6 senatorial bets on why they are #TheLeaderIWant

Jee Y. Geronimo, Katerina Francisco

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6 senatorial bets on why they are #TheLeaderIWant
(UPDATED) Six senatorial aspirants present themselves to voters at the 2nd Rappler senatorial debate at UP-Diliman

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Why should voters elect you to the Senate?

Six senatorial aspirants answered this question during the Rappler senatorial debate on Friday, April 15, held at the University of the Philippines-Diliman – the second in a 3-part series organized by Rappler and its partners to help voters make informed choices based on the candidates’ platforms and promises.

Walden Bello

An economist and academic, former Akbayan party list representative Bello is running for the Senate with a platform focused on good governance, free education, and security of tenure for workers, among other advocacies.

“I’m more comfortable opposing power. So why am I running? I’m not running against anyone, I’m running against the system,” Bello said, when asked why voters should elect him to the Senate.

He said he was not comfortable with power and did not enjoy running for public office, citing how he broke away from the administration coalition in March 2015 following the Mamasapano encounter.

But he said that he wanted to continue his advocacies against political dynasties, traditional politicians, and an economy that benefits only a few.

Bello said his candidacy is distinguished by his legislative record that promotes the rights of marginalized sectors and people’s agenda. 

If elected, the economist said he wants to advocate security of tenure for workers, free education for all, freedom from hunger, comprehensive social protection, and genuine good governance, among others.

Leila de Lima

De Lima is the former justice secretary and former chair of the Commission on Human Rights. 

With her background in the legal sectors, De Lima said she plans to focus on an anti-corruption campaign that upholds human rights and rule of law.

She said she decided to run for the Senate to continue her advocacy and push for a “new offensive” against corruption.

“If I were to choose a movie title to describe my life in public service, it would probably be, That Thing Called Tadhana,” De Lima quipped.

De Lima, who used to head the justice department and the Commission on Human Rights, said it was destiny that put her on the path of controversial legal cases that marked her work in public service.

During her term as justice secretary, De Lima saw the indictment of 3 senators in the pork barrel corruption scandal, and the filing of charges against those involved in the Mamasapano incident.

De Lima said that these cases showed her “fearless” nature in delivering “uncompromising public service.”

But more than this, she also promised a form of governance that that is “firm but compassionate.

“The other Leila de Lima, may pusong ina para sa mga biktima at may kalinga sa isinasantabi (has a mother’s heart for victims and sympathy for those who are neglected),” she said.

Sherwin Gatchalian

Gatchalian is Valenzuela City First District Representative, and had also served as the city’s chief executive.

For his senatorial bid, Gatchalian said he plans to make education one of his top priorities. He is pushing for a bill that would provide free education in all state colleges and universities.

The Valenzuela representative said providing employment opportunities is the center of his campaign.

Citing unemployment statistics from the labor department, Gatchalian said there is a need for Filipino youth to have more developed skills and educational attainment to have better job opportunities.

Education is key to this, he said.

Matagal ko nang isinusulong: dapat i-abolish ang tuition fee sa lahat ng state universities and colleges. Sa ganitong paraan, mabibigyan natin ng oportunidad ang bawat isang bata na makapag-aral at makapagtapos,” he said.

Gatchalian said that the estimated P15 billion needed for this will benefit 1.5 million students.

Richard Gordon‬

‪Gordon is the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross for 28 years. He has served in the government as Olongapo City mayor, chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, and tourism secretary.‬

‪He also served as senator in 2004, and attempted a failed comeback bid in 2013.‬

‪Gordon opened his statement with 3 words: “Leadership, results, integrity.”‬

‪He enumerated a long list of accomplishments that make him, he said, the “most suitable one as leader.” This includes his experience as lawyer, a Constitutional Convention delegate, former Olongapo City mayor, and former senator. ‬

‪”I pretty much know what I’m talking about when it comes to Congress and the law,” Gordon said. He also talked about his role as Red Cross volunteer and his achievements as chair of the Philippine Red Cross, including their work after Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) struck parts of the Philippines in 2013. ‬

Risa Hontiveros

This will be the third Senate try for former Akbayan representative Hontiveros, who plans to push for a universal healthcare program if elected senator.

Hontiveros also served as director of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), appointed to the post by President Benigno Aquino III in June 2015.

“Ang laban para sa kalusugan ay laban para sa isang mapagkalingang lipunan (The fight for health is a fight for a nurturing society),” Hontiveros said in her opening statement on Friday. She said her fight for universal health care is also a fight for human rights. 

Speaking as a “health advocate, woman, and mother,” Hontiveros said if she wins, she plans to establish super barangay health centers, raise the salaries of barangay health workers, and give them additional training.

She also wants to expand PhilHealth benefits, especially for senior citizens, and hold accountable hospitals that refuse to treat patients in emergency cases just because they cannot pay a deposit. 

“I’m ready to get to work,” she added.  

Dionisio Santiago

Santiago is a former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief, and was also the former chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

His senatorial bid was prompted by his advocacy against drugs, a central part of his platform. 

Ako ay taga-labas na, retired, kagaya niyo akong nagrereklamo sa nangyayari sa gobyerno(I am an outside already, retired. Like you, I have complaints against the government). But I can better serve the republic if I go back,” Santiago said on Friday.

In his speech, he talked about his decades-long experience in public service and how he knows the problem of Filipinos after serving as a military officer and a civilian bureaucrat.

He also talked about providing better benefits for PDEA employees and making PDEA one of the least corrupt agencies under his watch.

The first leg of the debate was held on April 8 at the AMA University in Quezon City, where 4 candidates took the hot seat to explain their stand on various pressing issues. Rappler.com 

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.