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

May 08, 2019 – Vinz Lamorena

Part 2 of a series

Votes are bought by campaign promises. Others by the slew of tarpaulins, litter of campaign stickers on the road, and the entertainment trapos provide during sorties. Most voters align themselves with the picks of the president himself—trusting that his judgment is best for the people.

This is one tough batch of senatoriables to get to know—most of them have a track record to show for the advocacies they claim to uphold, with long lists of what they plan to do for the next six years. While some have a political last name to bear, one has been in playing in the game for generations. This article features candidates from Colmenares to Macalintal.

The midterm elections is already happening on May 13, Monday.

Colmenares, Neri (Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan)

Neri Colmenares only had a single TV ad. If he secures a Senate seat this time around, he would be the first Leftist to do so. Since 2007, this lawyer and activist has been the representative of the Bayan Muna partylist, and his work helped abolish pork barrel, push for the increase of SSS pension, and compensate Martial Law victims. 

He’s also one of the congressmen who have declared the anti-poor TRAIN law unconstitutional before the Supreme Court after it was passed without quorum. If elected to the Senate, his first priority is to bring prices down by repealing the TRAIN law and excise taxes on trade. In fact, he has already filed a bill that would eliminate what he calls the regressive VAT system from inflationary products like electricity, water utility services, and gas among basic goods.

A representative of the masses, he is fighting that the minimum wage be increased to P750 nationwide. But his stance on issues and the policies he has designed in mind don’t just appeal to workers, but to every Filipino that tries to provide a living to their families—fishermen, farmers, OFWs.

Colmenares has once filed a petition to nullify the joint exploration with China in the West Philippine Sea. He says Filipinos shouldn’t let others take away their resources, and that we should fight for our part of the sea. His Atin Ito campaign was built with the local communities of Scarborough Shoal. He also wants to push genuine agrarian reform and local industrialization that will provide employment for all.

Jetski, drugs, and pro-poor policies—Colmenares, whose Makabayan bloc openly supported Duterte’s campaign, now says the President’s promises were all bullshit. This leads him to emphasize the need for a legitimate and effective minority. He is also strongly against this administration’s attempt to use federalism as a cover to change economic provisions in the Constitution. He says that the administration is for neoliberal policies that would further the foreign investors’ control in our economy, threatening, in turn, several aspects of our security and sovereignty. While politicians favor it because of income tax exemptions, no elections, and pork barrel.

He’s been lobbying the Human Rights Defenders Law for the longest time. If given a position in the Senate, he will use it to investigate human rights violators to stamp out impunity in the country. Colmenares is also for divorce, legalizing of medical marijuana, the anti-political dynasty law, and the anti-discrimination bill.

De Guzman, Leody (Partido Lakas ng Masa)

Ka Leody is the type of Senatorial candidate you’ll chance upon riding a jeep with no intentions of pulling off a gimmick. While it’s an old trick of the trade for traditional politicians to align themselves as from the masses and for the masses, this is one candidate that actually is. He wants to reverse the privatization of hospitals so more Filipinos can have access to health services and that the TRAIN law be suspended to lower the prices of goods.

De Guzman’s track record shows that he’s not just using the issues of common laborers to fuel his campaign promises, he’s been an active activist rallying for workers’ rights to elevate their standard of living. For 35 years he has served as a labor leader and human rights advocate. De Guzman is currently the national chair of Bukluran ng Manggawang Pilipino and a representative at the International Center for Labor Solidarity.

Among his labor policies is the nationwide increase in minimum wage. He’s also proposing the lowering of working hours from eight to six—if laborers need to work the extra two hours, they would be paid 25 percent higher their hourly rate. Of course, ending contractualization and making sure that businesses will find no other loophole to prevent employment regularization are also part of his agenda.De Guzman is one of four candidates of labor groups that have united as pro-workers alliance Labor Win to uphold and fight for the pro-labor agenda that they say Duterte failed to deliver.

Dela Rosa, Bato (Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan)

When he was the chief of the national police, Bato Dela Rosa became the poster boy of Oplan Tokhang. Duterte’s war on drugs has already taken the lives of more than 20,000 people, and yet the President says the drug situation has worsened. But Dela Rosa remains a strong defender of the bloody campaign, as well as the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

No amount of heckling and criticism gets through Dela Rosa. The war on drugs and reinstatement of death penalty is in the front and center of his campaign. It’s clear that his bid is for one thing and one thing only: To earn the administration a vote in their favor when needed in the Senate.

Bato Dela Rosa knows nothing but have fun (and have a movie made about him). What he’ll do in the Senate? Your guess is as good as ours. One thing’s for sure: If he wins this elections, we must clap or face Tokhang.

Diokno, Chel (Liberal Party)

Chel Diokno is fondly retweeted as a Twitter hero. The young people call him the “Woke Lolo” as he remains vocal in opposing the way the administration currently runs things. He is naturally against the extrajudicial nature of Duterte’s war on drugs, where the man with the gun decides who is criminal. Diokno also isn’t afraid to say that it is “completely unconstitutional” and “violative of due process.” 

