A peek into the minds of the contending aspirants for the highest post in the land as the election campaign period officially begins next week
De Guzman: Land reform will end insurgency
Labor leader and presidential aspirant Leody de Guzman plans to end the country’s 53-year-old communist insurgency by implementing a “proper and broad-based” land reform program.
“My solution is to respond to the demands of the [New People’s Army (NPA)] as stipulated in their documents. Their demand for true land reform is only just,” the labor leader said when asked on how he plans to end the communist insurgency during the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) presidential forum on Friday.
He noted that although the country has undertaken various agrarian reform programs for decades, previous presidents failed to implement it faithfully and disaffected sectors were forced to take up arms because of prevailing historical social injustice that favored the rich and oppressed the poor, ordinary Filipinos.
Various politicians have vowed to correct social injustices since the Rice Share Tenancy Act of 1933, but most of them were foiled by wealthy landowners who have since remained in control of vast tracts of land across the country.
Impose a wealth tax
De Guzman cited the case of the octogenarian in Pangasinan who admitted stealing mangoes from his neighbor’s land and generated sympathy from Filipinos who pointed out the irony that powerful officials convicted of corruption have not spent a day in prison.
“As long as there is injustice, we cannot stop people from taking up arms. I believe that if we respond to their demands, the [NPA] will no longer have a reason to take up arms,” De Guzman said.
In March 1969, members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that was founded just three months earlier formed the NPA and began an insurgency that has become the longest-running communist insurgency in the world.
All previous presidents after Ferdinand Marcos tried various schemes to end the insurgency, but all of them failed.
In the same forum, de Guzman also reiterated his plan to impose a wealth tax on the nation’s wealthiest families in order to help the economy recover from the pandemic.
He said he would resort to a people’s initiative if Congress would not pass the needed legislation to authorize the collection of a 20-percent wealth tax.
“It should go through Congress, but if Congress won’t pass it, we will use the people’s initiative to have this passed into law and we can impose a wealth tax on the rich,” De Guzman said.
He also rejected the mandatory military service, saying the country is not at war.
“I do not agree with methods of war, guns or killings. No one wins in that situation except for the big capitalists who produce ammunition and weapons,” de Guzman said, adding that the government should focus on addressing poverty and climate change.
He also reiterated his vow to impose a unified minimum wage across the nation, end contractualization, and offer more incentives and support to micro, small and medium enterprises.— Julie M. Aurelio
Lacson answers Dacer slay issue
Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Friday insisted that he didn’t violate any law when he fled the country and evaded arrest for more than a year from 2010 to 2011 in connection with his alleged involvement in the murder of publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in November 2000.
At the presidential forum organized by the KBP, the former Philippine National Police chief invoked Supreme Court jurisprudence, particularly the Miranda vs Tuliao case, which he said justified his legal option not to be taken into physical custody.
The Partido Reporma standard-bearer insisted that people facing an arrest warrant could file pleadings while in hiding, which meant that they could legally reject being put into physical custody.
“It is a choice, it is an option that I took … You know if it’s a Supreme Court ruling, it becomes part of the law of the land, so I didn’t violate anything,” Lacson said in answer to questions posed by broadcast journalist Ed Lingao.
“If my option is not to get jailed but to let the case continue and file pleadings, it’s a different story if the requirement before the Tuliao case came out is to put you in custody. That’s Catch 22,” he said.
“Because the warrant of arrest would just be archived and the case would not proceed. I exercised that option, so I didn’t violate any law,” Lacson said.
Case remains unsolved
The senator was a fugitive from early 2010 just before a court issued an arrest warrant against him. He had argued that the Dacer-Corbito case was being used by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration to persecute him.
The case involved the killings Dacer and Corbito, who were supposedly abducted in November 2000 while on their way to meet with former President Fidel Ramos and turn over documents exposing government corruption. Days later, their burned bodies were found inside their vehicle in Cavite.
Two farmers later pointed at four members of the now-defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force, which was then led by Lacson. The two farmers, however, were also arrested after they were found to have been involved in the burning of the two victims’ bodies. While Dacer and Corbito were positively identified through forensic evidence, the case remains unsolved.
By the time Lacson returned to the country after having the arrest warrant overturned, the new administration of then President Benigno Aquino III, who was his ally, had assumed office. — DJ Yap
Marcos skipped KBP forum but had room for Korina interview
Presidential aspirant and former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. spent Friday morning answering questions from TV host Korina Sanchez instead of joining the presidential forum of the KBP.
Marcos earlier declined to attend the live KBP forum, with his camp citing a conflict of schedule.
Marcos shared on Instagram stories a clip from the taping of his interview with Sanchez, wife of former Sen. Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party.
Marcos team set interview
In the clip, Sanchez was heard saying that Marcos was not difficult to invite and thanked him for accepting her request.
The interview included a cooking segment.
In her own Instagram account, Sanchez said it was Marcos’ team that set the date and time of their interview.
“To be clear: When we invited [Marcos] it was his team who chose the time and date. We had no choice,” she said in her post, where she shared a photo of the two of them.
She also disclosed some of the questions she asked him.
She asked him if he would pursue Charter change; if he is a dictator; if his wife will be like his mother Imelda Marcos; if his trolls revised history; how much will his presidency be like that of his fathers; if he is ready for the possibility that he could be disqualified even if he wins; if he will support antidynasty bills; if he does drugs; and what will be his policy on drugs and corruption.
“That’s just a teaser. Everything was answered,” she said.
Marcos’ chief of staff Victor Rodriguez said the interview with Sanchez was just one of the activities in Marcos’ “full schedule.”
In the KBP forum, which was aired live, five presidential candidates were asked to elaborate on their plans for various issues concerning the country as well as to respond to controversies arising from their previous actions or pronouncements.
