The Senatoriables: How They Stand on Major People’s Issues
The administration’s Team Unity and the Genuine Opposition, the two main
contending forces in this year’s senatorial elections, have been
exchanging challenges to a debate for the past few weeks. While both sides
have agreed on a possible venue for the debate, they have not agreed on
what issues to debate about.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
The administration’s Team Unity and the Genuine Opposition, the two main
contending forces in this year’s senatorial elections, have been
exchanging challenges to a debate for the past few weeks.
Both slates had even agreed on Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila as an
appropriate venue for the debate.
But they have not agreed on what issues to debate about. Team Unity
insists that the debate revolve only around economic issues. The Genuine
Opposition refuses to tackle economic issues without going into political
issues. So while a Team Unity-Genuine Opposition debate on the issues of
the day has yet to take place, the two sides are already exchanging barbs
on what to exchange barbs about at Plaza Miranda.
This makes it difficult for the electorate to assess the two slates based
on what a public-affairs TV program has dubbed the “Philippine agenda.”
It is possible, however, to make at least a preliminary assessment of some
of the candidates of both sides based on how they stood on issues that
greatly affected the people. Issues that turned out to be of particular
importance in the nearly three years since the last elections are those
related to the Restructured Value-Added Tax (RVAT), the impeachment of
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Subic rape case and the Visiting
Forces Agreement (VFA), political killings and repression, and the
legislated wage hike.
Team Unity’s candidates are: Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Mike Defensor,
Jamalul Kiram, Vicente Magsaysay, Cesar Montano, Teresa Aquino-Oreta,
Prospero Pichay Jr., Ralph Recto, Luis “Chavit” Singson, Vicente Sotto III
and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
The Genuine Opposition’s candidates are: Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Alan
Peter Cayetano, Anna Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng, Francis “Chiz” Escudero,
Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, John Henry Osmeña, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel
III, Sonia Roco, Antonio Trillanes IV and Manuel Villar.
One of the issues the Arroyo administration was criticized for after the
2004 elections – in which it was supposed to have won a fresh mandate
three years after being installed into power through a popular uprising –
was the restructuring of the Expanded Value-Added Tax (EVAT), an indirect
tax measure prescribed by the International Monetary Fund and the World
Bank (IMF-WB) on debtor countries.
The RVAT expanded EVAT coverage to include oil, electricity, and transport
services and raised its taxation percentage from 10 to 12 percent. The
EVAT Law that was passed in 1996 included the following: food products
(processed meat, canned fish, coconut and vegetable oil, bakery products,
noodles, milk, dairy products, coffee, sugar); clothing, footwear, tannery
and leather products; drugs and medicine, furniture, pulp and paper; glass
and glass products; cement, steel, iron, wood and most construction
materials; electrical lamps and equipment; machinery and equipment both
for manufacturing and agriculture; wholesale trade and retail trade;
pawnshops; restaurants, cafes and other eating and drinking places;
employment and recruitment agencies; motion picture production; hotels and
motels; and telecommunications (including landline, post-paid and pre-paid
mobile phone services).
The imposition of the RVAT led to the increase in prices of basic goods
and services and added to the financial burdens of a populace already
weighed down by high costs of living.
Recto – who is known to have made much of his being a grandson of the
nationalist statesman Claro M. Recto – was the author of the Senate
version of the RVAT law. In his political ads he boasts of the RVAT as one
of his legislative accomplishments.
Also in Team Unity’s slate are: Arroyo, who voted for the Senate version
of the bill and Zubiri, who voted in favor of the bill’s House version.
Arroyo even said the RVAT would not affect consumers much. “VAT does not
affect much the public for it will not have a direct impact to consumers,”
he said in an April 15, 2005 press conference.
Villar who is running as an independent but was adopted by the GO as a
guest candidate voted for the RVAT.
Lacson was among the senators who voted against the bill.
