MANILA—Five senatorial aspirants bared their thoughts and legislative plans on the country’s pressing issues on "SRO’s Sino SENyo? The Senatorial Candidates' Interview" Thursday.
The guests were Lutgardo Barbo, a former Senate secretary who is now part of Manny Pacquiao's slate; former comedian and former Quezon City mayor Herbert Bautista, who is under Panfilo Lacson's ticket; Mindanao civic leader Samira Gutoc of Aksyon Demokratiko; rights lawyer Chel Diokno, who is running as an independent; and Dr. Minguita Padilla, also of Lacson's Partido Reporma.
WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
All of the senatorial bets agreed that tougher measures should be put in place to further assert the country’s territory.
They also criticized the government's soft approach, especially the president’s non-assertion of the country’s Tribunal victory on the West Philippine Sea.
“Klaro ang batas na atin ang West Philippine Sea, mali ang approach ng pamahalaan. Luging-lugi tayo,” Diokno said.
“Binabastos na tayo,” Padilla added.
“Palakasin natin ang ating border control, ang relasyon sa ASEAN,” Bautista said.
“Ang desisyon ng UN is not a mere piece of paper,” Barbo said.
“Lakasan ang filing ng diplomatic protest, grabe ang emosyon ng mga mangingisda. Galit sila,” Gutoc added.
WAR ON DRUGS
They also thumbed down the anti-drug campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte, saying the efforts failed due to various reasons.
“Hindi natin na-install ang drug prevention nationwide, di nabigyan ng investment,” Gutoc said.
“Half baked. Masyadong nag-focus sa law enforcement, di sa rehabilitation,” Bautista added.
Padilla agreed, and proposed rehabilitation for users and harsher penalties for drug pushers and syndicates.
“Kailangan hulihin natin, ilagay sa isang isla na maraming pating, parang Alcatraz,” she said.
ON ESTABLISHING AN OFW DEPARTMENT
While the candidates generally approve of a separate department for OFWs, Diokno questioned if this was an urgent measure.
“Kailangan nating suportahan ang ating mga OFWs pero bago ’yan, ayusin muna natin ang mga ahensya. Isyu rin kasi ng budget ’yan,” he said.
“Mandatory ’yan sa aking paningin para mabantayan, more labor officers,” Gutoc said.
PANDEMIC, HEALTH CARE WORKERS
The candidates also agreed that healthcare workers should be given more incentives to prevent them from leaving the country and strengthen measures to fight the pandemic.
“ ’Yung suweldo kailangan Itaas, benepisyo. Di dapat ’yung pahirapan pa. I think we have to make sure na ang inyong suweldo will give you dignity of your work,” Padilla said.
“Palakasin natin ang Magna Carta for health care workers, bigyan ng mas maraming insentibo,” Bautista said.
While the candidates have similar plans to solve the country’s pressing problems, they have different priority bills to push in their first 100 days.
Barbo wants to address political dynasties, reform the political party system and push for federalism.
Bautista, meanwhile, will push for stronger Wi-fi nationwide, strengthen the millennial generations’s employment opportunities, and improve the country’s health care system.
Diokno wants to revamp the inter-agency task force on the coronavirus pandemic with a science-centered group to come up with better solutions to the pandemic. He also plans to craft laws to help MSMEs.
Padilla believes a bill should be crafted to make the country more prepared for the future pandemics.
Gutoc, meanwhile, plans to focus on creating her fist bills to address the pandemic, and provide assistance to displaced families.