Monthly Archives: March 2007

Imperial Manila

There are new sections in the Kabataan Partylist website. The person in charge of the design, upgrade and management of our website is no other than the LFS chair, blogger and my former student in UPIS – Vencer. Salamat kay Vencer.  

I always prefer the window seat of an airplane everytime I travel to Visayas or Mindanao. It gives a good view of our sparkling seas and bald mountaintops. It reminds me that our country is composed of small majestic islands. It also confirms the triviality, and at the same time, the importance of Mega Manila in sustaining our nationhood.

During landing or takeoff, I always get the chance to briefly glimpse the exterior of Metro Manila. It is bounded by the dirty Manila Bay, the dying Laguna Lake and the underappreciated Rizal highlands. I feel disappointed that we are not able to maximize the archipelagic character of the country to boost our economy. We take for granted that we are surrounded by bodies of water.

For instance, Laguna Lake could have been a better gateway to south Luzon. Ferries could transport people from Metro Manila to sleepy Rizal and Laguna towns. Imagine the economic activities we will trigger if we maximize Laguna Lake. I always dream of owning an educational ship where students will be taught biology lessons while they navigate through the whole expanse of Laguna Lake.They will also roam the numerous tiny islands of the country’s largest freshwater body.

In the Visayas, imagine the positive consequences of building a bridge connecting Iloilo to Guimaras; then Guimaras to Negros. How about a tunnel connecting Negros to Cebu?

I still don’t understand why we still have to import Japanese cargo and passenger ships despite the fact that 7,107 islands comprise our nation. By this time, we should have companies which excel in building world-class sea vessels. Our ports should be the best in the world. Our people should be proud of our marine engineering technology. We should have the best marine science researches. We should stand out in sea sports competitions. We have individual achievements. What we need is a collective know-how and the passion to learn more and achieve more in maximizing our natural bounties.

Sadly, we do not care to develop the Islands Philippines. Instead, we are content in selling our shores to foreign buyers and tourists.

Sadly, we are fixated too much in glorifying Imperial Manila. We are obssessed in making Manila a ‘Western’ city that we forgot to highlight the inherent strengths of our dynamic culture. Government policies are focused in serving the needs of Imperial Manila to the detriment of the countryside. Nearby provinces are developed as an extension of Mega Manila.

How could a small polluted city dominate the 7,107 islands? What makes it so special that we decided to crown it as the political, economic, religious, social and cultural capital of the Philippines? Why the mania to develop it while forgetting that we could have achieved greater prosperity if we included the provinces in our master plan?

Why do news coverage emphasize activities that occur in Metro Manila? Why ‘nationalize’ social events of the elite and celebrities of Metro Manila? If a hostage incident occurred in a remote town, will it get the same TV coverage of the hostage drama in Manila yesterday? Why do something has to happen in Metro Manila in order to deserve national attention?

Perhaps it’s a colonial legacy. The foreign invaders made Manila the king city of the Philippines. The colonial government operated from Manila. Merhants resided in Manila. Church officials stayed in Manila.

Many people have already complained of the pampering of Manila. They scorn Manila’s monopoly of the blessings of our country. In fact, the discourse of ‘imperial manila’ is a powerful political tool.

During the 1960s, young leftists who adhered to Mao Zedong’s teachings began preaching of a revolution to be waged in the countryside before attacking the cities. They also condemned the Manila government for colluding with the landed gentry in oppressing the peasants, which composed the majority population of the country.

Muslim separatists have always disliked the Catholic-dominated Manila government for controlling the lives of Muslim Mindanao.

In the 1998 elections, Promdi political party from Cebu emphasized the need to prioritize the welfare of the provinces. It’s the same campaign message of senatoriable Chavit Singson.

In recent years, the Arroyo government has encouraged its local supporters to use the ‘Imperial Manila’ discourse to push for charter change. Governors, mayors and scholars are complaining of a Manila-centric government. They are advocating a change in the constitution which by the way will give more powers to the chief executive of the Manila-centric government.

Dark clouds always hover above Metro Manila. Do you think it’s time to deflate Metro Manila’s ego? Let’s start dreaming of a new city. Let’s start building a new city. And whether we like it or not, Metro Manila will be part of this vision.

Related entries:

Urban facelift
Vortex of evil
Refugee nation

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Rice politics

Kabataan Partylist has new campaign materials you can download from our Multiply account. Help us reproduce these election paraphernalias. New pictures in my photoblog.

My advice to university students: spend less time in front of TV. Skip malling. Do your research in libraries. Borrow books from libraries. Photocopy the good articles. Buy university magazines and journals. Interview old professors. Build a mini-library in your homes. After college, you will regret why you spent less time reading the rare books only school libraries can offer.