Escudero and Cayetano, who were representatives when the RVAT bill was
passed, are known to have been vocal critics of the said tax measure, and
participated in several broad campaign efforts to stop the bill’s passage.
John Osmeña is making his anti-RVAT position as one of his advocacies in
his political ads.
Trillanes, who has been in detention since 2003 for being one of the
leaders in the Oakwood uprising, includes “anti-poverty” in his
legislative program but makes no mention of any proposed bill that would
serve as an antidote to the RVAT. In fact his “anti-poverty” program does
not touch on the country’s taxation system.
2005 and 2006 each witnessed impeachment drives against President Arroyo.
The impeachment campaigns were fuelled primarily by the so-called “Hello
Garci” tapes – in which a voice similar to the President’s is heard
instructing an election official – widely believed to be former Election
Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano – to rig the 2004 polls and assure her of
victory by more than a million votes.
President Arroyo won by more than a million votes over her closest rival,
actor Fernando Poe, Jr. who died in December 2004. She has admitted
talking to election officials during the counting of votes, and Garcillano
has admitted talking to candidates during the same period – but both have
denied rigging the 2004 elections.
In both 2005 and 2006, impeachment complaints were filed against President
Arroyo, citing her for betrayal of public trust, bribery, graft and
corruption, and culpable violation of the Constitution.
Escudero and Cayetano were among the most vocal proponents of the two
impeachment bids in the House of Representatives.
Cayetano even raised allegations of congressmen having been bribed in
exchange for voting against the 2005 impeachment complaint. “Don’t you
know that this is the best Congress money can buy?” he said in a rally in
Aquino voted against junking the complaints. Lacson supported both
impeachment bids and members of his Be Not Afraid Movement were among the
signatories to both complaints.
Trillanes was already in detention at the time of the impeachment crises
and while he is not known to have made any direct statement on either of
the two complaints, he is vocal in calling for President Arroyo’s ouster.
Legarda, who was Poe’s running mate in 2004, was pursuing her election
protest against Vice President Noli de Castro when the impeachment
campaign was at its peak.
Sotto was vocal in his support of both complaints, and Angara was aligned
with the United Opposition (UNO), of which Escudero was also part, at the
time of the impeachment crises. They have been hard-put to defend their
transfer to the administration camp.
Zubiri and Pichay voted to junk both impeachment bids. Defensor and
Singson both came out with statements supporting President Arroyo during
the impeachment crises.
The Subic rape case and the VFA
The Subic rape case of November 2005 put the VFA, which grants
extraterritorial and extrajudicial privileges on U.S. troops visiting the
country for military “exercises,” on the spotlight six years after it was
approved by the Senate and ratified by Malacañang.
Based on Senate records, those who voted in favor of the VFA were: Marcelo
Fernan, then Senate President; Robert Barbers, Rodolfo Biazon, Rene
Cayetano, Anna Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng, Franklin Drilon, Juan Ponce
Enrile, Juan Flavier, Gregorio Honasan, Robert Jaworski, Ramon Magsaysay
Jr., Blas Ople, Teresa Aquino-Oreta, John Osmeña, Ramon Revilla, Miriam
Defensor-Santiago, Vicente Sotto III and Francisco Tatad. Those who voted
against the VFA were Teofisto Guingona Jr., Loren Legarda, Sergio Osmeña
III, Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Raul Roco, Senate records also show.
Oreta and Sotto are running under Team Unity; while Coseteng, John Osmeña,
and Legarda are all running under the Genuine Opposition.
Arroyo was among a group that petitioned the Supreme Court in 1999 to
declare the VFA as “void and unconstitutional.” He was in this group with
former Senate President Jovito Salonga, former Sen. Wigberto Tañada,
University of the Philippines (UP) professor Roland Simbulan, Pablito
Sanidad, Ma. Socorro Diokno, Nini Quezon-Avanceña, Francisco Rivera Jr.,
Rene Saguisag, Kilosbayan, and the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood,
Integrity and Nationalism (MABINI).