Marcos earlier refused to face veteran journalist Jessica Soho, alleging that she was “biased” against the Marcoses.
GMA Network refuted this and pointed out that Soho has been consistently named the most trusted media personality in the Philippines.
Marcos also failed to attend a scheduled interview with dzBB, but his camp said this was due to connectivity issues in his location. —Leila B. Salaverria
Moreno: We should have rules on Excess campaign funds
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso on Friday called for additional guidelines on what electoral candidates were supposed to do with unused campaign donations as he fielded persistent questions about the over P50 million in excess contributions that he admitted keeping from his losing senatorial run in 2016.
At the presidential forum organized by the KBP, the Aksyon Demokratiko standard-bearer was asked if he “did the right thing” in keeping the extra cash.
“That’s a good point. In the future, we should lay out rules that can guide all our candidates. At the time, what I was thinking of was to perform my duty as a citizen and pay my taxes,” he said.
What was important, according to the 47-year-old presidential aspirant, “is that a candidate is honest whether anyone is looking or not,” Domagoso said in reply to a comment about the propriety of keeping campaign contributions as income.
P50-M surplus funds
He surmised that his admission of keeping the money, first made during a GMA7 television interview last month, was likely unheard of among the candidates, which he said could be why it was courting controversy.
“It might be unique in your view because no candidate probably has publicly talked about having excess funds and paying taxes. For me, I only did what was expected of an obedient citizen, according to the law,” Domagoso said in Filipino.
“In fact, I asked the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) what should I do. They said, ‘pay tax.’ I paid tax,” he said.
Domagoso received P171 million in campaign contributions in his failed candidacy for a Senate seat, based on his statement of election contributions and expenditures. He declared P120.19 million in campaign expenses, leaving a surplus of more than P50 million.
On Wednesday, he was asked in a dzBB radio interview what he did with the money.
“Naitabi naman natin nang maayos. Masinop naman ako sa pera, awa ng Diyos (We kept it properly. I am responsible with money, with God’s mercy),” he said.
Domagoso also denied buying a mansion with the money. “Mansion? Naku, wala (Oh no, there’s no such thing),” he said. —DJ Yap
Pacquiao vows to focus on nontax revenues
Boxing champion and presidential candidate Sen. Manny Pacquiao wants to increase the state’s earnings from nontax sources to fund antipoverty projects and stamp out corruption, if he wins the May elections.
In a presidential forum on Friday, Pacquiao repeatedly stressed the need to lessen dependence on revenues on taxes, saying much of these earnings are lost to corruption.
“We should improve our nontax revenues because our revenues are lost to corruption, and this is why our country is suffering. We are spending more than we are earning … Nontax revenue only contributes 6 percent of the government’s income,” he said.
“We need to focus on that so that people won’t suffer and they will have a little comfort in doing business,” he said.
It was unclear as to how he plans to improve earnings from nontax income, which refers to the government’s collections in exchange for services rendered, assets conveyed, penalties imposed, etc.
Tax revenues, on the other hand, refer to taxes on income and profits earned or received by an individual or corporate taxpayer, taxes on the use or sale of goods and services, import and customs duties, real property taxes, etc.
As to his anticorruption drive, Pacquiao reiterated his plan to build a “mega prison,” which will serve as a detention facility for those arrested or convicted of corruption, and will even help decongest jails and prisons.
“We will also strengthen the Presidential Commission on Good Government. What is meant for the government, should be for the government … Our country has suffered because of thieves in government, so we must stamp that out,” he said.
Asked on how he plans to implement his platform of government amid questions over his lack of experience, the retired boxing champ-turned-lawmaker said he would be a strict leader and “appoint trustworthy, honest and capable people to government agencies.”
Pacquiao also weighed in on issues such as online cockfight games, reclamation, infrastructure projects and the creation of the Boracay Island Development Authority.
Pacquiao said cockfighting was part of Filipino culture and that its online form only needs to be regulated and managed to keep minor bettors out.
“It only needs to be regulated. If people want to place bets, that’s up to them. We should teach them discipline in managing themselves and their income. I am not in favor of closing down e-
sabong,” Pacquiao said. Online cockfighting is estimated to be bringing around P400 million a month in earnings for the government.
He said he was not against reclamation but said projects should be assessed carefully with the local community’s interests in mind.
He also said he would also pursue big-ticket infrastructure projects, such as the Mindanao railway project and even extend it to his home turf, General Santos City, Maguindanao and Zamboanga. —Julie M. Aurelio
Robredo proposes ‘open discussions’ on runoff elections
It is high time for the Philippines to discuss the possibility of holding runoff elections, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Friday, as she discussed several possible reforms to strengthen politics in the country.
During the KBP forum for presidential candidates that aired on Friday, Robredo said the country must “open discussions” on runoff elections, which are the norm in other democratic countries.
Runoffs are common in primary elections, where voters choose the candidates to run on the ballot for a particular political party. A runoff election essentially ensures that a winning candidate meets the required threshold for votes.
“We need to talk about whether that would work for us,” she said.
Apart from that, Robredo also floated the possibility of banning turncoatism among political parties, to establish clear ideological lines among those seeking public office.
The Vice President has always been keen on putting a stop to this practice, as she believes that political parties should represent clear advocacies and principles, not a means to propel one’s candidacy and political ambitions.
Unlike most countries, the Philippines is home to several parties centered around political figures rather than ideological differences.
For her part, Robredo chairs the once-ruling Liberal Party, which was then deserted by its members when President Duterte took office in 2016.
She also wants to pass legislation that would ban premature campaigning as well as electoral substitutions “as these are prone to so many abuses.”
These measures, she said, would not only strengthen politics here but “would also help revive our democracy.” —Krixia Subingsubing
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