MANILA - Domingo Zilabbo tries to make ends meet with the meager take-home pay he earns as a jeepney driver.
"May P1,000 ka, P750 ang grudo mo, P250 lang yung net mo," Zilabbo, one of the ordinary citizens invited to ask questions in ABS-CBN's senatorial debate on Sunday, said.
Zilabbo is one of many Filipinos pinning their hopes on candidates vying for a seat in the Senate in the May 13 midterm elections.
"Ano po ba ang magagawa ninyo para mapababa ang presyo ng krudo para tumaas ng konti ang naiuuwi naming kita para sa aming pamilya," Zilabbo asked the eight Senate bets who participated in "Harapan 2019: The ABS-CBN Senatorial Town Hall Debate."
Reelectionist Senator JV Ejercito said, if given a chance to serve a second term, he would amend the TRAIN law he supported to bring fuel excise taxes down.
"Sa aming explanation of votes na bagama't ako'y pabor [sa TRAIN], pero dapat yung excise taxes on fuel ay hindi gaanong itaas nang sa ganun hindi maging pabigat, lalung-lalo na sa mga public utility vehicles at mangingisda at iba pa," he said.
Labor leader Ka Leody de Guzman of the Partido Lakas ng Masa pointed out the need to restore oil price regulation by the government and suspend the TRAIN law.
"Dapat magkaroon ng kontrol ang gubyerno dahil 'yan ang papel ng gubyerno, proteksiyunan ang mamamayan," he said.
Elmer Francisco of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas shared the same sentiment on removing the fuel excise tax but also suggested that public utility vehicles shift to biodiesel.
"Makakamura na tayo at malinis pa," he said.
RJ Javellana of the Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino and Dado Padilla of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas also believe that the oil deregulation policy and the additional fuel excise tax under the TRAIN law are making the poor suffer.
Dan Roleda of the United Nationalist Alliance emphasized the need for government to intervene to help drivers.
"Halimbawa, yung sa TRAIN law excise tax, 'wag munang iimplement yun at bigyan ng subsidy ang mga drivers," he said.
Independent candidate Ernesto Arellano wants another framework to address the issue.
"Ilagay natin sa public ownership ang mga industries para sa mga basic needs. It should be publicly owned para hindi na maging factor yung private profit sa pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin," he said.
Toti Casiño of the Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino highlighted the need for the country to have strategic oil reserves.
"Kung meron tayong strategic oil reserves, na kung kailan mababa ang presyo saka tayo magiipon at kung kailan mataas ang presyo hindi tayo bibili, kokonti lang," he explained.
While Filipinos still have time to decide on who to vote in the May 13 elections, Zilabbo’s only wish is, “Sana matupad ang kanilang pangako.”