Would "talpakan" days soon be over? Five presidential candidates weighed in on banning e-sabong or online cockfighting in the country as well as other pressing issues during the presidential forum organized by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) on Feb. 4.
Present during the forum hosted by ABS-CBN's Karen Davila and CNN Philippines' Rico Hizon were presidential aspirants Leody de Guzman, Isko Moreno Domagoso, Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, Manny Pacquiao and Leni Robredo. Bongbong Marcos has earlier declined the invitation to the foum citing a 'conflict of schedule.'
The legalization of e-sabong was one of the first socio-political issues raised by KBP members from local chapters who were given the chance to field questions to the presidential bets.
Robredo said she doesn't agree with anything that would "cause addiction" among Filipinos, as it affects their values system. But Robredo also said that legalizing e-sabong won't be up to her, since it's Congress that would grant the franchise.
De Guzman, meanwhile, said he doesn't approve of e-sabong and would push for its eradication, citing stories "ng nasiraan ng ulo, nagpakamatay dahil diyan sa sugal na iyan." De Guzman also said he would instead focus on more pressing issues like health, livelihood, and climate change.
For Lacson, a thorough study on e-sabong must be conducted first to determine its social cost and security, especially that there are minors getting engaged in the activity.
Domagoso, on the other hand, is in favor of e-sabong, saying that it would still exist even if it gets banned. Domagoso said, he would instead "put them in a legal manner or under the authority and under the supervision of the state."
Pacquiao also defended e-sabong, banking on the fact that it's part of Philippine culture and tradition. The senator said he would rather regulate it and ensure that only qualified individuals may play.
Here's how the candidates answered the rest of the issues thrown at them during the forum:
On healthcare in island provinces
Robredo said she'll push for a "community-based" healthcare system by building tertiary hospitals per region so patients won't rush to Metro Manila hospitals. She also vowed to supply enough medical equipment to health facilities outside of the capital.
For De Guzman, he'll boost the agriculture sector to let Filipinos to consume more and healthier food to help prevent diseases. He'll also give the education sector a push to create a breed of quality healthcare workers in the future.
Domagoso, meanwhile, said he'll implement Manila City's hospital construction projects on a national scale, building 10-story hospitals filled with medical equipment.
Lacson will fully implement the Universal Healthcare Law, which enrolls all Filipinos in the National Health Insurance Program and guarantees equitable access to quality, affordable healthcare services. He said he'll also fully invest P257 billion in the measure.
Under Pacquiao's leadership, he'll increase the salary of healthcare workers and push for the creation of tertiary hospitals in provinces and medical facilities even in barangays.
On the Mindanao railway project and other big-ticket projects under the Build, Build, Build program
Lacson said that while BBB projects with "perfected" contracts must be fulfilled, he's more open to public-private partnership (PPP) as the country still has an outstanding debt of P11.7 trillion.
Domagoso said he'd also continue BBB, including railways, while building more houses and schools to boot. He's also pushing for PPP.
As for Pacquiao, he said BBB must carry on as it would improve economic growth and development. He'd also ensure building not only railways in Mindanao but also improving the country's transportation system.
Robredo, meanwhile, would focus on the rural development aspect of BBB, like resources management, public transport, and reconstruction of housing projects. Already ongoing projects would also continue "basta wala itong problema," she said.
De Guzman said he agrees with BBB in general, and would green-light construction of railways not only in Mindanao but also in the whole country. He also vowed to reallocate funds of BBB projects in limbo to the health sector.
On the Boracay Island Development Authority or "BIDA" bill that seeks the creation of a government-owned and -controlled corporation to run Boracay
Lacson said he will sign the law, as having a regulatory body in the island would ensure that the country's tourism sector would see much development.
De Guzman, meanwhile, said he'll sign it as it's the country's means of offsetting economic losses due to COVID-19, but only if communities would be involved in decision-making.
Robredo declined, saying local government units and stakeholders would lose voices if she'll support the measure.
Domagoso echoed her sentiments, saying there are already enough laws addressing tourism regulation, and that the government shouldn't fix something that isn't destroyed.
For Pacquiao, he simply asked: "Kailangan pa ba iyon," saying the Department of Tourism already suffices.
On reclamation projects
De Guzman said it should be stopped, as it's only big capitalists who benefit at the expense of the public and Mother Nature.
Domagoso, however, agreed to reclamation projects, especially if it would create more jobs, generate income, and pay off the country's debts. But he warned that "all environmental regulations" must be obeyed.
For Lacson, policy decisions should be science-based and data-driven. He noted that reclamation should depend on the area's needs and must first be consulted with experts.
Pacquiao said he isn't against reclamation projects, as long as there are local consultations and they won't harm the environment.
Robredo, meanwhile, said stakeholders, the people's council, and the science community must be given power to decide over reclamation projects, adding that economic cost should never come at the environment's expense.
On drugs and the congestion of jail facilities
Pacquiao said he'll push for the creation of a "megaprison" that can house more inmates and prevent overcrowding in correction facilities.
Domagoso, meanwhile, will go after the roots of the drug problem that is the supply chain, saying it would lead to the "natural death" of the illegal drug trade.
As for De Guzman, he said he won't implement a "Patay, Patay, Patay," policy, in a seeming play at the Build, Build, Build and a jab to the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs. He'd instead give laws on illegal drugs more teeth, go after drug lords and financiers, and rehabilitate drug users for their "health problem."
Lacson said his "comprehensive, holistic" approach in addressing the drug problem would include market constriction and demand reduction. He'd also push for a "regionalized" prison system so prisoners won't be squeezed into New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.
Robredo, for her part, would amend the duration of penalities imposed on offenders of the Dangerous Drugs Law. This, she said, would help decongest prisons, whose inmates are mostly involved in drug cases.