You are who you vote for: A crammer’s guide on the 2019 Senate bets (Part One)

May 06, 2019 – Vinz Lamorena

Part one of a series

It’s that kind of year again. 2019 is when we head back to our voting precincts and decide who will represent our voices in the country’s legislature for the next term to come. We’ve reached the point of the cycle where we peak on reckless hope and bullish ambition. After all, it’s only right for us to have better aspirations for our country as we shade the names of the people who we trust will fight for our rights, seek the needs of the marginalized, and, above all, maintain justice, sovereignty, and democracy in our nation.

We’ve always been told to look at platforms over popularity, but our current administrative slate argues otherwise. There will be 62 names on the ballot, so our advise, dear Filipino voters, is to learn more about the integrity, convictions (both meanings of the word), and policy focuses of the people behind the names you’ll be seeing on your ballot come May 13.

Featured on this list are 20 Senate bets from Evangeline Abejo to Glenn Chong.

Abejo, Evangeline (Independent)

First on the list is a Cebuano urban poor and civic leader whose main advocacies are economic security and financial literacy. If elected, she wants to focus on creating a comprehensive policy to eradicate poverty and propose a fixed budget allocation of P50 billion pesos for housing in each major island group.

The vice chair of the national urban poor sector council in Visayas believes public officials must be honest, and yet Abejo says she will vote for Sara Duterte, who stands otherwise, if the Davao mayor ever decides to run for president. This candidate wishes to be endorsed by President Duterte himself and remains undecided whether the iron fist’s war on drugs involves extrajudicial killings in its cause.

Abejo also supports the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility (or MACR) for minors, emphasizing that these children are being used as mules by syndicates and criminal groups for illegal activity. Yes, let’s put these unknowing children in jail, shall we?


Afuang, Abner (Workers and Peasants Party)

While this retired policeman isn’t a fan of going on the more diplomatic route, he is one who’ll be on the Philippines’ side of sovereignty—a combination that seems quite hard to come by these days. Through the years, he’s made a couple of headlines burning and defacing flags of countries the Philippines comes into conflict with (China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore). You can call this a puny act of rebellion, but it is symbolic protest nonetheless.

The former mayor of Pagsanjan, Laguna, also wants to focus on policies and platforms against criminality and corruption. Afuang, now 75 years old, is also positioning himself as an ally of senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and overseas Filipino workers. He’s proposing that the PWDs and senior citizens enjoy a 30 percent discount, free parking at any establishment, and no toll fees at expressways.

You might even remember him as the guy who disturbed a Senate Committee hearing and poured water on Hayden Kho when he was being questioned on his sex video scandals, but Afuang should more importantly be known for his stance on current issues. He believes in the reinstatement of death penalty for all heinous crimes, but is against the lowering of the MACR. He also strongly opposes the TRAIN law and value-added taxes.


Aguilar, Freddie (Independent)

Freddie Aguilar can talk in English. That’s only one of the reasons why President Duterte thinks this folk artist is smart. During the EDSA People Power, his remake of “Bayan Ko” was the revolutionary anthem of the time. Known for his international classic hit “Anak,” Ka-Freddie has also been recognized for his contributions to the Philippine arts and culture scene in 2018. He also had a brief stint as a presidential adviser for arts and culture.

The singer supports the current administration’s campaign against criminality and drugs, despite its implications and evidence on human rights violations. The artist also wishes that a jury system be adopted, which will be represented by individuals whom he said “will be fair to the rich and poor.”

One of Aguilar’s goals is to improve job security in the entertainment industry, ensuring that a proper minimum wage standard is set and working individuals are all provided institutional benefits. He also proposes to create jobs for poor communities and indigenous groups by allocating funds for the construction of markets, shopping centers, and factories.

He says it took 40 years before he was finally convinced to run for public office. That’s roughly the same number of years in age gap that Aguilar shares with his partner. Their relationship sparked controversy and criticism when the singer revealed his intent to marry his then 16-year-old girlfriend in 2013.


