Leading contenders for the presidency share their views on a number of issues in one-on-one interviews with "Asia's King of Talk" Boy Abunda. Sen. Panfilo 'Ping' Lacson kicks off the presidential interviews, which made sure that the candidates answered the same questions and were given equal time to answer them.
The STAR and PhilSTAR L!fe will be carrying excerpts from the Abunda interviews as collated by the Lifestyle team starting today, Jan. 24.
ON MINING & THE ENVIRONMENT
Where do you stand on the issue of sustainable versus a total ban on mining? Why?
The bottom line is responsible mining. It should address the issues on the environment. We cannot kill mining because it is a major industry. Decisions should be data-driven and science-based, not just for mining.
There are many violations committed in small-scale mining. There is the problem of bureaucracy and corruption, if somebody gives lagay (bribery). they give permits. There’s the palakasan system and the problem of implementation.
That’s where we need environmentalists and NGOs who are always watching.
There should be a single standard for all miners. Leadership by example is important. And implementation. We need to put the people’s trust back in government.
ON COVID-19 AND THE PANDEMIC
Given the unpredictability and viciousness of this virus, what would be your program to combat COVID-19?
First, there’s a need to be pro-active. Remember the Wuhan couple who boarded domestic flights here – that’s when the virus began to spread.
We in the Senate asked if the authorities were able to monitor and do contract tracing. They said they were able to trace only 17% . We didn’t ban the Chinese tourists from entering because it was said China is our friend and they bring in business.
And with the Omicron, we knew what was happening in Europe and America, but we were only reacting, rather than doing something to prevent it. When businesses offered to take care of their employees’ vaccination, the LGUs reacted by saying they would take care of it. The thing is, there’s no tradeoff between health and economy. Put the right persons in the right positions. Either a health background or a finance man.
The first thing we need is internal cleansing. I did this in PNP. You can’t start from the outside. We have 1.4 Million government officials. I don’t care if only 500 thousand remain as long as they’re honest and hardworking.
Yes, the Covid handling of this government is a failure.
As PNP chief I was able to fight corruption, and as a senator, I am still doing this. That’s why I have many enemies in the Senate. I block insertions. I don’t get pork barrel.
How will you deal with the urgent problems of joblessness and hunger in the country if you become President?
The problem here is corruption. Instead of the government spending on social services, livelihood and infrastructure, money goes to the pockets of a few.
To lift the people from poverty, instead of giving just dole-outs, we should harness their skills so they can be productive citizens. So it should not just be pantawid – but pang-ahon sa kahirapan.
This dole-out mentality prevails, especially during elections.
I asked my staff to check, and I have saved the government about P300 billion during the past 18 years.
Yes, 20% of the national budget, which is around P700 billion, goes to corruption. From 2010 to 2020, the unused budget was P328 billion per year. Imagine if this was used for productive endeavors! Poor planning.
We should first of all get rid of the unused amount in our budget. Remove the wastages.
As PNP chief I was able to fight corruption, and as senator I am still doing it. That’s why I have many enemies in the Senate. I block insertions. I don’t get pork barrel. Pork barrel per se is not bad. But the perception is that those who use it get commissions. That is why I decided not to use it.
ON OFW/ MIGRANTS
How will you balance the economic contribution of OFWs and the unquantifiable social cost of migration?
There should be government intervention. We call them the new heroes, but do we treat them like heroes? We don’t even have a retirement program for them when they come back to the Philippines. It’s good that a department has been created to handle OFWs, but again we have to watch the implementation
As for the unquantifiable social cost of migration that leads to the destruction of families, the world has become smaller because of modern communication technology. We can use that not only for the OFW but also for those nangungulila, those left behind.
ON SOCIAL MEDIA, PROLIFERATION OF PORNOGRAPHY
How will you handle the issue of cyberporn?
Basic education starts at home, but parents may be too busy working and they don’t realize their child is into cyber pornography. Professional help from psychiatrists must be sought here.
We should have a government agency focusing on this problem, especially since our country has become the number one porn hub. Again, we have to be proactive rather than reactive. There is also a disconnect between our government leaders and the citizenry because they have lost respect and trust in our government. This trust cannot be demanded, it has to be earned.
So the government should be strong-willed; It should have one standard; it should set an example.
ON RAPE-RELATED ABORTION
Is it time to enact a law on abortion that would allow pregnant rape victims the choice of legal and safe abortion?
Should we enact a law that would allow pregnant rape victims the choice of legal and safe abortions?
The number one problem of our country is government. And the solution is government.
I will be honest, I’m not prepared to answer this question because I don’t have enough data on this. I have first to know the far-reaching implications.
On a personal level, my instinctive response is we should not abort. And with government intervention, we should provide help in raising the child, and in reducing the trauma of the mother.
Are we already a narco country? What is your program to counter the drug problem?
