#TalkThursday with Miro Quimbo
MANILA, Philippines - Rappler talks to Marikina 2nd District Representative and Liberal Party (LP) spokesman, Rep. Miro Quimbo.
Quimbo recently answered questions about possible cracks in LP's partnerships with the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC). The NPC admits having "issues" with LP in local contests but said it is not leaving the LP-led Team PNoy senatorial ticket.
The LP spokesman said the issues are expected.
"Any coalition will not be free of it. They will always have issues especially on the local side, with individuals who have been at each other's throats and unfortunately they belong to different parties that have coalesced with other parties. Those things will happen," he said.
Quimbo now UNA bet?
A poster picture mix-up by the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) creates a light moment between Quimbo and UNA officials and candidates.
Quimbo's photo was spotted under the name "Enrile" in the poster that featured UNA's top leaders and Senate bets. The poster was hung behind the UNA stage.
Ressa: Today we speak with Markina 2nd District representative and Liberal Party spokesman Miro Quimbo. Welcome to TalkThursday.
Quimbo: Thank you for having me.
Ressa: Can I start with the raging issue of the day just announced by UNA today. UNA dropped the 3 common candidates from their slate today. Is this unexpected, is this what LP wanted to happen all along?
Quimbo: I can't deny, we find that to be good news but it's not all unexpected. We saw it as an inevitable conclusion because we've always said, and UNA's always known they are, the 3 candidates are with Team PNoy and, in fact, were only adopted by UNA to be able to complete their slate. They only have 9 candidates at this point. It won't look good if you have a weak slate. It's always a perception of weakness and seemingly, that's the situation today. But we absolutely welcome… You know, the good thing about it is that it now makes this elections clear. Because the 3 candidates being shared, or at least the perception of being shared muddle the debate because it is difficult to stand on 2 separate platforms where you had 3 candidates straddling those 2 platforms.
Now it makes it really, the debate, clear.
Ressa: Well that's interesting about the 2 political parties, there being questions about what is the difference between these 2 political parties. What is the difference?
Quimbo: That's always the folly of Philippine politics. For the longest time we've had a very personality oriented politics. It's not simply because of the weakness of the political system. Meaning we are weak political parties, those are all given. But for the first time since the senatorial elections in the '86 constitution we've never had a campaign that is really aligned with a particular theme or message. And I think the biggest difference now is -- not just in terms of message, but in terms of methodology -- is we live and abide by one single mantra. That is we treat this election really as a referendum of the president. We look at it, and it has never happened. We've never seen a president that puts his 2 1/2 years on the line, some say unnecessarily, but the president needs to be able to get that affirmation. And to get the necessary support to hammer out difficult laws which are forthcoming. We've seen over the last 2 years is that while Congress has been dramatic in coming out with laws that heretofore have not been available --we talk about sin taxes that never passes-- now goes beyond committee hearings. We talked about reproductive health, we talked about amendments to anti-money laundering. All these things and also other laws we've managed to do that and the bottle neck of it has really been the senate. Not all the time, and it's not to blame them but that's the nature of having a partisan or too many parties in the senate. The president thinks that there are many things that he still needs to do. Particularly the closest one being is a framework, a law that will carry out the framework in the Muslim peace process. And that cannot be forestalled. Issues about Sabah, and the president thinks that and believes that we need to be able to carry these difficult things in the next 3 years.
Ressa: What's interesting is you talked about trying to move beyond personality politics but then again you're anchoring Team PNoy. LP is still anchored on President Aquino. What platform? Is there any distinct platform that Team PNoy will stand for that UNA does not?
Quimbo: It is called Team PNoy, it is the president's name. But unlike any other president for that matter, the president speaks volumes in carrying out a particular agenda. And that's governance, meaning accountability. Human capital investments meaning investing in our people. And reforming the entire investment infrastructure to make the country more attractive. And those are the 3 things that really the president wants to focus on. First, of course, on transparency. That's why we keep on talking about "Tuwid na Daan" meaning that has been the hallmark. To be able to bring in investments the president believes that we need to be able to be seen through a clear glass panel. We should not be willing to hide behind opaque glass doors. That is the root of the success and many of the reforms in fact has been towards that. There are a number of laws that need to be passed - money laundering, you talk about the witness protection reform. These are the different areas where we need fundamental legislative reform, meaning laws, in order to carry that out. Or even in human capital investment. You're talking about CCT, you're talking about building classrooms. For the first time this year, the country's actually going to be able to plug the long standing backlog on classrooms. That's never happened and people, when people asked how it happened they don't realize that the reason why we're going to be able to build 68,000 classrooms this year is because the investors are confident in this president. I don't want to get into the details of how it actually takes place but investors are actually willing to put in money and get paid over a 10-year period without certainty if they will actually get paid because the amortization decision is going to be annual through Congress.
