USC Hosts Sixth Klarohay Ta! Candidates Forum
Photo by Lance Matthew Pahang
Mega Cebu, the University of San Carlos (USC) and Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc., along with other private and public sectors, hosted its sixth Klarohay Ta! Candidates Forum last March 25, 2019 in the Theodore Buttenbruch Hall of the Downtown Campus.
The senatorial candidates present in the forum were Chel Diokno, Pilo Hilbay, Erin Tañada, and Samira Gutoc of the Otso Diretso party, Neri Colmenares of the Makabayan Party and Ka Leody De Guzman of the Partidong Lakas ng Masa (PLM). This forum was anticipated by the Carolinian community, which resulted in a packed venue beyond its seating capacity with a big number of students, faculty members and members of the press attending the forum.
The hosts and moderators of the forum were Caroline Balisteros of Mega Cebu and Brenette Abrenica, the chair of the Department of Political Science of the university. Balisteros said that they invited several senatorial candidates to attend the forum series to explain their agenda to the 3.2 million Cebuano voters, who Abrenica says is “a force to be reckoned with.”
The forum began with the opening remarks of the candidates. Colmenares said his goal is to fight against historical revisionism that suggests that there were no abuses committed during Martial Law. De Guzman aims to regularize workers and equalize their salaries in different provinces. Diokno then said that the politically aware youth inspired him to fight and run for Senate. He added that fighting for the current generation of Filipinos is worth every drop of his blood. Hilbay went on to propos a council that would investigate the issue of the country versus China, especially regarding the issue of the West Philippine Sea. As for Tañada, he talked about his past work as a student leader of student organizations and shared how it took him three tries before passing the law bar examination, which he was not afraid to admit because he believes in honesty. Gutoc said that the youth, specifically the students of USC, gave the Otso Directo party a fighting chance and that she speaks for the marginalized people of the Filipino community.
On the issue of death penalty, the senatorial candidates were unanimously against it. Gutoc shared his belief that life cannot not be decided by someone in the higher positions of the government, noting that she is aware of the Muslim community’s condemnation of her stance. As Tañada and Diokno are both human rights lawyers, they consider death penalty as anti-poor. Diokno believes that only God can determine whether one’s life should be taken away. De Guzman said that problems will still persist even with death penalty legalized. As for Hilbay, he claimed that if there is a credible justice system, death penalty will not needed, with Colmenares echoing his statements by adding that there should be a swift, assured justice system.
On the issue of charter change and federalism, most of the candidates were against it. De Guzman is a sole supporter of charter change, however on the condition that it would not empower political dynasties with extended term limits while Colmenares said that the charter change would only benefit the “self-serving politicians”. Diokno says a charter change would not address the current needs of the people. Gutoc shared his view by stating that the country should focus on economic reforms and solving pre-existing economic problems instead of transitioning to federalism, questioning the timing and motivations behind the proposed charter change.
When questioned about the issue of lowering the age of criminal responsibility, the candidates are unanimously against it. Gutoc believed there should be more focus on implementing child development programming rather than lowering the age of criminal responsibility. Diokno then went on to question why the government created policies that are anti-poor. He mentioned a study that claimed that the Philippines tops the list of overcrowded correctional facilities in the world. Colmenares stated that the country’s proposal of lowering the age of criminal responsibility is wrong in comparison to other countries and that drug syndicates should be held accountable instead as they are the ones who marginalize and abuse children.
On the issue of same-sex marriage, most of the candidates announced their favor except Gutoc and Tañada, as they both believe that legalization of the Anti-Discrimination Bill should be a priority. As the co-author of the bill along with Colmenares, Tañada cited the lengthy process of passing a controversial bill to law, such as the Reproductive Health Law, as his reason for focusing his attention in passing the Anti-Discrimination bill first before supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage. Diokno is in favor as he believes that the government cannot legislate love. Colmenares stated the evident discrimination in not allowing same-sex partners to be married. He also echoed Diokno’s earlier remarks, adding that legislation cannot also dissolve a personal love affair.
On the other hand, Hilbay announced he is in favor of same-sex marriage as he believes in equal citizenship. De Guzman also said he is in favor of same-sex marriage as one of his children is an LGBTQ+ individual and he respects people’s sexual orientations.
When the issue of long-term solution in improving the water supply of Cebu was brought up, Gutoc said that there should be a partnership between public and private sectors in providing solutions. Tañada shared his belief that there should be a department that would help solve the problems of water supply in the country. Hilbay said that the scientific community and stakeholders, like the indigenous people, should be involved in proposing long-term solutions. As for De Guzman, he supports the nationalization of water resources, However, is against the involvement of private sectors, which Colmenares agreed wirh. Diokno said there should be installment of proper infrastructure to solve the problems of water supply but criticized the Chico River Dam Project with China as it would harm national interests.
On the issue of the West Philippine Sea, Gutoc found it insulting that the fishermen are prohibited from fishing their own sea and that China, as a powerful country, should respect the Philippines as a fish-based economy, especially considering thatthe country heavily relies on fish agriculture. Tañada said that the country should stand in their ground and write to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to support the case against Xi Jinping, the president of China.
As for the issue of improving the public transportation system and the heavy traffic congestion of Cebu, Hilbay felt like transportation apps like Grab and Angkas only provide partial solutions anssuggested the formation of fast lanes on roads for specific public transportation vehicles to ease traffic. Tañada suggested an underground subway system as a solution to the traffic, which Colmenares believed the construction of such system would cause more traffic.
Other issues were discussed, such as the issue within the urban poor which some candidates like Hilbay and Tañada suggested mass housing and the issue of Chinese workers in the country was also brought up, which the candidates unanimously believed would harm national interest and emphasized in hiring Filipino workers as there is a large unemployment within the country, to name a few.
The candidates also acknowledged the false misconceptions about themselves in a considerably light manner, with Gutoc recalling a rumor that she is a Christian during election time as well as Diokno’s statements about death penalty that were taken out of context to appear that he supports rape.
In their closing statements, De Guzman emphasized checking the track records of every politicians whether it is election time or not. Tañada said that the people are the main stars of the election and any of the political discourses of the country and politicians should be God-fearing unlike President Rodrigo Duterte. Hilbay emphasized the importance of everyone using their political voice in public, not just within the premises of the university while Gutoc emphasized that the money that was spent on war should be spent on improving the literacy of the poor. Colmenares stated that the opinions of the Cebuano people are important in all political discourses of the country and Diokno said that the election puts everyone in the country on the edge of a cliff, he pleading everyone to vote for politicians that are loyal to the country, not to particular dynasties or the elite.
As per tradition of the Klarohay Ta! Forum, the candidates signed the Mega Cebu paddle to signify their commitment in implementing their agenda once they are elected in office.
The next candidates forum will be held on March 27, 2019 in the same venue, with Atty. Ernesto Arrellano, Edmundo Casino of Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP) and Luther Meniano of the Labor Party Philippines expected to appear as the next batch of guests.