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7 out of 9 candidates face off at first vice presidential debate

By Nick Garcia and Pinky S. Icamen Published Feb 27, 2022 11:30 am


qCNN Philippines recently hosted the first vice presidential debate, where seven out of nine candidates for the May 2022 polls present their platforms and discuss key national issues.

Former Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, pro-life advocate Rizalito David, economist Manny SD Lopez, Dr. Willie Ong, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, lawyer Carlos Serapio, and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III went head to head at the debate held at the University of Santo Tomas Quadricentennial Pavilion in Manila.

Absent from the debate were Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who did not provide a reason according to CNN, and Deputy House Speaker Lito Atienza, who begged off due to a knee replacement surgery. Podiums were left empty for those who skipped the debate. 

The debate, moderated by Rico Hizon and Ruth Cabal, saw heated exchanges between candidates, mostly initiated by Bello, who criticized Sotto and Pangilinan on their stand on certain issues. Bello trended on Twitter as he lambasted and hurled expletives at Carpio-Duterte and Marcos for being no-shows, calling them cowards.

On Feb. 27, 5 p.m., CNN is also hosting the presidential debate where nine of 10 presidential bets confirmed attendance, including labor leader Leody de Guzman, former presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, Dr. Jose Montemayor Jr., former Defense secretary Norberto Gonzales, Senators Manny Pacquiao and Panfilo “Ping Lacson, businessman Faisal Mangondato, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, and Vice President Leni Robredo. 

Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is the only presidential aspirant skipping the event, citing "conflict of schedule" as excuse.

Check out the highlights of the first vice presidential debate, and see each candidate’s stand on some of the pressing issues in the Philippines today. 

On securing PH's maritime borders from China

Pangilinan said the Philippines should engage with other Southeast Asian nations like Indonesia and Vietnam, which are "also concerned" about China's aggression, as well as "align and strengthen" alliances with the United States, Australia, and Japan to deal with the "fake claim" that is the nine-dash line.

The Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy must also resume their patrols in the West Philippine Sea, Pangilinan said, to protect it from illegal fishing.

Sotto, like Pangilinan, would also turn to foreign aid in asserting our rights, through the country's Mutual Defense Treaty with the U.S. He also referred to the bill he filed that seeks the creation of establishing maritime zones.

David, meanwhile, took a swipe at Pangilinan and Sotto, saying since the Aquino and Duterte administration, nothing has been done to fight China over the West Philippine Sea dispute.

But the late president Noynoy Aquino had filed an arbitration case against China in 2013, which the Philippines won in 2016.

Duterte, however, has maintained a lukewarm stance toward China for the most of his term, even calling the arbitral victory a mere piece of paper that should be thrown away in a waste basket.

For his part, Bello criticized Pangilinan and Sotto's stances, saying the Philippines should have an independent foreign policy.

On their plans for the country in the event that another pandemic will occur

Lopez would subscribe to science-based and cost-effective approach to pandemic management, and would foster the bayanihan spirit among Filipinos. 

“We should make it a point to have policies that will specifically address the issues beyond commercial and political interests because this is what really bothers our pandemic response,” he said. “We could do better by caring more for each other.”

For Tito Sotto, it’s “treatment, prevention, prophylaxis.” He said the Food and Drug Administration should approve prophylaxes (which help prevent development of a specific disease) faster. He also said the public health standards and protocols should remain.

Rizalito David looks at tackling the pandemic through scientific and medical approach, saying there is a need for a national consensus within the scientific community in preparation for another pandemic.

On rejoining or cooperating with the International Criminal Court

Most of the vice presidential candidates agrees to rejoin the International Criminal Court, which  President Rodrigo Duterte pulled out the Philippines from in 2019 after its preliminary probe on his war on drugs that reportedly left thousands dead. 

In November 2021, the ICC temporarily suspended its investigation, with the Philippine government reiterating the international tribunal has no jurisdiction over the country.

Sotto, Ong, Serapio, Pangilinan, Lopez and Bello all agreed to rejoin the ICC.

