By Ben Rosario and Leslie Ann Aquino
If there was one pressing national issue that majority of nine senatorial bets agreed upon during a debate televised nationwide Sunday, it is the non-extension of the term of President Rodrigo Durterte in 2022.
During the ABS-CBN-sponsored Harapan 2019 Senatorial Town Hall Debate, President Duterte’s proposal to change the country’s name to “Maharlika” also failed to win support from candidates, four of whom are members of the Liberal Party-backed Otso Diretso team.
Re-electionist Sen. Bam Aquino, environment and women’s rights advocate Samira Gutoc, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno and; former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay rejected any move to extend Duterte’s term of office. Also airing their respective positions on various national issues raised during the “Fast Talk” segment of the program were lawyer Larry Gadon of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan; former Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong, former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino; former GMA-7 broadcast journalist Jiggy Manicad, and cardiologist Willy Ong.
Re-electionist Senator and PDP-Laban bet Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III did not make it to the first of three senatorial debates supported by Manila Bulletin.
In the Fast Talk segment, the senatorial hopeful were asked to respond quickly to several questions that included issues on same-sex marriage, divorce, federalism, Charter Change and medical marijuana.
Time limit had apparently caught up with Gadon as the common questions were no longer asked by program hosts Karen Davila and Alvin Elchico. The “Marcos loyalist” lawyer focused on defending the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos and his family from charges of having amassed ill-gotten wealth and human rights violations.
Chong backed moves to deport the female Chinese student who threw a cup of bean curd on a policeman, saying she is an “undesirable alien.
On the pork barrel issue, Chong stated: “Karamihan sa kanila (lawmakers) ninakaw lang at ibinulsa ang pork (Most of the lawmakers stole and pocketed their pork).”
Gutoc backed term limits for Duterte and the legalization of divorce, saying that many relationships are “abusive.” The former ARMM legislator said it was her choice not to become a fourth wife to a Muslim man.
Aquino, a critic of the Duterte administration, cited the President’s improvement of the medium and small- scale industries as one of his sterling accomplishments.
Manicad, a journalist, said the case of arrested Rappler chief Maria Ressa should be left to the courts to decide.
On the other hand, Tolentino said that historically, the United States is closer to Filipinos than China. He rejected the legalization of medical marijuana pointing out that its medical advantages have not been “validated scientifically.”
Hilbay, a former Solicitor General favours medical marijuana and same sex marriage.
“Hindi kailangan maging college graduate ang mga senador. Ang mga Pilipino ay dapat magkaroon ng access sa mga public position,” he said. (There is no need for senators to be college graduate. Filipinos should have access to public position,” he said.
Diokno, who clearly won plus points for his clear and witty responses to questions, favored divorce, pointing out that it is difficult to establish psychological incapacity in annulment cases.
He also rejected the party-list law, pointing out that politicians have muddled it.
Doctors to the barrio
Chong is pushing for a strategic health initiative especially in far flung areas. “Noong ako’y Congressman pa lamang, nag-institute po ako ng strategic health initiative. Pumili po ako ng mobile clinic at nilagyan ko po ng 32 doctors, dentists and nurses. So I would like to institute that system nationwide for far-flung barangays para mayroon pong immediate intervention po para sa ating mga liblib na lugar,” he said.
Dr. Ong said there should be scholars from Minadanao who should be trained.
“Dapat magti-train tayo ng mga scholars na galing doon mismo sa Mindanao, sa lugar nila. Bibigyan natin ng salary. Libre ‘yung education nila para pagbalik nila maging doktor sila, magsisilbi sila doon at ligtas sila (We should train scholars who come from Mindanao so that after they finish their studies which will be free they can immediately serve their community and because they are from the area, they are safe),” Ong said.
Should he win in the upcoming midterm polls, Ong said he would make maintenance medicines more affordable or free for the public.
“Kasi sa ibang bansa nagagawa, dito sa atin hindi kaya (In other countries they can do that, but not here in our country),” he argued.
Ong, who is known for his health tips and advice on social media, had earlier said he hopes to continue the legacy of the late Senator Juan Flavier.
Gutoc said doctors to the barrios should be institutionalized.
“Importante po Doctors to the Barrios should be institutionalized, doctors for barrios should be given subsidy, barangay health workers and programming by the doctors led by doctors themselves should be a priority by the LGU, if not, the national DOH,” she said. #MatalinongBoto2019