The Leader I Want: Walden Bello’s to-fix list for 2016

Gerard Lim
The Leader I Want: Walden Bello’s to-fix list for 2016
Rappler #PHVote's 'The Leader I Want' series looks at Walden Bello's stand on key issues the next batch of senators will have to address

MANILA, Philippines – After serving almost 3 terms as Akbayan representative, Walden Bello is now vying for a seat in the Senate versus 49 others

Walden Bello is an academic and an active member of civil society groups. He has a PhD in Sociology from Princeton and teaches sociology and public administration at the University of the Philippines. He was president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, senior analyst and co-founder of Focus on the Global South, a member and former chair of the board of Greenpeace South East Asia, analyst and former executive director of Food First, a member of the International Forum on Globalisation board of directors, and associate of the Transnational Institute.

In March 2015, Bello resigned from his post as Akbayan representative in the House of Representatives over his party mate’s continued support for President Benigno Aquino III’s despite the mishandling of the Mamasapano incident. Aquino’s 2010 presidential candidacy saw Akbayan forming a coalition with the Liberal Party (LP).

Now Bello is running for the Senate on a platform of security of tenure for workers, free education until college, food security, and genuine good governance. 

Bello is author of the following notable laws:

  • Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension With Reform Act
  • Reproductive Health Law
  • Marcos Human Rights Compensation Act
  • Amendment to the Absentee Voters Act

As part of Rappler #PHvote’s “The Leader I Want” series, we look at Bello’s stand on key issues that the next batch of senators will have to address.

Corruption

A highlight of Bello’s campaign is “genuine good governance,” where there are no “double standards.” Part of his agenda is the passage of the freedom of information bill. 

Social inequality

Bello supports the security of tenure of workers and ending contractualization. He said the past 6 administrations have all been pro-management and it was time for the rights of workers to be upheld.

The candidate also wants free and quality education up to the tertiary level. He said the government has sufficient funds for this, but these are misallocated, like being used to pay foreign and domestic debts. He also finds issue with the Automatic Appropriations Act and the constitutional mandate that education receives the highest budget allocation. 

In the 2016 General Appropriations Act, P393 billion went into paying debt interest while P348 billion went into debt principal amortization – a total of around P741 billion. Meanwhile P412 billion went into the Department of Education.

Next on his agenda is food security. Bello said there must be laws protecting the agricultural sector from the massive entry of subsidized foreign agricultural commodities, owing to the removal of import quotas and low tariffs. 

Bello said there is a need for an expanded agrarian reform law that does away with big plantations and completes the redistribution of land to peasants and rural workers. He is also against genetically modified organisms and encourages healthy organic farming methods.

Bello intends to pass legislation that improve women’s welfare, such as penalizing hospitals that discrimante against pregnant women. He wants laws that promote the rights of workers, like day care and barangay health workers, who primarily serve the health needs of women and children .

Bello is also in favor of an anti-discrimination act designed to protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community. 

He has pledged to support the agenda of a number of other sectors, namely detainees, persons with disabilities, overseas Filipino workers, indigenous peoples, and internally-displaced persons.

Climate change and disaster

To protect the environment from the damage brought by mining as well as indigenous communities, he wants to repeal the Mining Act of 1995 and replace it with a Mineral Management Act. 

OFWs

Bello said it’s important to look at the “big picture” of the economy. He said international agencies had imposed a neoliberal paradigm on Filipinos, resulting in labor export, export-oriented industrialization, and low wages.

He is disappointed with how the Department of Justice failed OFWs in handling the sex-for-flight scheme, which he exposed in 2013. The DOJ filed cases against the accused embassy staff in 2014 but Bello said the case had not seen progress since.

“When electing people to the Senate, think about it: who were those who kept their promises? Unfortunately, one of the candidates did not keep their promise to the OFWs,” Bello said, referring to former justice secretary Leila de Lima, another senatorial candidate.

Foreign Policy

Bello intends to maintain Philippine sovereignty over the disputed territories with China. Alongside Dinagat Representative Kaka Bag-ao, Bello filed House Resolution 1350 in the 15th Congress that proposed to offically name the disputed waters the “West Philippine Sea” as opposed to its more commonly used name “South China Sea,” according to an Inquirer article.

Bello believes the United States would not defend the Philippines against China should the conflict over the West Philippine Sea escalate despite the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

Bello instead turns to the South East Asian regional bloc for allies. 

“ASEAN should not allow itself to be turned into a springboard for the US strategy to militarily contain China, like the Philippines has done under the Aquino administration. At the same time, ASEAN should not allow itself to be pushed around by China. It should use the instruments of international law and diplomacy and demand that China live up to its promise to negotiate a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea,” he said.

He had also hoped a better debate was done on the Transpacific Partnership Agreement.

Peace in Mindanao

According to an Inquirer report, Bello is a supporter of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. He said the measure has no bigger supporter in Congress than him. – Rappler.com

Walden Bello is among the senatorial candidates who will participate in Rappler’s #TheLeaderIWant Senatorial Debates at the University of the Philippines School of Economics Auditorium in Quezon City on Friday, April 15, from 3 pm to 5:30 pm.

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