Macalintal, Tañada challenge Angara: Explain why you pushed for TRAIN

Mara Cepeda
'Kung ito'y magandang batas, dapat sana hinaharap kayo ni Senator Angara, 'di ba?' Otso Diretso candidate Romy Macalintal tells the crowd at a campaign event

DEBATE CHALLENGE. Otso Diretso candidates Romy Macalintal and Erin Tañada (1st and 2nd from right) zero in on reelectionist Senator Sonny Angara on March 5, 2019. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Otso Diretso senatorial bets Romy Macalintal and Erin Tañada dared reelectionist Senator Sonny Angara to face the public and explain why he championed the controversial Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

The two opposition candidates went on the offensive against Angara during their town hall meeting with residents of Southville 3 in Barangay Poblacion, Muntinlupa City, on Tuesday, March 5.  

They once again challenged Angara and other administration candidates to face them in a debate so they can discuss the most pressing issues in the country, including TRAIN and its effects on the prices of goods. (READ: Sonny Angara fends off TRAIN law criticism as he files COC)

“Halimbawa, si Senator Angara, siya ang author o may-akda ng TRAIN law. Itong batas na ito ang nagpapahirap sa taong-bayan ngayon. Dahil sa tinaasan ang presyo ng krudo at gasolina, tumaas ang lahat ng bilihin sa buong bansa. Kung ito’y magandang batas, dapat sana hinaharap kayo ni Senator Angara, ‘di ba?” asked Macalintal, who got loud cheers from the crowd.

(For example, Senator Angara was the author of the TRAIN law. This law is a burden to the people. Because the fuel excise tax was raised, the prices of basic goods in the country went up. If this is a good law, then Senator Angara should have faced you already, right?) 

“Kaya hinahamon natin si Senator Angara: Senator, baka puwedeng ipaliwanag mo itong TRAIN law at ipaliwanag mo bakit mo pinababayaan ang taong-bayan na maghirap dahil sa iyong batas. Dapat sasagutin niya ‘yan,” said Macalintal.

(That’s why we’re challenging Senator Angara: Senator, perhaps you can explain this TRAIN law and explain why you disregarded our countrymen who are now burdened by your law. He should answer that.) 

Debates for candidates doing well in surveys, too

Tañada merely alluded to Angara in his speech, but the former Quezon congressman likewise slammed the senator for pushing for the TRAIN law. 

“Sabi nga po ni Ka Romy, si Romy Mac, sa usapin ng TRAIN law, isa lang ang tatanungin po natin: Sinasabi po ninyo kayo po ay para sa mahihirap. Bakit kayo pumayag na patawan ng excise tax ang ating mga petroleum products? Kaya dahil sa excise tax na ‘yan, tumaas po ang presyo ng mga gasolina, ang presyo ng mga bilihin,” said Tañada. 

(As stated by Ka Romy, Romy Mac, when it comes to the TRAIN law, we only have one question: You’re saying you’re pro-poor. But why did you allow higher excise tax to be imposed on petroleum products? Because of this excise tax, the prices of gasoline and basic goods increased.) 

He previously challenged Angara to a public debate through Twitter, but the latter refused and told Tañada: “#notatmyexpense pards. Rise and fall on your own merits please #kapitlang.”

Angara has been landing in the winners’ circle in preelection surveys so far, while Macalintal and Tañada have yet to make it to the so-called “Magic 12.”

Still, Macalintal and Tañada have attended several debates organized by media organizations, the academe, and civil society groups. 

Angara, meanwhile, said he has attended only 3 debates so far. He believes he does not have to accept all debate invitations since he is no longer a newbie candidate.

But this is unacceptable reasoning for Tañada.

“Katulad po ng iba, ayaw po kaming debatihin dahil matataas daw po sila sa survey, pero ‘di po ‘yun tama. Lahat po tayo puwedeng gumawa ng papel, ilagay po natin ang plataporma. Puwede po kami tumayo sa harap po ninyo, sabihin po namin ang track record,” said Tañada. 

(Others do not want to debate with us because they already have high rankings in surveys, but that’s not right. We can all write our platforms on paper. We can all stand up in front of the people and discuss our track records.) –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.