Ressa: What you're basically saying is if you like what the president has done then vote for Team PNoy.
Quimbo: Absolutely. That is the absolute single question we want voters to think about.
Ressa: Can you just set the record straight again on another news item that came out: th crack between LP and NPC. What is the story? Set it straight, for the record. What's going on?
Quimbo: Team PNoy is not just the Liberal Party but the coalition of several parties including the NPC, the Nacionalista Party, the LDP as well as the Akbayan. No coalition will always be problem-free. Obviously this is one area, there are issues on the local level where you have competing members of Congress, competing mayors, competing governors where some friction will arise but as a whole, the party NPC has already spoken through its official that there's no truth to that. As far as we are concerned, their commitment to the president and to the coalition is not only for this elections but in fact up until the end of the term of the president.
The NPC is a vital partner of the Liberal Party and Team PNoy. They are a vital partner, they are the 2nd biggest party in Congress today. They are a very cohesive group. We would not have been able to carry out many of the strong or controversial votes in congress, the impeachment, or the Ombudsman, the Chief Justice, sin taxes, RH… There are a host of other laws passed because of NPC and I think the partnership is not really based on personalities, it's not based on commitment. It's based on a particular set of principles that we all imbibe. It will last. It will last beyond this elections and hopefully it will last until the end of the term of the President.
Ressa: What's fascinating here is the interplay between the personalities and the platforms. Let's just look at the performance on proclamation day rally. We looked at what happened on social media. One of the interesting things we saw is the social networks, the community of both political parties is actually identical. There's only one community for both political parties. You can look at that 2 ways. One is, you have the same people supporting them which can make sense since they're both part of government. But then the flip side of that is it shows how weak our political party system is. Actually, how would you react to that? I'll show you the maps later on.
Quimbo: We're all running in a small yard with very little participants. Well, also there has to be in the overall market of the social media, obviously this is one aspect that is… I mean, any democracy needs participants. A democracy can only be vibrant if there are more individuals that take part in it. And social media is not just new but obviously it's the most innovative because there's an immediate participation. When somebody says something, there is a method through which that message reaches the person concerned and we need to be able to actually involve individuals. Maybe it also comes out from the fact that there's always been that growing… not growing but built-in cynicism among individuals who take part in social media who have always had this cynicism with government and politics and I don't really blame them for having that. That is my observation and the reason why…
Ressa: What's interesting about that observation is, when we were watching the rally, right. You were on a stage, speaking to an audience largely masa. And then social media is largely upscale. This is not your DE so in many ways the candidates are having to deal with both ABC1-C2 audience. Will any of this affect the way you campaign?
Quimbo: Yes it does, and you know for the longest time I think social media has been dismissed by a number of campaigns but we've seen how social media, more importantly if you don't address it well, can destroy you. I think the power, it's now to denigrate the medium, but if it's something that you completely ignore, I think it's something that you will live to regret. I mean, if you will live to regret. But it's important for us to be able to ask: is this because individuals who actually take part in social media are the movers of the economy. They are the individuals who put in money. They are the individuals on which many of our investors actually rely on. Meaning, these are open things. Many of the investors who want to participate in our economy, the only thing that they can really rely on are these things. And we need to involve these individuals but it's challenging. I mean, challenging because politics is, like I said, even in the local level, even in a small area, the rich people or the educated people has always had that cynicism even with or without social media. There seems to be that natural barrier which we all have to overcome and I think social media allows it because what people in the AB class or even the educated don't like is we always feel like it's useless to talk about government anyway they're not gonna listen. We know what happens, we know what the solutions are but it's useless so why will you participate. But I think if there's a flow of information as well as a genuine exchange where you can listen and separate the chaff from the grain I think that medium has actually a great potential in having a more vibrant democracy.