Albani, Shariff (Workers and Peasants Party)

Shariff Albani wants to represent Mindanao and the Muslim community in the Senate. This candidate says he wants to “bring peace, unity, and autonomous growth in Mindanao.” He also thinks that most problems in local communities are based on religion, so he would like to make a law that would create an interfaith department. 

He supports the Bangsamoro Basic Law as well as Federalism. While he names himself a peace advocate, Albani is in favor of the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao. He would also vote for the reinstatement of death penalty.

He’s tried his luck as Tawi-Tawi governor and counselor, as well as two bids for a Senate seat but has never won. If elected, however, Albani said he will be willing to give away his salary to the public. “I have to give it to the people because that’s the money of the people.”


Alejano, Gary (Liberal Party)

This former marine snipper has a lot of guts. Not only was he part of the unsuccessful 2003 Oakwood Mutiny that tried to overthrow former Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo following corruption allegations, he’s also a vocal critic of the Duterte administration. In fact, Alejano was the one who filed the first impeachment complaint against the president in 2017, stating violations in the Constitution, betraying public trust, and committing graft and corruption among the chief executive’s list of high crimes.

Alejano’s policy focus will be on national security and defense of democracy. Alejano is determined to establish a Department of Maritime Oceanic Affairs in the Senate which would identify maritime domain and create a clear security framework to provide solution to issues involving the West Philippine Sea.

As a representative for the Magdalo Partylist, Alejano has authored and cosponsored 21 bills that were passed into law in the 17th Congress. When it comes to his stance in several issues, he is against the extension of martial law in Mindanao, lowering of MACR, removal of term limits, TRAIN law, federalism, same-sex marriage, and divorce.


Alfajora, Richard (Independent)

Richard Alfajora is a farmer and broadcaster from Cebu. It’s his first time running for senator, and first on his list if elected is advancing the cause of Federalism. Although he disapproves of Oplan Tokhang, he shares Duterte’s sentiment on drugs. He said each home would enjoy peace and security if drugs were eradicated from the streets. That’s why Alfajora is proposing that barangay tanods be integrated in the Philippine National Police to assure drug lords are not protected by these community leaders.

He also wants to bid goodbye to PCOS machines. Instead, an upgraded system of electronic ballots and touch-screen digital devices with nonrewritable memory would be used. He said he will also prioritize legislature on the environment, adding that we should invest in technology to find alternatives to coal.


Alunan, Raffy (Bagumbayan Party)

Raffy Alunan is a name known to many presidents. So even though he lost his 2016 Senate bid, this man isn’t a rookie in the field of politics and governance. He has served as the Tourism Secretary during Cory Aquino’s term, while former Fidel Ramos appointed him as Interior Secretary. Now, he’s both endorsed by Duterte and House Speaker Arroyo.

Alunan agrees that the illegal drug trade is a “big social problem.” Naturally, he isn’t disappointed with the outcome of Duterte’s drug war. His support remains firm even though the President went back on his promise of eradicating the country’s drug problem in “three to six months.” 

Now, Alunan is also the lead convener of the West Philippine Sea Coalition, which aims to protect Philippine territories. This senatorial hopeful is also determined to restore death penalty for crimes of environmental destruction, murder, drugs, terrorism, human trafficking, plunder and corruption.


Angara, Sonny (Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino)

Sonny Angara is running for a reelection. Of course, he has nothing but support for the TRAIN law he has sponsored and shepherded himself. The administration’s tax reform package was partly blamed for the high inflation experienced by the economy last year. 

But that’s not all he’s supporting. Federalism, the Bangsamoro Basic Law, extension of Martial rule in Mindanao, and the Anti-political Dynasty Law also get a yes from this senatorial bet. Quite the hard worker, Angara has a total of 172 bills passed into law since 2016. He’s a notable ally of OFWs, ensuring they are protected and widely represented as they seek government support.