Combating the support of this anti-poor and inhumane campaign is one of the reasons why Diokno found himself running for the Senate. “It's gotten to the point where silence is no longer an option. I can't just be quiet and let these things happen,” he told Esquire.

As a human rights lawyer and founding dean of De La Salle University College of Law, Diokno knows his way around the country’s legal and justice system. He wants to make justice inclusive and make the process of litigation quicker by strengthening what he calls the Barangay Justice System. 

He’s not the top diplomat, but Diokno also knows that the West Philippine Sea is not just a matter of clams—the government must do its duty to protect Filipino fishermen and the stability of their livelihood, as well as the country’s marine resources.

Ejercito, JV (Nationalist People’s Coalition)

JV Ejercito said he is against political dynasties, but he sure has a lot of family members in office, with his clan gaining stronghold in San Juan and Manila. While he comes from a controversial political family, JV proves that he is more than just his last name with 41 bills under his belt. Among his notable legislative works are the mandatory Philhealth coverage for senior citizens, Mental Health Act, and Universal Health Care Act. 

The reelectionist also wants to focus on transportation, particularly the Philippine railway system to advance the country’s infrastructure development.

Enrile, Juan Ponce (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino)

Juan Ponce Enrile is a strong figure in national politics and history—although was not physically strong to be detained for his alleged role in the multibillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund scam that first unraveled in 2013. He was allowed to post bail. Now that he’s 95 years old, he seems strong enough, both in popularity and health, for a Senate comeback.

Enrile is the longest living politician of the country. He calls himself a witness to history, but it seems like he wishes to rewrite history altogether with the Marcoses. He has served as a Defense minister, lawmaker, and Senate president.

This legislative veteran wants to amend the TRAIN law, review the current version of federalism, look into more stable supplies of water and energy, and create economic centers outside of Metro Manila. 

Escudero, Agnes (Independent)

Agnes is an Escudero we haven’t heard of before. She is a strong advocate of the rights of indigenous people. She wishes to enact a law called Barangay Industrialization Act, which will build economic opportunities and introduce cultural tourism in the small communities outside of Metro Manila.

Escudero also landed the headlines when she told women who are seeking divorce from their abusive husbands to simply “go to the church.” She even suggested that marriages should be incentivized when they reach milestone anniversaries. As a teacher herself, she believes that more teachers are needed in the country and that their salaries get a significant raise. She says the DepEd and Ched should also get a higher budget.

Estrada, Jinggoy (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino)

Once he was free on bail, Jinggoy Estrada looked towards securing a Senate seat as vindication. He posted a P1.33-million bail in September after a 3-year detention on plunder and graft charges. The former senator actually cited Speaker Gloria Arroyo’s “main plunderer doctrine” to help his case. Smart.

We have to hand it to him, though. It takes guts to say plunder should be punishable by death penalty when you’re accused of pocketing P183 million from public funds. Naturally, Estrada is against the passing of the Anti-political Dynasty Law.

Francisco, Elmer (Partido Federal ng Pilipinas)

If his political party’s name isn’t giveaway enough, Elmer Francisco is all for the federal form of government for the progression of the country. He also wants to remove Constitution provisions that will allow more foreign investors in the Philippines.

Francisco is also a businessman who owns a jeepney manufacturing company. After venturing into cryptocurrencies and financial technologies, he has decided to transform these into a platform: He’s now proposing a cryptocurrency-based jeepney payment system.

Gaddi, Charlie (Independent)

Charlie Gaddi believes that a new system will bring about positive change, and that’s why he is so keen on pushing for federalism. If elected, he will also work on removing the excise taxes within the TRAIN law. Gaddi says Senator Ping Lacson is one of his idols when it comes to ethical practices and refusal of the pork barrel.

Gadon, Larry (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan)

If his name is familiar, it’s because Larry Gadon is the man behind former Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno’s impeachment complaint. He’s also a Marcos loyalist in every sense of the label. He believes that the family of the late dictator never stole any money from public funds. He also says that more human rights violations were committed during the combined presidencies of the Aquinos. Gadon went as far to say that martial rule was necessary in the 60s to ward off communism in the country. With his confidence in Marcos, surely all the victims of Martial Law were simply experiencing mass hallucination.

Gadon also has a temperamental character—casually flipping his middle finger to Sereno supporters and calling incumbent senators stupid. As for his position on issues, he is against the Bangsamoro Basic Law and same-sex marriage.

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

Generoso, Conrado (Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi)

General Federalismo is the name longtime federal advocate and former spokesperson of Duterte’s constitution drafting committee wants the public to call him. He believes that this form of government could strengthen the economy. As federalism paves way to regional autonomy, progressive economies will prosper outside Metro Manila, which, in turn, will decongest the capital and help solve its impossible problem with traffic.