Ressa: If you're looking at the 2013 elections as the referendum on the president. What will make this different? You're a young politician. Is there a different way of attacking campaigns and the whole electoral process in 2013?
Quimbo: I'm still not used to being called a politician but I am, it's always been a derogatory statement when I was growing up anyway. But it's different. We're trying to elevate it as much as we can. We strongly believe, people may find it hard to believe but we're trying to elevate the debate on accountability meaning do you believe the president has done well in terms of educational reform? Do you think the president has done well in terms of transparency, do you think he's done well in economy, do you think he's done well in job generation? Can you trust the president enough to give him another 3 years with a group of people that may be supportive of him not individuals he can dictate on.
Look at the guys in our slate, you have senator Chiz Escudero, I mean, Senator Trillanes, I don't think even the mother of Senator Trillanes can dictate on him. No pun intended but it is the first time that we would like to put all of the marbles on the table. We want the people to decide on that basis. The last 3 weeks, they've refused, UNA has refused to talk about programs. All that they have been doing is really sending brickbats about the 3 candidates. about the individual persons involved with Team PNoy but they have not addressed any alternative programs, any alternative agenda on… they just keep saying, o tuwid na daan is not enough, people are still hungry, people are still without jobs, but what is the alternative? Do they say that the improvement is not forthcoming? We expect and we will pursue that and we strongly are convinced that if we carry out a message oriented campaign, we are going to be able to bring in even the lowest ranking among our senatorial…
Ressa: I hope you're right, let me throw you a question from social media, from @NepoMalaluan: Beyond the individual candidates' agenda what are the Team PNoy's common top 5 legislative priorities for the 16th congress.
Quimbo: Well for Nepo, FOI is the, is on the top of the list. I strongly believe the Freedom on Information Act will become an act in this next congress. It's just matter of time. I know him from quite far back and I've seen how passionate he is about this issue. First and foremost as far as we are concerned, health sector reform. We need to be able to overhaul Philhealth as well as how our hospitals are being run. It's just the way we manage or how we're able to cover as many Philhealth members but how does Philhealth and public hospital system actually impact. Right now for every, for a hundred peso you spend, any ordinary person spends a hundred pesos on his medical needs, only 8 pesos is covered by Philhealth. So obviously there's a lot of work that needs to be done there. We need to be able to address matters concerning physical incentives. That needs to be rationalized in order for us to plug the loopholes in terms of tax breaks that are actually useless.
Ressa: And the new taxes that are coming up.
Quimbo: Or actually destroy competition. Because they create an unfair or an unlevel playing field. We need to talk about reforms also, and the transparency and accountability measures. Meaning, strengthening the Ombudsman, strengthening the Witness Protection Program, providing for more budget to it. This is the only country where somebody who testifies against an individual or a big fish, will have to go through an entire gamut of pressure and stress and that the end game is always being able to migrate to another country. Which is sad, that's one area. Fifth, I'll have to get back to you on that one, but you know, there are hosts of things, when you look at power. Power is also one of the topics that we've been discussing over the last few weeks as part of the legislative agenda of the president.
Ressa: 2013 elections will pave the way for the presidential elections. In that sense, how are you looking at these, or is that too far ahead to look at?
Quimbo: I've been asked that question, I've always told the people I work with now that we cannot look at 2016 because once we start doing that, we will destroy the entire strategy and campaign that we are doing today. As you can see, you know the personalities involved or as far as the president is concerned. You don't see Mar Roxas participating at all and I think that's all been by design that we don't want any distractions for the 12 candidates. Even the way the proclamation rally was done was it clear that the only individuals who will sit at the forefront alone were the 12 candidates and the president. Wala silang ibang katabi. That was actually by design. And even the spokespersons are designed that we have to avoid, as much as possible, appearing on TV. Meaning, let's send our messages across, let's focus on our candidates because, that's the battle today. The battle today is we've seen how difficult it is today to have a bellycose Senate. With all the evidence that we felt we had, we had difficulty convicting the Chief Justice. You talk about sin taxes, it won by one single vote. You talk about reproductive health, it won by three. So, these are just the issues that you would want to be able to avoid so that you can hammer out all these necessary laws.
Ressa: The voter today. How do you see that voter, what are they looking for, how are you appealing to that voter. The Filipino today?
