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LIVE UPDATES: The CNN vice presidential debate

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Feb 26, 2022 5:12 pm Updated Mar 16, 2022 4:29 pm

Nine presidential candidates and seven vice presidential candidates are set to have a battle of wits and personality at the CNN Philippines' debates for the upcoming May elections.

The presidential debates will take place Feb. 27, while the vice presidential debates will take place Feb. 26, both at 5:00pm to 7:00pm.

Nine of 10 presidential bets in attendance are: Leody de Guzman, Ernesto Abella, Jose Montemayor Jr., Norberto Gonzales, Manny Pacquiao, Faisal Mangondato, Ping Lacson, Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso, and Leni Robredo.

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

Seven of nine vice presidential bets, meanwhile, will participate: Walden Bello, Rizalito David, Manny SD Lopez, Dr. Willie Ong, Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, Carlos Serapio, and Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, like her running mate Marcos Jr., will be a no-show. CNN said she didn't provide a reason.

Lito Atienza, though he confirmed his attendance last time, would have to beg off due to a knee replacement surgery.

The debates will be held at the University of Santo Tomas, where there will be limited live audience due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also have a livestream.

Vice presidential candidates ready to assume the presidency in case of an emergency

For the final round, the candidates were asked if they are ready to assume presidency in case of death, permanent disability or resignation of the president (as stated in the Philippine Constitution), and what would that leadership look like. Here are their answers.

Sotto: We believe in our competence, experience and I think we will be guided well. Not only by the good Lord but of course, the experience within 30 years. Mayroon kaming qualities na pinag-uusapan ni Sen. (Ping) Lacson na dala-dala namin dito sa eleksyon na ito: katapatan, kakayahan, katapangan. With these, I believe we will lead by example.

Serapio: By God's grace, I submit that I will be ready to assume the presidency should the occasion arise. I have thought a lot about presenting myself as a candidate in this coming election. I discerned, I reflected, I prayed.

I came to the conclusion that the 50 years of experience that I have been blessed to be part of, the advocacy work of the just ordering of society, will serve me in good stead should I be called to perform the duties of a president… With the blessing of God, I think I am ready, willing, and able to be president of this country.

Pangilinan: Uunahin natin 'yung mga nasa laylayan, mga mahihirap na mga kababayan… Hanggang sa ngayon ang mga mangingisda, magsasaka ang ating mga ipinaglalaban dahil sila ang kapos. Hindi makatarungan na kung sino pa ang nagpapakain sa atin, sila ang gutom.

Hindi katanggap-tanggap na ang isang tatang na nakilala ko, 87 years old, nagsasaka pa, baon pa sa utang, that is injustice, that is unacceptable and that’s the kind of leadership that they can rely on us, uunahin ang mga kapos.

Ong: Tuloy-tuloy 'yung polisiya na plano ng aming program ni Mayor Isko (Moreno Domagoso). Itutuloy lang po natin ito… Wala akong kaaway dito at wala po akong campaign funds. Hindi ako tumatanggap sa kahit sinong negosyante. Kung tsa-tsamba tayo na maging presidente, makaka-decide ako ng napakaganda. Kung ano ang decision niyo sa West Philippine Sea, mining, 'yun ang magiging decision ko dahil walang humahawak sa akin.

Lopez: I will fully commit to support the best, most qualified and committed presidential candidate who will serve the interest and welfare of our people… Bilang vice presidential candidate ng labor party, ako ay handang maglingkod sa sambayanan upang maitawid natin itong ating mga suliranin na ating haharapin sa mga darating na panahon. 

David: ’Yung preparasyon ko ay naririyan, kung 'yan po ay babagsak sa akin, tatanggapin ko po ng buong lugod at isasagawa ang mga bagay na dapat gawin para sa ating bayan.

We are destined for greatness and we only need leaders to do this for us, together with the people and share this vision. Kailangan natin ng malinaw na direksyon. Ako ay nakahanda para sa ganyang pagkakataon.

Bello: I'll be ready to assume (the presidency). But I want to air some of my problems. Sara Duterte is not here. They were watching us fighting one another. She's not here to reveal her programs because she has no program for the people. 

We need Sara Duterte and (Bongbong) Marcos to come and reveal themselves to the people… I think the main problem that we face is the Marcos-Duterte tandem. They just spat on the face of the Filipino people telling them you are not worthy of giving you their programs because they have f**king no programs. I feel very strongly about the absence of these two idiots in this event. 

VP bets' plans to improve tax collection, get rid of corruption

As for improving the national government's tax collection system, 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 one trillion pesos, Bello said, which should account for about 25% of the national budget.