Political repression and killings
The issue of political repression, together with extrajudicial killings of
activists and other government critics, has been one of the main issues
against the Arroyo regime since the latter part of 2005.
In late 2005 Malacañang imposed the calibrated preemptive response policy
(CPR), which dropped the maximum tolerance policy on protest actions. This
was soon followed by Executive Order No. 464, which prohibited cabinet
officials from appearing in congressional hearings without clearance from
the Office of the President. In February 2006, President Arroyo issued
Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, which declared a “state of emergency”
throughout the country and allowed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to “intervene” in “national
The three decrees led to violent dispersals of rallies, the suspension of
congressional investigations in aid of legislation, and a crackdown on
prominent anti-administration groups and personalities – most notably from
Meanwhile, the issue of extrajudicial killings has aroused condemnation
even from local quarters that previously declined from criticizing the
Arroyo regime, as well as from the international community. State forces
are seen as the perpetrators in several of the cases of extrajudicial
killings, which are linked with the government’s counter-insurgency drive
as can be gleaned from several statements by National Security Adviser
The recently-passed Anti-Terrorism Bill is seen as a repressive measure
because it defines “terrorism” so broadly that even legal protest actions
may be classified as “acts of terrorism,” and even legal cause-oriented
groups may be proscribed as “terrorist organizations.”
When the Supreme Court declared CPR as unconstitutional, Joker Arroyo was
jubilant. He was likewise opposed to EO 464 and PP 1017.
However, he voted in favor of the Anti-Terrorism Bill and has urged the
public to be “careful” in condemning the AFP for extrajudicial killings.
Another Team Unity candidate who voted in favor of the Anti-Terrorism Bill
Villar likewise voted in favor of the bill.
Lacson, like Arroyo, opposed CPR, EO 464, and PP 1017. However, he was the
author of one of five Anti-Terrorism Bills filed in the Senate, and he
voted in favor of the final version.
Meanwhile, Escudero and Cayetano were both vocal against CPR, EO 464, and
PP 1017. Escudero has gone as far as saying that extrajudicial killings
under the Arroyo regime are worse than those which took place during the
The Arroyo administration earned the ire of labor groups – most notably
the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) – early on for refusing to
pass a legislated wage hike bill that would help the people cope with
rising costs of living.
The KMU has been demanding a legislated P125 across-the-board, nationwide
wage increase for private-sector workers. This particular demand of the
KMU, which Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran put forward at
the House of Representatives, was recently also supported by the Partido
ng Manggagawa (Workers’ Party) which was represented by Renato Magtubo in
the 13th Congress.
Other groups like the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) have
also raised demands for wages increases, but these were much lower than
that of the KMU and Anakpawis.
KMU also supports the demand of the Confederation for the Unity,
Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) for a
legislated P3,000 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase for
Recto and Villar had early on made known their opposition to a legislated
wage increase. Joker Arroyo, meanwhile, was a proponent of a 10-percent
salary increase for government employees – a measure that heavily favors
those with higher salaries over the rank-and-file.
Escudero, meanwhile, has been vocal in supporting legislated wage hike for
both private-sector workers and government employees.
Trillanes’ legislative agenda includes a bill that would provide for an
automatic and periodic wage review, based on three-year changes in the
“This is a proven effective anti-corruption policy employed by other
countries,” Trillanes said. “It also intends to provide for a decent
standard of living for all government employees as well as to attract
qualified people from the private sector to join government.
This, thus far, is how some of the candidates from both Team Unity and the
Genuine Opposition have stood on a number of major people’s issues. The
assessment that may be made from these is still preliminary and only a
clearer articulation of the candidates’ respective legislative proposals
would enable a deeper analysis of how they stand vis-à-vis issues
affecting the people whose votes they court. Bulatlat
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2007 Bulatlat
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