Angara is the type of guy who likes to align himself with the youth, too. So he’s pretty much active on social media. Sadly, he has the kind of online wit (and urge to be hip) that sometimes bites him in the butt. 


Aquino, Bam (Liberal Party)

Sure, Bam Aquino has a famous last name—and it’s probably why a lot of Filipinos voted for him in the first place. This guy is all about the 3 E’s: entrepreneurship, employment, and education. If elected, he will be serving his third consecutive term.

Recently, Aquino has been a constant target of fake news, mostly involving false stories on unfounded quotes and credit-grabbing. He can, however, take credit in helping the microfinance and SME sectors. 

Perhaps this Aquino’s most-celebrated law is the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act which makes college education more accessible to more Filipinos. It will make tuition and other miscellaneous fees free at state and local universities and colleges, as well as TESDA-accredited institutions.

Since the beginning, this reelectionist has been opposed to the TRAIN law—he was one of only four in the Senate, in fact. Like the true “Dilawan” that he is, he’s also against the hero’s burial for Marcos.


Arcega, Gerald (Workers and Peasants Party)

This labor party bet wants a larger representation of the sector in the Senate. Not only that, Gerald Arcega has been pretty vocal about supporting the death penalty when it comes to corrupt politicians. Like the President, Arcega’s also not wary of using the word “kill.” He says that drug lords are deserving of such fate.

Riding the slate of the WPP, Arcega says that Filipinos should be prioritized when it comes to employment opportunities, and that illegal Chinese workers should be deported immediately. He also suggests that all foreign corporations that are involved in mining activities be booted out of the country.

RELATED READ: You are who you vote for: A crammer’s guide on the 2019 Senate bets (Part Two)

Arellano, Ernesto (Independent)

Ernesto Arellano has been in the labor movement for decades. Now he wants to push for pro-worker legislation in the Senate. For Arellano, it’s important that Filipinos are given double the current minimum wage for workers to enjoy “decent living,” and this should be national in scope.

Among the labor rights that he will focus on is the criminalization of contractualization, a trilateral unemployment insurance fund that will help Filipino workers in between jobs, and the strict implementation of immigration laws for foreign workers.

He also supports Federalism as drafted by the Puno Federation as this is the “peaceful way to diffuse the concentration of wealth and political power from the hands of the few.” Arellano is also for the legalization of divorce and medical marijuana.


Arias, Marcelino (Workers and Peasants Party)

For more than half his life, Marcelino Arias juggled being a lawyer and a pastor. His main advocacy is to end “endo,” a scheme that makes corporations terminate contracts before the sixth month of employment.

He says profit-sharing should be introduced among companies so employees will feel more involved and responsible for the growth and development of their business organization. Not only that, he believes this system will elevate the workers’ standard of living.


Austria, Bernard (Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas)

There are a lot of things in the legislative agenda of Bernard Austria. Like others in the labor movement, he is pushing for the end of contractualization, implementation of the “living wage” and provide security interest to employees in times of need.

He plans to sponsor laws that would provide a universal health care system, as well as improve the quality of education. With salient issues, he is against the lowering of the MACR and believes it’s time to end the President’s war on drugs.


Baldevarona, Balde (Filipino Family Party)

Baldevarona says he wants to focus on Filipino families because he thinks social problems from poverty, drug addiction, to criminality, starts in the foundations of a family. The former Bataan police chief, says the public has it all wrong when it comes to the MACR. They’re not going to be jailing these barely teenage delinquents. He believes that even lowering children’s criminal liability to nine years old separates children from irresponsible parents and puts into place necessary rehabilitation programs for the youth. He is pro-Federalism and the BBL.

If you ask Baldevarona about the best thing the Duterte administration has done, he only has one unequivocal answer: The war on drugs. While Baldevarona says he will push for a law that will strengthen the Filipino family, he supports a violent campaign that have left thousands of families in pieces—just something to think about.