His agenda is pretty clear. “We are taking part in this electoral exercise for one reason and one reason only—that is to campaign for federalism, system change, and the adoption of the Puno draft constitution,” Generoso said.

Go, Bong (Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan)

Bong Go is known for being one thing: A former special assistant to the President. It’s also the use of the President’s name that Go’s supporters have grown ten-fold, despite not having any experience in public service. When it comes to legislative agenda and values, he says he identifies and will align with the President.

Guigayuma, Junbert (Workers and Peasants Party)

Junbert Guigayuma identifies himself as a “born again lumad.” This ethnic leader is quite confident he’ll get votes from indigenous people, not only because of guaranteed votes from various tribes, but because his platforms aim to represent the same marginalized group he belongs to. Guigayuma wants to provide lumads access to quality education, introduce economic opportunities, and protect them from land-grabbing. He says he already has a proposed anti-land grabbing bill which he claims has garnered 20 million signatures from indigenous people.

Guigayuma also wants to introduce the zero domestic helper policy. This aims to bring home OFWs and convert this work force into BPOs. It’s quite problematic at this point since he doesn’t have the employment part sorted out yet. The senatorial hopeful from the Subanen tribe is a supporter of the President and wishes to be part of the majority if elected. He is for same-sex marriage and divorce.

Gutoc, Samira (Liberal Party)

Samira Gutoc is a representative of many voices. She is a Muslim, a survivor of the Marawi siege, a peace advocate, a journalist, and a woman. Most people came to know her name after she resigned from an appointed position. A week into the Marawi siege, Duterte said he would willingly take accountability for the soldiers who rape Marawi womena lot of the people are sick of your rape jokes, Mr. President.

Samira remains gutsy and fierce. She has an arsenal of words and experience that can silence anyone who challenges her position. She continues to stand against martial rule in Mindanao, where she was witness to human rights abuses. She is also pushing for the peaceful, state-sponsored rehabilitation of Marawi which is estimated at P72 billion. Duterte abandoned the city and has placed the burden of its rebuilding to “rich businessmen.”

Gutoc describes herself as probing, fearless, and a witness to diversity and adversity. She believes that the right to shelter is basic and that there should be inclusive Mindanao development.

Hilbay, Florin (Aksyon Demokratiko)

Pilo Hilbay has made a name for himself as the Philippines’ top defender against China. He was one of the lawyers who helped the country win the case over ownership of the West Philippine Sea, a win which Duterte cowardly refuses to reinforce til today. While most candidates pledge to protect the sovereignty over our seas, Hilbay has already done more than that. But it seems he has much work to do with the administration’s current take on the issue.

Hilbay has had such an impressive career. He ranked first in the 1999 bar exams and, in 2005, earned his master of laws degree from Yale Law School. Not to mention he holds the record of becoming the youngest UP College of Law faculty member and youngest Solicitor General when he assumed the post.

He is against Oplan Tokhang, federalism, death penalty, TRAIN law, lowering of MACR and the extension of martial law in Mindanao—indeed, he surely is part of the opposition.

Lapid, Lito (Nationalist People’s Coalition)

Lito Lapid labels himself as a pro-poor senator, like what they all say. He supports Duterte’s revival of death penalty and lowering of MACR, what rights advocates say are ironically anti-poor.

Lapid will be pushing for measures that are close to where he came from—the entertainment industry. He plans to allocate P200 million annually from the national budget as loans for local film producers. Local governments should also reduce taxes on film theaters. Lapid says he already made these suggestions before, but no one saw it as a priority.

Jangao, Leborio (Independent)

Leborio Jangao doesn’t seem to be that active in his campaign. The retire policeman is called the “Grand Master Founder God Father” of a fraternity of soldiers. From what we can gather from his pictures on Facebook, it seems like this candidate is among the many Duterte supporters out there.

Javellana, RJ (Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino)

RJ Javellana’s top priority is the renationalization of public utilities and reversal of hospital privitization. He says that while his party  expresses their support to the President, that doesn’t mean they won’t become critical of the decisions he puts forth. Personally, Javellana is against the violence used in the campaign against drugs.

This consumer advocate says excise tax on petroleum that is included in the TRAIN law should be revisited. He believes that constitutional change should be demanded by the people, and not labored into legislative by politicians who have their own personal interests at stake. Javellana says that drafted federalism ought to be studied further by the public before any stance on it be made.

Macalintal, Romy (Independent)

Romy Macalintal has played a role in two of the most controversial election-related cases to date. He helped Leni Robredo beat Bongbong Marcos’ electoral protest and former President Gloria Arroyo get off her “Hello Garci” scandal.

Now Macalintal wants to be known as Mr. Senior Citizen, pushing for legislations that will broaden the demographic’s benefits. He will lobby that senior citizens be given discounts on utility bills and enjoy a 50-percent discount on medicines. He also promises recreational social centers that promote health and wellness be introduced in communities. This opposition candidates hopes for an independent Senate where human rights and pro-Filipino platforms would be launched and supported.

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