Senatorial Candidates Bare Stands on Social Issues in The Rundown

DSC 0764Former Energy Secretary now candidate for the Senate, Jericho Petilla (center, in white shirt), answers a question from host Karen Davila (center in black dress). Other candidates present were (from left): Rafael Alunan, Nariman "Ina" Ambolodto, Mark Lapid, Martin Romualdez, Sandra Cam (partially hidden behind Romualdez), and Dionisio Santiago. Photo by KIM Quilinguing.  

Divorce. Same-sex marriage. Government subsidy for state universities and colleges. The anti-dynasty bill. The Bangsamoro Basic Law.

These were the issues that a lively audience consisting of UP students and faculty challenged 14 senatorial candidates with during a student-created, youth-oriented senate elections forum dubbed The Rundown 2016. The senate elections forum was held January 29 at the UP Theater, with a live telecast via the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), who organized the event in cooperation with the UP Economics Society, and in partnership with eleven student organizations from UP as well as St. Scholastica, Ateneo de Manila University, Miriam College, and other schools, universities and youth groups.

With the understanding that a well-informed electorate is a crucial ingredient in an effective democracy, The Rundown 2016 sought to reach out to the youth sector—citizens ages 18 to 35, many of whom are voting for the first time, who comprise a sizable 37% of the 54.6 million Filipinos registered for the 2016 national and local elections.

DSC 0652Representative and now Senate candidate Sherwin Gatchalian answers a question as (from left) candidates Neri Colmenares, Susan Ople, Samuel Pagdilao and host Karen Davila listen. Photo by KIM Quilinguing.

With broadcast journalist and TV presenter Karen Davila as moderator, the 14 senatorial candidates who answered the call to a live question-and-answer forum were divided into two groups, with each group asked to present first the unique selling proposition in their campaign platform, followed by their stands to specific issues.

The first group of senatorial candidates, who were asked about the issue of divorce in the Philippines and government subsidy for UP and for SUCs in general, included party-list congressman Neri Colmenares; congressman Sherwin Gatchalian, lawyer Lorna Kapunan, former Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) undersecretary and Overseas Filipino Workers' (OFW) rights advocate Susan Ople; party-list congressman Samuel Pagdilao; congressman Roman Romulo; and former senator Miguel Zubiri. All of them come from the Partido Galing at Puso.

DSC 0661Representative and now Senate candidate Roman Romulo elicits smiles from host Karen Davila (in black dress, center) and candidates (from left) Susan Ople, Samuel Pagdilao, Lorna Kapunan (behind Romulo) and Miguel Zubiri, as he answers a question. Photo by KIM Quilinguing.

The second group of senatorial candidates, who were asked their positions regarding the anti-dynasty bill, same-sex marriage and the Bangsamoro Basic Law, were fomer Department of Interior and Local Government secretary Rafael Alunan, running as an independent candidate; Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary for Muslim Affairs and Special Concerns Nariman "Ina" Ambolodto, running under the Liberal Party; President of the Whistleblowers Association of the Philippines Sandra Martinez Cam, running under the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino; former Governor of Pampanga andCEO of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority Mark Lapid of Aksyon; former secretary of the Department of Energy and former Governor of Leyte Jericho Petilla of the Liberal party; incumbent Representative of the 1st District of Leyte Martin Romualdez, running under Lakas; and another independent candidate, former AFP chief general Dionisio Santiago.

IMG 6387Panelists UP Diliman USC Chair JP delas Nieves, Atty Katrina Legarda and UP Vice President for Public Affairs Prospero de Vera smile for the camera. Photo by Jun Madrid. 

Three panelists were also on hand to provide clarifying questions to the candidates on the issues: Panelists during The Rundown were: UP National College of Public Administration and Governance professor Prospero de Vera, Atty. Katrina Legarda, and UP Diliman University Student Council JP delas Nieves, Prof. Prospero de Vera, and Atty. Katrina Legarda.

After the telecast, an animated open forum was held between the audience and the senatorial candidates, with students asking the candidates questions on issues ranging from curriculum changes in the General Education programs of SUCs as an effect of the K+12; the chances of the Local Government Code of 1991 being amended; the candidates' stand on allowing the US bases back into the Philippines in light of the territorial threat posed by China; the most significant challenge to the peace situation in Mindanao; the pros and cons of genetically modified food; the persistent death toll for journalists and the culture of impunity in the country; the killing and continued displacement of lumad peoples in Mindanao; the candidates' plans of actions directed toward increasing the rights and benefits of persons with disabilities; the candidates' opinions on the current administration's disaster rehabilitation programs and the status of climate change laws. Even a philosophical question--on what is it about Filipino society that makes us hard to lead--was thrown to the candidates.

IMG 6630UP Professor and Halalan issue expert Jan Robert Go prepares to ask a question for the candidates at the open forum portion of The Rundown. Photo by Jun Madrid.

Started with 2013 elections with 14 candidate-participants and over 300 attendees, The Rundown aims to inform and educate young Filipino voters about the senate elections candidates by providing a thorough analysis of each of the candidate’s plans, platforms and stand on pertinent issues affecting the country today, as well as an interactive platform where students can voice out their issues and concerns addressed to the senatorial candidates. Its primary goal is to help the youth, a strong and growing segment of the Filipino electorate, be well-equipped with the right information in order to have an educated choice in the coming elections.

The Rundown 2016 was endorsed by the Commission on Elections, the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections, the Commission on Higher Education, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, the UP Diliman Student Council, the UP School of Economics Student Council, and the UP School of Economics Alumni Association.