Duterte-Cayetano face the UP community in CNN's Town Hall

DSC 0911Candidate for president Rodrigo "Rody" Duterte answers a question from CNN Philippines journalist Pia Hontiveros (right) as his running mate and candidate for vice president Alan Peter Cayetano listens. Photo by KIM Quilinguing.

PDP-Laban’s presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and his vice-presidential running mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, fielded questions on important election issues such as federalism, peace and order, criminality and the justice system, Internet connectivity, traffic management, and energy, economics and development, and from a live audience consisting of faculty and students of the University of the Philippines Diliman, as well as an online and digital audience via social media sites, during the CNN Philippines’ Town Hall held last February 18 at the UP Film Center, UP Diliman. The Town Hall was held as part of the activities under the UP sa Halalan 2016 project of the UP System.

A panel of UP experts were present in the audience to ask the two candidates their plans and platforms on a variety of issues. In answer to a question from UP Political Science assistant professor Jean Encinas Franco regarding how he plans to translate Davao City’s effective gender development code and women empowerment programs on a nationwide scale, Duterte said that he simply “used the powers and resources of the city to promote gender development…and to take remedial measures” against gender issues such as maternal health care and reproductive health care, only this time the issue will be much larger and much broader.

IMG 7752Candidate for president Rodrigo Duterte. Photo by Jun Madrid.

“Whatever aspect of governance there is an issue with, I always say my exhibit A is Davao City. We have a record for that. Kapag president ako, kapag [ito’y] makakapagpabuti sa lahat, then we follow [that]. It’s as simple as that,” Duterte said.UP National College of Public Administration and Governance associate professor Erwin Alampay’s question revolved around children in conflict with the law and how the presidential candidate would keep the rights of children protected.

Duterte, whose uncompromising stance against crime and criminality is well-known, pointed to the country’s conflicting laws on penalizing juvenile offenders—particularly the old Revised Penal Code and RA No. 9344, or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006—as the source of the chaos. Under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, children 15 years old and under at the time they committed a crime are exempt from criminal liability, and must be immediately released to the custody of his or her parents or guardians. According to Duterte, this leads to situations were a criminal offender aged 14 or younger commits a crime, is released from the police station, only to commit a crime again.
DSC 0919The audience, many of whom were UP students, react to the tandem's answers to questions raised by host Hontiveros. Photo by KIM Quilinguing.

“You jeopardize the life of a child [in this way], and he becomes a criminal. He does not acquire a sense of accountability for his deeds,” said Duterte. “Do not blame the police or the fiscal [officials] for not raising the case to court. Insofar as the child is concerned, the laws allow them to grow into criminals.”

Speaking about the country’s agricultural sector, UP Los Banos Graduate School Dean Jose Camacho asked the Duterte-Cayetano tandem what their agricultural development strategies would be to alleviate poverty and improve agricultural productivity. “I’ll paint the Philippines in different colors,” Duterte answered, describing a plan that would map out the ideal, most high-yielding crops to be grown in each region of the Philippines, thereby maximizing the country’s fertility. Duterte also noted the importance of providing for the needs of the farmer, such as subsidizing the irrigation fees of P5000 a year, and building more needed infrastructure in the provinces, such as farm-to-market roads.

IMG 7732Cayetano pointed out that political will is needed in developing the agricultural sector. “There are three things na agad gagawin ng Duterte-Cayetano tandem,” said Cayetano. “First, Ilipat ang Department of Agriculture sa Mindanao, because the country’s food basket is there. Second, we use research and technology to map out what should be planted where, via intercropping. And third, we will rationalize the use of money.”

In response to UP Political Science professor Maria Ela Atienza question about the Duterte-Cayetano tandem’s position regarding shifting the country to a federal system and whether the national and local governments in their current conditions are capable of assuming the new challenges of a federal setup, Duterte said: “Let me just warn you: Nothing short of federalism can bring peace to Mindanao. We have a unitary type of government that has remained fundamentally unchanged [since the Spanish colonial period]. Kaya sabi ko, if I become president, maghahanap ako ng ibang opisina. I will not live in Malacanang. That is a symbol of oppression built by the Spaniards.”

UP students raise the issues

UP students and members of the many UP student organizations and college student councils that partnered with CNN Philippines and UP sa Halalan to host the Town Hall also fielded questions on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, on energy, on the anti-political dynasty bill, on prioritizing science and technology, on curbing the AIDS epidemic, on the duo’s position regarding the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, and even their stand on fellow candidate Manny Pacquiao’s recent controversial statements regarding the LGBT community. The tandem pushed for a federal system of government instead of a BBL for only one region in Mindanao. Duterte admitted the difficulty of balancing the need for safe, environment-friendly energy resources and the demands of economic development and progress, but although he would use coal and fossil fuel if he needed to so as to provide jobs for his people, he would still press for the development of cheaper, more effective technologies for harnessing renewable energy, including nuclear power.

With regard to political dynasties, Cayetano replied, “I’m not saying that there’s nothing wrong with the present dynasties. What I’m saying is that you would not have a Lee Kuan Yew and his son in the same government if you have a political dynasty ban in Singapore. You would not have JFK and Bobby Kennedy as Attorney General in the US. What is bad is the concentration of power…and there are solutions to that—by empowering NGOs, media, people, students.”

Duterte also affirmed his support for the FOI bill, but cited the need for Congress to pass a law for that. And as for the duo’s stand on the LGBT community and same-sex marriage, Duterte said: “I cannot answer properly because the law of the land says it has to be a man and a woman. And that’s the only thing that’s really objectionable. That’s the hindrance. But I think if the issue comes up again, we have to provide the law.”

IMG 7741UP Professor and UP sa Halalan Chair Jean Franco raises a question to Duterte and Cayetano during the question and answer segment of the forum. Photo by Jun Madrid.

As for Pacquiao’s inflammatory statements: “I would just tell everybody, including the gay community: I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it. That’s Voltaire, and that’s democracy.”

CNN Philippines Town Hall is a series of symposia that aims to educate the voters of the candidates and their platforms. This is a pre-election show mounted in different universities in Metro Manila. It airs live on CNN Philippines, Facebook page and is telecast at a later date.

DSC 0886Duterte and Cayetano supporters hold placards and eagerly wait for their candidates outside the Cine Adarna, UP Film Center, UP Diliman, Quezon City. Photo by KIM Quilinguing.