Bello also took a swipe at the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law, as it gave big tax breaks to big companies.

CREATE law has lowered regular corporate income tax for domestic corporations from 30% to 20% and foreign businesses from 30 to 25%. Bello said about a trillion pesos has been lost in the process.

Sotto reiterated running mate, Senator Panfilo "Ping" 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.

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

Auditing procedures must also be improved, according to Lopez, by eliminating leakages in the public finance sector.

Pangilinan, meanwhile, was asked how he'll end corruption in the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). He said guilty, erring BIR officials must be punished "swiftly" through a modernized judiciary.

For Ong, he intends to come up with more ways to encourage the public to pay taxes by "simplifying" it, saying only 19% of the population does so.

As for getting rid of corruption, Ong likewise vowed to make government transactions digital, as well as retire BIR officials to "remove bad apples" in the bureau and rehire the clean ones instead.

Vice presidential candidates agree to rejoin the International Criminal Court

Sotto, Ong, Serapio, Pangilinan, Lopez and Bello all agreed to have the country rejoin the International Criminal Court, which the Philippines left in 2019 while under the Duterte administration. 

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

Bello then called out Sotto for “rewriting history” and his inaction against President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, and questioned the senator if he protected Senator Leila de Lima, who has been jailed since 2017. “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,” Bello said.

Sotto belied Bello’s claims and said he has “preserved the independence of the Senate, always.”

Meanwhile, 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.

For his part, Ong said the country needs a public health approach when it comes to dealing with drugs and addiction. 

According to Ong, the Philippines should focus on science-based approach when it comes to addiction, and remove the stigma of addiction, expand the availability of free medicines, and increase the number of psychologists and psychiatrists in the country.

VP bets' plans to help MSMEs affected by COVID-19, Typhoon Odette

The VP bets were asked how would they help micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as Typhoon Odette.

Serapio said the previous Bayanihan 2 law has sufficed in helping MSMEs, and would continue what has been started. He also wants to give more importance to research and development.

Pangilinan, meanwhile, echoed Robredo's platform to realign P100 billion from the national budget and give it to affected businesses. He noted that the P15 billion earmarked for MSMEs by the the Duterte administration was not enough.

Though the process would include certain restrictions, Pangilinan said, like business availing of cash aid may not lay off employees.

Bello, meanwhile, wants to repeal amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act.

Amendments include 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.

He called out Sotto for passing the measure to Congress and Pangilinan for signing it, which "liberalizes" foreign investments.

In rebuttal, Sotto said it's the only way to open up the economy.

Pangilinan, for his part, said totally eradicating foreign investments is impossible, as it's a necessity.

On preparation for the next pandemic

The vice presidential aspirants laid out their plans to prepare the country for the next pandemic.

Lopez subscribes to a science-based, cost-effective approach to pandemic management.

“Those in the level of decision-making with regards to pandemic response and recovery strategy, we should make it a point to have policies that will specifically address the issues beyond commercial and political interests because these bother our pandemic response," he said.

Sotto said the government should focus more on “prophylaxis” and look into drugs that are created in other parts of the world. He also urges the Food and Drug Administration to approve prophylaxes faster.

Meanwhile, David looks at tackling the pandemic through scientific and medical approach. “Kailangan talaga ng isang national consensus on what to do with the COVID-19 and other pandemic that will hit us in the future,” he said.

VP bets choose preferred Cabinet positions if elected in office

For the opening statement, vice presidential bets have been asked, "Which Cabinet position do you prefer?"

Walden Bello said he wants to be part of the Department of Finance, as he reiterated his running mate Leody De Guzman's platform to tax the country's richest families.  Bello also took a swipe at Duterte-Carpio for not attending the debates.

Rizalito David, meanwhile, hopes the president-elect will create a department that will focus on the country's "moral renewal and cultural restoration," which he wants to take charge of.

For Manny SD Lopez, it's the Department of Trade and Industry, as he wants businesses to bounce back amid the "unprecedented" COVID-19 pandemic.

Willie Ong prefers to be part of the Department of Health, though expressed willingness wherever he will be assigned.

Kiko Pangilinan wants any department that will handle agriculture and fishery.

Carlos Serapio said he will join the Department of Foreign Affairs, citing his educational background. Serapio underscored the importance of engaging with several countries and forging alliances.

Tito Sotto, meanwhile, is opting for the Dangerous Drugs Board and the Department of Interior and Local Government. Sotto said the "present situation" calls on the government to address the drug problem.