Quimbo: We have a very localized voter. I call them localized because many of them still follow... 50% of the way they vote is really dictated on what many of their leaders, they're not necessarily politicians, tell them.
Ressa: Informal leaders…
Quimbo: Informal leaders meaning it's not really based on an informed choice. Meaning they don't have access to social media, barely little access to newspapers. They have access to TV but you know as we know what comes out on TV is not always the… well, anyway, I don't wanna get into that. But we don't have a very informed voter base.
Ressa: PPCRV said that in 2010 the vote-buying moved from retail to wholesale. Do you see this, is this something that you are prepared to deal with?
Quimbo: No, no. I can always speak about the senatorial elections, certainly in 2010 in so far as the national candidates are concerned there's no such thing as vote-buying. What would take place in 2007 or even before that were wholesale cheating. Meaning buying election registers, buying provincial election returns. But with PCOS, for all the criticisms it gets, PCOS was revolutionary.
Ressa: It's fast.
Quimbo: Nobody will, I speak as a new politician. There's no one in my family, I'm the first one, I'm the youngest, absolutely outlier. The only reason why I decided to get on with the elections was because primarily I felt that there was hope that whatever people voted for would actually emerge because of PCOS. You know for, it has all its quirks or whatever it is but PCOS is a giant instrument for democracy.
Ressa: I interrupted you, go back to the Pinoy voter today saying the lack of information that they don't have access to the….not necessarily making informed choices. How are you appealing to them? Is there anything in your campaign that you're gonna do differently, is this a song and dance campaign?
Quimbo: Well I'm not too sure about the song and dance. Some of our candidates want to sing and dance but I don't think that really works today anymore. The campaign is, when the candidates actually go around and do sorties. When you go there 60 to 70% of individuals who show up are actually already convinced on who they're going to vote for. What we need to be able to really do is carry out a clear message. What are the voters looking for today? Voters are looking for somebody they can cling on hope for. Not just I, but there are other members of Congress who decided to join the national campaign because we truly feel like we are at the threshold of being a great country. And you know, for a lot of people, people are saying it's all cliche but I truly think we have a chance with this president. I don't know him, I mean I've only met him recently. I didn't really know him from way back but I certainly think that with what he's doing, people have always been fed up with past politicians. People have completely underestimated him and I truly feel like he brings a lot to the table. Hope and positive things are something that's very welcome as far as the voters are concerned that's why he's a subject matter in this elections and nobody else.
Ressa: Interesting. A lot of people seem to think the same way because you have the stock market getting on the 18th or 19th high this year alone. There is confidence right now and the question is can it be sustained. And you're saying…
Quimbo: You're scaring me, I mean what's scaring me is, I like the stock market. The stock market is a bell weather of how investors, people who have money, how they actually perceive the company set we have. Of course it's born about by are they confident with the current set of leaders that we have. Is it stable enough to put in billions of pesos. 850 million in net foreign investments to the country last year. A great number of that was in the stock market. But it's a very expensive stock market. I don't want to say it's over valued but it's an expensive stock market and I don't want that to be the single measure of our success because I think the better success is being able to build 25,000 new jobs, there are a number of big investments. We're about to have an investment grade rating soon, hopefully, which brings about, I mean, I think people just dismiss that, people dismiss the fact that when you have a credit rating upgrade… People don't realize that when you do that the amount of debt that we pay, actually, the amortization goes down. So, there's more money for health centers, for schools, and the like, and that all comes out from the fact that people are confident with the leader that we have.
Ressa: So let me ask you, this was also in the news recently, the president was using his power, his office, for campaigns. This is giving out the Philhealth cards… Is this something that's popped up. And how do you define these lines? He is the president of the country and he's also involved in political campaigns. For Comelec that would be difficult. Where do you draw the line?
Quimbo: There's a clear line. The laws are there, the guidelines are very specific. There's been no violation. The president in all the political sorties has not done governance activities. He has not given anything, he has not given Philhealth, only Philhealth that he has distribute recently were actually Philhealth cards when he went ot the MILF main camp. So when we went there, but that was symbolic because the president wants the growth to be inclusive. We cannot have the entire south of our country or at least the down south having the only remaining secessionist movement here in Asia or even in the world for that magnitude. That was important for him to be able to do that. But certainly the president, nor in any of our sorties have we resorted to giving out or handing out stuff. The president, the presence of the president in any place is sufficient to bring in people. Have you seen the reaction of how people, when they see him, people wanna shake his hand. And we have never seen, I wasn't there during Magsaysay's time, I'm not saying here is a perfect president, not at all. Like I said, what the country really thirsts for is someone who brings hope and that's what I see, I witness.
