The last presidential debate aired yesterday. It was different from the earlier debates in the sense that it focused more on issues close to the hearts of the people rather than issues raised by a panel of judges. The last debate managed to downplay personal conflicts among the candidates as a major part of the program required the candidates to address issues personally raised by people from the marginal sectors of society. What follows is a summary of the issues raised and the general responses of the candidates.
Issue no. 1: THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA DISPUTE WITH CHINA
Filipino fishermen are affected by the ongoing dispute as they no longer have the freedom to fish in the disputed area. Consequently, they have lost their means to support their families.
Roxas acknowledged the need to recognize that the Philippines suffers by comparison to China’s military resources. Given the disparity of power, Poe raised the need to approach Philippines allies who also have a vested interest in the disputed territory. Santiago pointed out the need to resort to diplomatic means first, but also mentioned the option to let the Philippine coast guard resort to tactics short of war. On this note, Duterte said he will not risk the lives of the military. He also pointed out the need to establish the legitimacy of the Philippine claim through international tribunals to compel China into submission. In the mean time, Binay’s solution is to provide other means of livelihood and support for the fishermen and their families.
Issue no. 2: CONTRACTUALIZATION OF JOBS
Many jobs limit employment to five months as a means to circumvent the labor law requirement to treat an employee as a regular with the benefits of a regular employee after six months. Consequently, many citizens cannot find permanent employment and are faced with the continuous hassle of having to apply for a job and never enjoying any employment benefits.
The candidates all agree on the need to end contractualization which can only be done through an act of congress prohibiting the same. Santiago pointed out it’s unconstitutionality saying it violates the right to security of tenure as guaranteed by the constitution. She also raised the need to develop industries which generate more jobs, create more competition among employers who currently have the upper hand to threaten employees with replacement to get them to submit to employer demands. Poe acknowledged that contractualization is resorted to by small businesses as they cannot afford to provide employee benefits, and raised the need for the government to provide subsidies to such businesses as a means to combat the contractualization practice.
Issue no. 3: OVERSEAS CONTRACT WORKERS (OFWs) PLIGHT ABROAD
Overseas Contract Workers (OFWs) are forced to work abroad and are faced with the challenge of being away from their families for years, coupled with the difficulty of getting assistance when conflict with foreign employers arise.
The candidates all agree on the need to generate more jobs so working abroad should become a choice and not a necessity. Binay and Roxas proposed the need for a hotline to the Philippine embassy to be available 24/7 so OFWs will have no trouble asking for assistance during their only available time or when needed. Duterte proposed the option to immediately grant a ticket to return to the country whenever they want.
Issue no. 4: TRAFFIC AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
The perpetual traffic and the effect on employees – the loss of income for coming in late, the loss of family and personal time which is instead dedicated to time on the road.
The candidates raised the following solutions: the development of the Metro Railway Transit (MRT) and Light Railway Transit (LRT) to provide for alternative means of transportation; the development of public transportation in general to discourage private transportation which is a contributing factor to road congestion; expedite the bidding process to avoid delays for projects to develop road widening and transportation; continuous monitoring of streets for the religious implementation of traffic rules
Issue no. 5: LACK OF MEDICAL CARE
The lack of medical care in remote areas which leads to loss of lives – a consequence which could be spared if only medical assistance were available within the vicinity.
The candidates acknowledge that the root of the problem is the lack of medical personnel willing to take assignments in such areas. There was a proposal to provide scholarships for medical education for residents in the area to guarantee that such areas will have at least one doctor. There is the need for hospitals with complete facilities and supplies, and the need for the government to continuously monitor the maintenance of such institutions.
Issue no. 6: THE WAR IN MINDANAO
Who will finally end the perpetual peace and order problem in Muslim Mindanao? A single mother raised the issue on behalf of other women who are left with the burden of protecting their children in the middle of the ongoing war.
The candidates point to poverty as the root of the Mindanao problem, and recognize the lack of attention that the Muslim province has received from the government. Roxas insists that this has already been addressed and that Mindanao has been given a bigger budget and points to developments in infrastructure to back up his claim. Duterte goes a step further by raising the historical roots of the problem and the urgency to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law – a law that will solidify Mindanao’s autonomy from the national government.
Presidential Battle Highlights