MANILA, Philippines - Corruption, human rights violations, migrant concerns, and the President's personal life were the prime topics among the participants of Global Town Hall live-chat on Monday as part of President Benigno Aquino III's first visit to the United States as the country's chief executive.
Majority of the Filipinos who participated in the chat want the new administration to focus on curbing corruption and to properly spend the US$434 million grant from the US Millennium Development Corporation (MCC) to the Philippines last Friday.
The live chat gathered 594 readers and collated 419 comments. It was opened on Sunday (Saturday in the United States) and was still open, as of writing.
Alden American Canyon hoped Aquino would use the money to build and repair infrastructure projects in areas that are hard to reach to make them more accessible.
"I would love to see and I'm sure the rest of the country too, those poor people who don't have bridges, roads and transportation to go to places like schools, hospitals and markets to buy and work. Please make sure that they would [be] blessed [with] one of those projects. We'll be waiting and watching, make us proud. God bless the Philippines," he said.
Liano P. Vacaville from California said he was touched by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech that praised the Philippines after the US-run MCC granted $434 million to the country for poverty alleviation projects.
"Please let's not disappoint her and the rest of the people who signed that $434 million check, who trusted our government. Let us show that they can trust us and so more business will come and to open more doors of opportunities for our country. PNoy, we're counting on you," Vacaville said.
Magtanggol Sabayan from Los Angeles left a lengthy piece of advice to the President in terms of corruption. He said that 29 years after the death of Aquino's father, Sen. Ninoy Aquino, things have gotten worse.
"Corruption is so pervasive and ingrained not only in almost all sectors of government right now but also in the Filipino culture itself. Mr. President, we know that you are not God but what are you going to do in your 6 years in office that you would like to be remembered by Filipinos for years to come? I just hope, Mr. President, that your dad's murder was not in vain just like what he said, 'The Filipino is worth dying for.' Mabuhay ka Presidente "Noynoy" Aquino and I can confidently say that the majority of the Filipino people (60% of whom are in the poverty level) are solidly supporting you," he said.
Oneille, on the other hand, said it doesn't take a rocket scientist for the President to purge the illegal numbers game "jueteng" in the country.
"Mr. President I want you to succeed in governing our beloved country and... If you really want to stop jueteng, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to do that don't you think so, let [us] not be naive about it, it could be stop[pped] in an instance if you really wanted it to stop. I don't want to sound to be so realistic, but I think so should do town meeting more in the PI (not only with the elite more so with the tondo smokey mountain people, tambakan in marikina and the impoverised place in the PI to get the real sentiments of the people. We will pray and hope that heads will be rolling as you promised even iat will be your kapamilya.Mr. president why do you think all this politicians would like to win in an election, it's not because of the salary, it's because most of them want to loot the coffers of the town, city and government. We will pray for you," Oneille wrote.
EJ from Lakeforest California said: "Maybe you can also encourage all the senators, congressmen to be more honest and join you to have a clean and honest government."
Human rights, migrant concerns
Filipinos abroad are also troubled by the human rights violations in the Philippines, and they asked Aquino about his plans to solve these abuses.
Some chatters also asked Aquino to resolve the human rights case of Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas and free the 43 health workers that were incarcerated in Morong, Bataan, where some were reportedly tortured.
"Please free the 43 health workers and the newborn baby, NOW. :)" Kuusela Hilo from Los Angeles wrote. One of the incarcerated health workers recently gave birth.
Migrant concerns also flooded the chatroom, particularly the cases of the nurses, doctors, physical therapists, and engineers in the United States and other areas in the Middle East.
Violy asked: "Ano po ang gagawin nyo sa dumadaming nurses at doctor na umaalis ng bansa dahil na rin sa mababang pa sweldo at walang makuhang trabaho sa Pilipinas?"
Ejej wanted to know how Aquino would fight brain drain in the Philippines. "If we decide to go back home, do you think there's work waiting for us in the Philippines?"
Reana Diago asked what the President can do for the plight of Filipino nurses. "How can he help stop hospitals in taking advantage of nurses by letting nurses work as trainees with no allowance/salary? What is his stand on the unemployment rate in our country?"
Juliahynez of Parma, Ohio suggested: "Sana po magawan ng paraan na itaas ang sweldo at benefits ng mga nurses sa Pililpinas para hindi naman sila mag exodus papunta sa ibang bansa. Napakahirap at stressful ang trabaho ng mga nurses. Sana bigyan din po nyo ng pansin. Salamat."
Most overseas workers are also interested on how Aquino will protect the OFWs, especially those who are being abused and discriminated against in other countries.
Mrs. Cruz from Daly City asked: "As the new President of the Philippines, how will you protect the OFWs? Without them, the economy of the Philippines will collapse. Ano ang magagawa n'yo na hindi nagawa ng past admin?"
