scheme where employers fire contractual employees before they reach their sixth month of employment so that they will not be able to avail of benefits.
All candidates said that they will remove the endo scheme when they get elected.
Duterte called it an “injustice.” He said he will ask the Congress to pass a bill immediately during his first week as President.
Poe also called contractualization unfair for workers. She added that she will lower corporate income taxes so that employers will not be opposed to the anti-contractualization measure, which may increase business expenses.
“Bigyan din natin ng suporta ang mga magtatayo ng negosyo sa ating bansa, pero ang prayoridad natin ang pinakamahihirap nating kababayan. So bawian lang,” she said.
Roxas said contractualization will be stopped if loopholes in the current laws are plugged, which may take up to three months. He also stressed he has no qualms standing up against large mall chains that employ the endo scheme.
“Sa kasaysayan ko, binangga ko ang mga malalaking interes. Pharmaceutical industry, cheaper medicine law. Banking industry, insurance industry, yung pre-need law natin.
“So sa aking karanasan, binabangga ko ang mga malalaking interes kung ito ay para sa kapanan ng ordinaryong Pilipino,” Roxas claimed.
Binay talked about the removal of the income tax so that minimum wage earners can have more savings.
Lastly, Santiago talked about stronger job creation efforts.
“Kung gumawa ka ng trabaho, lalapit ang tao sa iyo.
“Hindi kamukha ng sa ngayon, milyon-milyon ang ating graduates, wala silang pupuntahan, kasi wala namang binubuksan na mga pinto ang ating gobyerno,” she lamented.