Bagatsing and Lim conciliatory, cordial in ‘Thrilla’ election forum

Candidates Bagatsing and Lim. Photo by Julius Ryan Umali.Candidates Bagatsing and Lim at the Thrilla in UP Manila II. Photo by Julius Ryan Umali.

Manila’s 5thdistrict Representative Amado Bagatsing and former Mayor and Senator Alfredo Lim who laid down their mayoral vision and platforms for the capital city in the “Thrilla in UP Manila Round 2” election forum held on April 6 at the University of the Philippines Manila.

Former President and current Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada, who was also invited to participate, did not attend the event.

The forum, organized by the Good Neighbors Initiative of Ermita-Malate and UP sa Halalan 2016, was opened by UP Manila Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Development Michael L. Tee, who pressed the candidates for a “Manila [that] should reflect the nation’s glorious history while forging ahead a bright future.” It attracted a throng of supporters, students, faculty, and local community members who questioned and listened to the candidates’ plans on pressing issues that the city of Manila faces.

‘Pagpahingahin na natin sila’

Representative Bagatsing explained that he envisions a Manila that is both business-friendly and communitarian. Many times during the forum he emphasized the importance of everyone, from all sectors public and private, having a role in solving the problems of the city. “All will have to be part of the solution,” the candidate exhorted the audience.

Among his most notable plans is to transform Roxas Boulevard into a venerable tourist belt that will attract artists from all over the world, like Paris. He said he will accomplish this by increasing police visibility in the area, noting that security is one of the reasons Roxas Boulevard doesn’t attract the number of tourists it should.

He also intends to devise a system that will protect informants of wrongdoing, especially in illegal drugs cases, as a way of addressing criminality. He also vowed to revoke the privatization of public places such as the several palengkes around the city.

Bagatsing believes that he has good mileage over his opponents, particularly Lim and Estrada, because he has never held the mayoralty position and because he was the “junior” among “the seniors.” “Pagpahingahin na natin sila,” he jokingly pleaded as he positioned himself as the best alternative.

He is running with current Manila councilor Ali Atienza under local party Kabalikat ng Bayan sa Kaunlaran Foundation (KABAKA).

‘Kayo na ang humusga’

For his part, former Mayor and Senator Lim explained that he also shares the vision that Bagatsing has for Manila. However, while Bagatsing is still “dreaming” of a better Manila, Lim touted that he had already made it better during his tenure as the city’s chief executive.

Lim emphasized that it was during his tenure that Manila was finally able to have one hospital for each of the city's districts. It was also during his time that the City College of Manila (now Universidad de Manila or UDM) opened its doors to students from poor families. He touted that during his tenure he did not collect excessive real property taxes, a dig at the present administration.

Lim did not spend much time discussing his plans, but he promised to build high-rise but low-cost condominiums to solve the squatting and housing problems of the city. He was keener on defending himself from false allegations, such as the bankruptcy that his mayoralty allegedly caused, and the accusation that he was not fit to run and hold public office because of his advanced age.

Lim chided his opponents, even challenging the doctors in the audience to physically examine him to see that indeed he is fit for office. His tone, however, in the end was more serious and fatherly, inviting the audience to “take elections seriously” by choosing candidates based on their character.

Lim is the Liberal Party’s bet for the mayoralty in Manila, and he is running with Rep. Benjamin “Atong” Asilo as his vice-mayor.

Goal achieved

At the end of the program, Bagatsing jested: “kaming dalawa nalang ang pagpilian ninyo. Baka wala siyang programa kaya wala siya dito,” (you should choose between the both of us. Maybe he isn’t here because he has not program) to the cheers and laughter of the audience. Bagatsing was referring to Estrada whose presence, according to the representative, could’ve made the forum “more exciting”.

But moderator Dr. Anthony GH Cordero, UP Manila Halalan Coordinator, believed that the conduct and answers of the two candidates to the questions raised served to achieve the event’s stated goal, despite expectations of a more heated exchange.

“Tunay pong natutunan natin ang inyong leadership journey, track record, impact ng mga nagawa at mga plataporma at proyekto,” Dr. Cordero said approvingly, as he closed the program (we truly did learn your leadership journey, your track record, the impact of what you have already done, and your platforms and programs).