Binay, Nancy (United Nations Alliance)

Nancy Binay wasn’t particularly the favorite candidate during the 2013 elections, with critics saying she lacked the experience and knowledge to deserve a seat in the Senate. But she has made a couple of legislative decisions and headlines that are turning the tides. For one, she schooled Mocha Uson on official conduct and ethics when the blogger got promoted to Communications Asec. Binay’s also one of the few that spoke about the current state of press freedom in the country, and went as far as denouncing Maria Ressa’s arrest.

One can say that Binay provides the common sense most people wished people in position had. She asked for the accountability for the murder of Kian de los Santos, voted against the measly P1,000 Commission of Human Rights Budget, and stood against the reimposition of death penalty.

However, she’s not perfect either. Being a Binay scion, she’s remained mum about the 2015 corruption allegations of her father and had even likened a family of doctors to a family of politicians. Clearly, she’s got the meritocracy of politics all wrong.

If reelected for her second term, she said she would focus on the tourism industry.


Caceres, Jesus (Independent)

More benefits for teachers. That’s what the policies of Jesus Caceres, a teacher, radio broadcaster and former Sangguniang Kabataan chair from Bicol, will focus on. He said educators should be given higher incentives and allowances, and added that their licenses be renewed only every five years. Caceres also supports the drug war, however, he questions some of the ways the police implement the policy. He is also for the pending charter change, saying a new system and leadership will lead to progress.

Being a former youth leader, he believes the SK system need not be abolished as it teaches roles of leadership and administration to the young generation—but that also exposes them early to the designs of corruption and building of political dynasties, doesn’t it?


Casiño, Toti (Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino)

This Senate bet plans to modernize legislature in the Congress, proposing that bills be computerized and various digital analytic tools can be introduced to lawmaking. The former IT consultant for the Commission on Elections also said amending the Automated Election System Law is one of his top priorities, holding corrupt Comelec officials liable.

Casiño took Duterte’s ICC withdrawal as a chance for the country to prove its capacity for self-governance. He thought that the international court interfered with sovereignty.


Cayetano, Pia (Nacionalista Party)

A familiar last name can get you anywhere, even if you’re a faux feminist and some of your speeches were allegedly plagiarized. But Pia Cayetano insists that it is her track record that will help her make a Senate comeback.

Before she was labeled an “enabler” of Duterte’s misogyny, Cayetano aligned herself with various advocacies—women empowerment, reproductive health, HIV and AIDS awareness, and athlete support among many others. She is for divorce, death penalty, and federalism.

Included in her list of important legislature are the Graphic Health Warning Act, Sin Tax Reform Act, and “Iskolar ng Bayan” Act.


Chavez, Melchor (Labor Party Philippines)

Melchor Chavez isn’t the type of guy who easily gives up—no, not even when he’s applied for eight Senate bids and has never won. There must be “land for the landless; food for the masses,” he says. Chavez plans to investigate land-grabbing and millions of fake land titles if elected to the Senate.

While he thinks it is right for the administration to attempt to eradicate drugs, Chavez emphasizes that the killing of the poor and lowly drug suspects should not happen. He also says he would only support Duterte on the right issues.

For this former radio commentator, press freedom is important and he would fight for its right to information and speech. Chavez is also a leader in the anti-crime and corruption group Citizens Crime Watch. He is for same-sex marriage, divorce, death penalty, and the jeepney phaseout.


Chong, Glenn (Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino)

Glenn Chong is running under a new political party founded last year by Duterte supporters. He thinks the Smartmatic system allowed Leni Robredo to cheat her way to winning the 2016 elections, and suggests a hybrid voting system be used instead. This process involves the manual counting of votes while transmission is automated.

Of course, being the avid Duterte follower that he is and riding the support of a pro-Duterte party, this former Biliran representative mirrors the various stances of the President. Chong is in favor of a federal government, death penalty for heinous crimes, lowering of MACR, and the country’s recent withdrawal from the ICC.

He’s been seen hanging around Mocha Uson at sorties, and you know what they say about the company you keep.

RELATED READ: You are who you vote for: A crammer’s guide on the 2019 Senate bets (Part Three)