Bello said he will fully cooperate and make sure that there is coordination between the justice system and the ICC. He also noted, “Duterte cannot escape this responsibility.”

Lopez said he supports the war on drugs as he sees the implications of the country becoming a narco-state. However, he also believes that human rights should be protected. On cooperation with the ICC, Lopez thinks bringing in “foreign interference” is not a good idea, and the Philippines rejoining the international tribunal has be timely.

In this segment, Bello called out Sotto for his alleged inaction against President Duterte’s controversial war on drugs. “He was just supportive during that time the President was destroying the integrity of the Senate. You were an ally of the President until just recently,” he said.

Sotto belied Bello’s claims that he is an ally of the President and said he has always preserved the independence of the Senate.

On political dynasties 

Carlos Serapio pointed out the clash between the old system, which is a “oligarchic and elitist dynastic power base,” and the new system, which aims to end political dynasties in the country.

He added that the “constitution itself would provide that political dynasty should definitely not be tolerated.”

As of 2021, a number of anti-political dynasty bills that have been filed before the 18th Congress remains pending at the committee level. 

For his part, Ong said he is not in favor of political dynasties but there could be alternatives for those whose families are in public service. These include a gap in between terms “para at least hindi gamitin ‘yung resources nung nahalal para tulungan yung kamag-anak niya.” He also suggested a limit on the number of family members can run. 

Meanwhile, Bello lambasted the political dynasties of Duterte-Carpio and Bongbong Marcos, and how they represent “the greatest evil of the political system that we have.” He urged Filipinos not to elect the tandem he called “dynastic cliques” into power. 

Bello also expressed his dismay over the Davao City mayor missing the debate, much like her running mate, who said he will not attend the Feb. 27 presidential debate of the network. “She is a coward just like Bongbong Marcos is a f**king coward.”

On improving tax collections, addressing corruption in BIR

Sotto reiterated Lacson's push for digitalization of government processes. This, he said, would lessen corruption, and in turn, improve tax collection that an increase may no longer be necessary.

Ong agreed with Sotto, while also proposing to retire allegedly corrupt officials in the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to "remove bad apples" and rehire the clean ones instead.

Lopez is also in favor of digitalization or "e-governance," saying it would make tax collection more efficient. He also wants more penalties for tax evasion.

Auditing procedures must also be improved, he added, by eliminating leakages in the public finance sector.

Pangilinan, meanwhile, said erring BIR officials must be punished "swiftly" through a modernized judiciary. The justice system must also receive increased financial support, he added.

Bello reiterated De Guzman's proposed wealth tax, saying the country's top 250 to 500 billionaires must be taxed for 1% to 3% of their net worth. This will yield about P1 trillion, Bello said, which should account for about 25% of the national budget.

On helping MSMEs amid COVID-19 struggles, Typhoon Odette's aftermath

Pangilinan said he and standard bearer Robredo would realign P100 billion from the national budget and give it to affected businesses, noting that the P15 billion earmarked for MSMEs by the Duterte administration wasn't enough.

Sotto mentioned his plan with standard bearer Lacson to distribute one billion pesos each to all of the country's 81 provinces.

Bello, meanwhile, is doubling down on his and De Guzman's plan to earmark an ambitious P250 billion for MSMEs.

He also wants to repeal amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization and Foreign Investment Acts.

Amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act included the reduction of minimum paid-up capital requirements for foreign retail enterprises, removal of a certificate of pre-qualification to the Philippine Board of Investments, and the lowering of investment requirements for each foreign enterprise's owned store.

For Foreign Investment Act, it included a reduction to mandatory direct local hires of foreign investors.

Bello also called out Sotto for pushing "foreign-oriented" laws through Congress and Pangilinan for signing them.

In their defense, Sotto and Pangilinan said the measures were means to help open up country's economy.

Serapio, meanwhile, said the previous Bayanihan 2 law has sufficed in helping MSMEs, and would continue what has been started.