I don’t think we have reached that point where we are a narco country. We are still far from being a Mexico or Colombia. Duterte ran on a platform of anti-illegal drugs and he won. But he should not have set a self-imposed deadline. The thing is, the government focused on law enforcement. They forget the prevention and rehabilitation aspects. Senate President Sotto and I discussed this, and he said, leave this problem to me, I know how to handle it. He was once the Dangerous Drugs Board chairman. And he authored the Dangerous Drugs Act and the amendatory laws.
There should be demand-reduction and supply-reduction on drugs. Where do the drugs come from? Customs! We catch 10 kilos,100 kilos,but how much goes through Customs! The enforcers are able to catch here and there but how much are they not able to catch? Again, corruption!
ON PHILIPPINE DEBT
If you win as President of the Philippines, how will you tackle the payment of our national debt?
To pay for our debt, we need to balance our budget. Meaning, whatever we just need for our economy to move, give social services and livelihood, let’s stick to that. Why does our debt go up every year? ( As of November 2021, it’s 11.93 Trillion pesos). We should first of all get rid of the unused amount in our budget. Remove the wastages. Two targets: Expenditure side and revenue side. Stop corruption so we can have more revenue. A grandfather was imprisoned for days for stealing mangoes from his neighbor. But those who stole millions and continue to steal millions go around with police escorts and bodyguards.
Yes, we should put them in jail. I will start with those who I know are obviously corrupt and nobody will complain. Of course there is due process. The ordinary thieves, they get the whip surely and fast. But the big-time thieves, they stay big, they stay powerful.
ON THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
If all diplomatic efforts fail, as president, do you think the Philippines is strong enough and prepared to fight a defensive war against China to protect our territorial soil?
No. That’s the reason why we have to strengthen our alliances with the equally militarily strong countries like the US, European Union countries, Australia. These are countries with their own interests in the West Philippine Sea. Kasi hindi natin kaya talaga. Very weak tayo militarily. We have weapons in our arsenal that we have not tapped. Mutual defense treaty. It’s there. An assault on a public vessel of either country is an assault to the sovereignty of either party. So for me, balance of power in the West Philippine Sea. I went to Pag-asa Island, I talked to the (Wescom) commander, the American warship tried to enter the area which China insists is theirs and no one can enter.
When they were challenged, the warship captain said: The right of innocent passage. Hindi sila ginalaw.(They were untouched.)
That means they couldn’t attack or water-cannon the Americans. So balance of power. Foreign policy is always anchored on national interest. That cannot be denied. May national interest sila diyan. First of all, freedom of navigation. If China controls,the freedom of navigation will be gone.
The decision of the arbitral court, although not enforceable, is permanent. But that ruling cannot be solved by war. It can be resolved through international pressure.
We have always been bullied by China. When I went to Pag-asa as a senator, we were being challenged, we heard the pilot say pwede namin kayo bombahin (we can have you bombed). You know what was on my mind? Mamatay na kung mamatay! (I will die if I have to!) It would be a shame for me, a Philippine senator, to back out. We were challenged. This is ours.
ON PRESIDENTIAL QUALIFICATIONS
Is it high time to amend the Constitution on the qualifications to run for President of the country?
We should amend the qualifications. We have to raise them. We have to amend the Constitution. Especially now as you said, the duties are daunting, during this pandemic.
But of course, bottom line is, it’s up to the people to decide. Vox populi, vox dei. Maybe it’s time for our voters to be more discerning. They should not be swayed by the politics of entertainment. Let’s shift to serious politics. Voters are swayed by factors like, who gave the bigger dole-out. So sad…Regarding entertainment. That’s where my campaign team and I disagree — they want you to dance . But I have a threshold on that. We’re facing serious problems that need solutions. I can as long as my authenticity is not sacrificed. I can be pliant but only up to a certain point.
The number one problem of our country is government. And the solution is government. Of course, the Constitution is saying we shouldn’t look at class. Kahit hindi nakapag-aral, pwedeng mangarap. (Even the uneducated have the right to dream). Maraming may Ph.D na mas magaling magnakaw kaysa magsilbi. (There are Ph.D. graduates who are better at stealing than serving).
ON PERSONAL ISSUES
Do you regret having withdrawn your support from then President Joseph Estrada in 2001?
No, I don’t regret having withdrawn support for President Joseph Estrada. When he was VP, I could see up close that he had the noblest of intentions. But somewhere along the way, a lot of things changed when he became president.
Q: Why should one not vote for Senator Pacquiao?
A: Because I am running for President.
Q: Why should people vote for you?
A: I’ll be a bit arrogant: I’m the most qualified, I’m the most competent, I’m the most experienced.
Q: On Duterte and the ICC desire to investigate crimes against humanity, for the sake of the victims. Will you allow ICC?
A: The ICC is a court of the powerless. So you know my answer: Papayag ako.