Ressa: What about the LP war chest? Daang matuwid. Where are you getting your money from? Do you have enough?
Quimbo: I've yet to see, that's probably why we only get invited to places like Rappler.
Ressa: Yeah, we don't, we have nothing to pay with. Well the question there of course is, if you want to go by, Chay Hofileña wrote a book about the 2010 campaign…In her book it takes 50 million pesos to elect the senator. That's a lot of money. And then local governments come down, congressmen at 30 million I think, and then the local representatives at different levels.
Quimbo: Elections are expensive. I make no bones about it. Very, very expensive. A 35 second commercial now is at 430,000 pesos. So just to put in your ad there. So it's very, very expensive, but you know, when you have a great message, when investors, when businessmen, when individuals believe in your cause, they will come over. In fact, many of the candidates in 2010 or even today, there are some candidates I'm sure who will not even spend a single money, cent, I'm sure some of them even make money they just won't say it. It doesn't mean just because it's expensive that you'll have to steal it from somewhere. It doesn't mean that you'll have to compromise. If you're somebody who stands for a particular reason, you're popular, people will gravitate to you. Look at senator Flavier, that guy was absolutely someone who could win on a shoe string budget. He didn't need anything. But the problem today is TV is now accessible to everyone, so even those who could survive on a shoe string budget and get elected they can't do that anymore because otherwise the fickle voter will have a tendency to forget about you. You know, if you're news worthy today, you're number one, you're number two, but when the deluge of advertisements starts coming in, you need to be there, just at least some representation of how you're able to, I mean, you need to be in the realm of the consciousness of the voters.
Ressa: So you think television is still the king maker here. I mean, it's necessary to make sure that you're there?
Ressa: Will throw two last social media questions at you. Reaction to the political dynasty in the Philippine setting, are you in favor or not?
Quimbo: That is a hard question because, when the framers of the constitution came up with the provision that says that we frown upon and in fact prescribe political dynasties, and so conveniently left it to Congress to craft that law, where do you draw the line? There are many dynasties that in fact bring a lot of positive changes to an area. It's like a family of painters, a family of artists, a family of mechanics. These are the things you grew up with, you've seen and for the most part I think the disdain for dynasties is the disdain for over, as a whole, for politics. It's not really the dynasty but the disdain for politics and corruption. And generally when you see one corrupt father having another corrupt son, you immediately get that but there has to be a line where we will draw it because otherwise we want to prescribe the freedom of individuals to actually make choices. There's no anti dynasty law in the US or in most modern democracies…
Ressa: We've only had 2 George.. 2 Bushes…
Quimbo: And I think I can speak about that because I don't belong to a dynasty. I think many of our politicians will say, there's nothing wrong about dynasties because they know tatamaan sila but ako I'm not entirely convinced. I think what should be done is we need to reform the electoral system so that people who don't belong to families actually have a chance. Meaning, PCOS is one, PCOS gives an opportunity to take part in it because the cheating machinery is predominantly after the casting of the ballots.
Ressa: What do you want voters to do in this elections?
Quimbo: I think, Maria, today we face a situation where are we going or we going back to what it used to be. We truly are at the front door of a great house that is opening up. Are we going in and build it, make it more beneficial and make it the room on education, build a room on health sector reform, build the transparency measure, FOI and the like, are we going in and build that house or are we just going back to the same old thing? I think that's primordial and we could not have found a better leader to bring us there. I've never been one to promote idolatry or having an entire agenda revolving around one person. But we've never seen somebody like him who is absolutely untainted, who is somebody in the deepest and darkest corridors in the halls of power you will never hear him say or be involved in anything nasty or dirty or get involved in corruption and I think that's very important and that's what we want voter's to think. Do you want us to progress, do you trust the president enough? If you do, please support the individuals who he feels like will be able to carry out those reforms to fruition.
Ressa: Fascinating. It's almost like you're saying you're building the political party based on the personality of the president. Is this… you reflect this transition period for 2013 elections. Miro Quimbo, thank you so much for joining us. - Rappler.com