Fourteen Senate Bets Rumble in The Rundown

by Kim Quilinguing

Fourteen out of the thirty-three candidates for the Senate converged in the GT Toyota Auditorium, UP Diliman on February 7, as the University of the Philippines Economics Society (UP ECOSOC) and UP Advertising Core (UP AdCore), in cooperation with the Office of the Vice President for Public Affairs, hold The Rundown: The 2013 Senate Elections Forum.

By far the largest candidates’ forum held in the university, The Rundown was attended by Team PNOY’s Risa Hontiveros, Sonny Angara, Grace Poe, Sonny Trillanes and Bam Aquino; United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) bets JV Ejercito, Ernie Maceda and Mitos Magsaysay; Democratic Party of the Philippines candidates Bal Falcone, Greco Belgica and Christian Señeres; Ang Kapatiran’s JC De Los Reyes and Lito David; and Bangon Pilipinas candidates Eddie Villanueva.

Entertaining questions ranging from the Reproductive Health Bill, Political Dynasties, Freedom of Information Act and even marijuana use, the candidates shared their differing views coming from the perspectives of their parties and alliances. Among the issues which elicited curiosity and reaction from the audience were the views of some candidates on divorce.

Ang Kapatiran’s Lito David believes that divorce causes more social ills instead of serving as a solution to marital problems. He added that similar to the debate on reproductive health, Roman Catholic Church teachings which are against the institutionalization of divorce in the country, are based on empirical evidence. Taking a swipe at reproductive health advocate Carlos Celdran who posed the question, he said “Kung gagawin natin dito makakabuti ba?”

 Asked for her views on divorce, Team PNoy’s Risa Hontiveros said there should be discussions on the issue since the current laws on marriage do not address incidents of wife battery, marital rape, child abuse and incest. “Lahat naman tayo, gusto natin ng harmonious society, at naniniwala ako na ang harmonious society magsisimula sa mga harmonious families,” she said.

On possible reforms which may be needed in the provision of health care services, UNA candidate JV Ejercito emphasized the importance of instituting revenue-generating projects in the local government units, with the funds acquired allotted for improved of basic health services. “ I would like to sponsor and look at revenue-generating measures in the third to fifth class municipalities, so that they can use these (funds) for direct services, especially health and education” he said.

For his part, Team PNoy’s Bam Aquino cited the need to increase the budget for healthcare if ideal of effective universal healthcare must be pursued. “In 2010, the per capita expenditure for health was just P 4,096. Ibig sabihin nun yung isang buwan mo na vitamins, kulang pa,” he said. He also suggested using the government’s financial reserves for the construction of more hospitals in the interest of ensuring that every citizen benefits from PhilHealth coverage.

While the candidates’ views and answers on a number of issues varied, there were some topics of public discourse where they shared sentiments. All candidates pledged to oppose the inclusion of the right of reply provision in the still-pending Freedom of Information Act. Everyone was also in agreement that the Cybercrime Law included provisions which may violate freedom of information and the privacy of communication. And everyone agreed on the need for reforms in the Department of Education.

Aside from the UP ECOSOC, UPAdCore and the OVPPA, The Rundown: The 2013 Senate Candidates Forum was also made possible with the participation of SMART Communications, Blogwatch, Business World, the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), the Philippine Daily Inquirer, DZUP, Globe Telecom, Moonleaf Tea Shop, in cooperation with Del Monte Fit n’Right and Ginebra San Miguel. The Rundown is among several events and initiatives supported by the Office of the Vice President for Public Affairs under the Padayon UP sa Halalan 2013 voter information and education project. In the pursuit of its public service mandate, the University of the Philippines, in cooperation with the Commission on Elections and ABS-CBN Corporation, extends the expertise and skills of its faculty, staff and students in the campaign of promoting honest, clean and empowering elections.