Some Filipinos also expressed concern over the botched August 23 hostage-taking in Luneta and hoped that Aquino could make the Philippines safer for balikbayans and tourists.
Also, some hoped that Aquino has a clear program for retired OFWs in the Philippines.
Oscar from Northern California said: "Am interested in particular about your program of government, if any, that will have a direct and beneficial bearing upon a returning/retiring Fil-Americans to the Philippines. Will some sort of exception and/or waiver from fees (i.e., customs, etc.) be extended as a matter of courtesy, if not policy, in favor of a 'returnee/retiree' under an 'enhanced balikbayan' program, for example."
Marc OFW added: "Sir president maybe you can do something about the retirement of OFWs since we consider them makabagong bayani. Maybe you can also take a drive around Metro Manila in secret so you can see what a regular filipino experiences and sees everyday. Thank you and more power. we always pray for your health and safety."
Filipinos abroad also loved the way President Aquino smiles despite the problems, and hoped he will retain the demeanor throughout his term.
"We love your smiling face. We hope that in the end of your term you still have that smiling face," Macjean from Lakeforest, California wrote.
Ram of New York City, however, added: "But that smiling face got us into trouble during the hostage drama. P-noy, please show anger if you need to. Sabunin mo ang mga umaabuso sa tungkulin."
Myka of San Francisco commended Aquino's answers to the questions posed during the town hall meeting: "yan ang Presidente magaling sumagot sa mga tanong..sana sa gawa din!"
Chatters also noted that the President was very candid and eloquent.
"Haha, you're so candid P-noy! luv it oks mas manipis mukha kaysa makapal mukha! Congrats Pnoy," said Macjean from Lakeforest.
"Good job PNoy. Very eloquent, straight to the point, hopefully sincere, walang paikot-ikot," Rene from San Mateo added.
Archie hoped the President will "stay humble and down to earth," while Jose from Los Angeles hoped "PNoy will help to [lift] our country from poverty...with the help all Filipinos...."
"Our country is in great hands with you as President. I wish your term will never end. Thank you for all your hard work towards a better Philippines." Mallory from New Jersey said.
EJ from Lakeforest California offered his services to Aquino and said: "We are positive about the Philippines now that you are the President. May God be with you and the rest of the nation. I know it's hard to inherit the mess of the previous government just like President Obama. We wish you great health and more honesty and Faith."
Gemma of Daly City, meanwhile is very proud to have Aquino as the President.
"Proud to be a Pinoy and Proud to have you as Our President!!!" she wrote.
Personal life, time
The personal life of the bachelor president, particularly his relationship with Valenzuela City councilor Shalani Soldedad and smoking habits, were not missed by the international Filipino community.
EJ from Lakeforest, California wanted to tell the President: "I know our government has a lot of problems but President Noy, you need to get married na rin and have your own family. Do you think it will happen within 6 years?"
Chatter CrisCris wanted to know the brand of cigarette the president uses while Caloy from Michigan asked if the Aquino have tried e-cigarettes.
Myk from Emeryville California asked: "Mr President, would you give up your smoking habit to promote healthy living to the Filipinos?"
Don from Colorado Springs even suggested a hair-thickening shampoo for the president, and also asked about Aquino's dentist, which was followed by a question from Ian Joseph from Arizona: "What is your favorite dish and dessert?"
Carlos from Redmond, Washington, meanwhile, asked: "We know Ate Glow is good in portraying GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). Who do you think will be good for PNoy?"
Some chatters also noticed the delay in the global town hall meeting, which was late by 30 minutes.
ORPORP said: "I guess he is running on Filipino time," in reference to Filipinos who are reputed to be always late.
Don from Colorado Springs added: "Of course Pinoy time. He is P-Noy :-)"
Global Town Hall initiative
Chatters also commended the town hall initiative that brought together Filipinos from Dubai, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The one-hour meeting was done in California during Aquino's first foreign visit as president.
Joy Joy wrote: "Linaw ng streaming...- This is really hi-tech. We feel really one with the Filipinos overseas, as high tech as Involve One Nation. One" Filipionos" from Manila. Thanks ABS" while Rhoda from PARhoda from Pennsylvania said: "I would like to congratulate ABS-CBN for doing this coverage. I'm a TFC subscriber for 4 years and thank you kahit malayo ako sa Philippines parang malapit na rin."
Net~phils noted that: "abs talaga, ginawang cebu, davao ang dubai, london, nj"
Ram New York City and Surferjoe commented that the forum was "bitin," and hoped the forum will be longer in the future.
Judith Puyat-Magnaye from New York and Ely Arcilla from Minnesota requested that ABS-CBN give the president a copy of the comments.
"Congrats, Gel and ABS-CBN family for this great initiative! Thanks too to fellow Filipinos for this exchange! I second the motion on giving a hard copy of this online discussion to President Aquino. Best wishes to all, Judith :)" Puyat-Magnaye wrote.