Nineteen senatorial candidates laid down their platforms and views on key issues during The Rundown 2022, the official youth-oriented senate election forum of the Commission on Elections, last Saturday, March 12. The event aimed to help young Filipino voters discern which senatorial candidates they should vote for in the upcoming May 9 National and Local Elections.
While the senatoriables advocated for different causes, most of the issues they aim to prioritize revolved around five key areas: post-pandemic recovery, higher wages, food security, climate protection, and employment concerns.
Roads to recovery
Amendments to investment laws that liberalized the Philippine market were among the economic solutions raised by the candidates. While opinions on foreign investment remained generally lukewarm for most, former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV shared a more optimistic view on the matter.
“Give the law a chance but monitor if the national interest is served,” he shared.
For the most part, candidates such as Shariff Albani, former Budget Undersecretary Agnes Bailen, and former Congressman Neri Colmenares agreed to some forms of renationalization of key utilities in the country. When asked about the detriments of renationalization, such as corruption and inefficiencies, Bailen and Colmenares affirmed that privatization is not the answer.
Instead, Bailen argued that the government should ensure that people in renationalized industries observe strict compliance with the law. Colmenares also stressed that the government can be “more efficient than private corporations” so long as the government continues to strengthen its effort against corruption and to incentivize its employees.
Employment was another topic discussed in the forum. Colmenares along with labor leaders Elmer Labog and Sonny Matula stressed the need to finally put an end to contractualization in the country, while former Agrarian Reform Sec. John Castriciones and labor lawyer Luke Espiritu emphasized the need to institutionalize genuine security of tenure law.
Issues on social inequality were also tackled, with candidates touting agriculture as the key. Revisions to the educational curriculum to include financial literacy and entrepreneurship were also raised, which senatoriables claim are needed to further economic growth.
Changes in current systems were also points of discussion in the forum. In the next six years, candidates expect that the nation would be more aggressive in transforming national and foreign policies.
Particularly, PDP-Laban bet Astra Pimentel fervently pushed for the country’s shift to federalism. Presenting the party’s plans of gradual transition, Pimentel said he believes that the shift would not be “counterproductive.”
The senatoriable appealed that the public elects those open to federalism, citing that it was difficult for the Duterte administration to actualize federal plans due to an opposing Senate. In the forum, only Albani, Roy Cabonegro, Castriciones, and Pimentel were firmly supportive of charter change. Six were firmly against and the rest had reservations.
Despite this, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno and Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc acknowledged the importance of decentralization in strengthening local governments. Diokno emphasized strengthening the barangay justice system whereas Gutoc highlighted the proper implementation of the Mandanas ruling for a fairer distribution of Internal Revenue Allotment. Alex Lacson, who was also asked about local governments, asserted that “thorough surveillance of LGUs” should be done to identify gaps.
For foreign policy, Espiritu maintained that the country should be fully independent of foreign superpowers as a way to preserve national security. On the contrary, Sen. Richard Gordon and Lacson believe that foreign relations must be utilized in asserting our national interests and independent policies. Lacson furthered that joining alliances such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue will not be inconsistent with the country’s independent foreign policy. Gordon also argued that the Philippines should remain flexible and open to the reestablishment of the United States military bases in the country should the need arise.
Strengthening future forefronts
Being a youth-oriented forum, discussions also touched on youth struggles such as education, employment, and empowerment.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Espiritu were asked about their plans on cushioning the impacts of college students’ learning gaps brought by off-site learning, which might be factors for employment. Espiritu pushed for a higher education budget and a realignment of the curriculum to match national development goals. Hontiveros, meanwhile, called for apprenticeship programs and the strengthening of youth agripreneurship.
With regard to funding, Labog, Gutoc, and Diokno supported the increase of the education budget. Labog argued that education should be democratized, while Gutoc highlighted the importance of bringing education to rural areas. Diokno mentioned that funds should be allocated to scholarships, teachers, textbooks, training, and equipment. He also stressed the need to make education more relevant and practical by integrating topics such as voter’s education and human rights. Carl Balita also called for an increase in teachers’ salary brackets.
To empower the Sangguniang Kabataan, autonomy and self-determination were determined as key variables by Carmen Zubiaga, Castriciones, and Balita. They acknowledged the need to tap into actual youth representation in barangays.
Other issues relating to healthcare, food security, indigenous people, among others were also discussed in the forum.