While browsing through my things, I saw an article entitled Food Security and Rice by OD Corpuz written for Public Policy (October-December 1997). I enjoyed reading this article a decade ago so I decided to keep a copy and store it in my file cabinet. Ten years later, I still enjoyed reading the article.

What are the main points raised by Dr. Corpuz?

The annual shortages in rice production should not be described as ‘crises.’ We have been importing rice since the 1870s – this is more than 130 years. We can blame government planning on food security for the shortages in rice production.

When Madrid decided to open Philippine ports in 1835, it allowed the trading of non-rice products to other countries. There was a high demand for cane sugar, molasses, indigo, abaca, tobacco and coffee. Rice farmers began to plant these food items. By 1870, there was already a rice shortage in the country. We began importing rice from Indochina. During the 1890s, we imported 45,000 tons of rice annually.

Dr. Corpuz also mentioned the following reasons for the rice shortage:

1. Primitive rice culture, from land preparation to harvesting.
2. Feudal system since the Spanish conquest. Families who own small plots do not enjoy property rights.
3. Religious culture means 100-120 days of “enforced idleness” since work is banned during Sundays, fiestas, church holidays.
4. Farmers or sharecroppers in haciendas till on small parcels of land yielding low output, thus preventing any savings. The farmers are always on debt. The Spanish government has no assistance program for them.

After the Revolution of 1896 and the Philippine-American war, rice production was very low. Many lands had been idled. Carabao population was reduced. And many agricultural workers died during the war.

The Americal civil government instituted economic measures to cope with low rice ouput. It fixed prices, bought foreign rice and undertook the distribution of rice down to the barrio level. From 1901-36, the colonial government bought P335,500,000 worth of rice.

Dr. Corpuz summed up the official policy of the American government on agriculture: Producing the export crops offered better returns than producing the country’s rice requirements domestically; therefore, the export crop sector must be promoted, and, in the event of rice shortages, foreign rice was to be imported at as cheap prices as possible.

This led to cultivation of more lands for producing sugar, abaca and coconut – these produced raw materials needed by American industries. These products were allowed to enter the US market without quota and duty-free.

The colonial regime neglected to provide rice farmers with technological programs to increase rice yields. US civil officials collaborated with local landlords in denying the right of small farmers to obtain property rights to their lands.

In 1931, Agriculture Secretary Rafael Alunan (sounds familiar) reported that Indochina nations produced 2,200 kilos of rice per hectare while the Philippines produced only 1,225 kilos. He also claimed that we were behind Java by 30 years in terms of science and technology support for agriculture.

Dr. Corpuz could not understand the low priority given to rice farmers despite the fact that during this period, “the rice sector was the largest sector in Philippine economy in terms of value of product; labor force engaged and number of families dependent on the sector for their livelihood; and hectarage covered.”

Dr. Corpuz believes the policy of price control and rice imports (which are still implemented today) were done to keep rice prices low “for the benefit of salaried government employees and the service population of Manila, and to keep the food costs of labor in the export agriculture and domestic manufacturing sectors low.”

This brief history of the rice sector can give light to numerous agrarian unrests in the country. It can correct the wrong notion that we have been exporting rice before the Marcos administration or that we have been teaching other Asians on how to increase rice productivity. It can also help understand the rice and food shortages we are experiencing today. Something is wrong with an economic policy that prioritizes the planting of cash crops to be exported to other countries over the planting of food crops needed by our starving people.

We need to modernize agriculture. We need to assist our farmers. We should stop pauperizing our people.

Rice continues to be headline news today. Politicians distribute rice to constituents as dole-outs. Rice smuggling is controlled by powerful individuals associated with Malacañang. Merchants are hoarding rice supply. The NFA sells cheap rice quality, sometimes they are inedible. President Arroyo gave fertilizer fund to loyal lawmakers during the 2004 election campaign. Now, they are distributing rice in schools. By the way, rice is no longer the staple food of Filipinos. Instant noodles are more affordable.

Marami ka pang kakaining bigas! Wrong. Wala na tayong makaing bigas.

Related entries:

Land reform under GMA
Politics of underdevelopment.
Hacienda Luisita

dumaguete delights

Download Kabataan Partylist songs from our website. Thank you Datu’s Tribe for composing our main election jingle. Vote for Datu’s Tribe in the NU 107 Rock Awards. New pictures in my photoblog.

Election campaigning provides opportunity and excuse for travel. For this reason alone, I have no regrets in being a candidate.

How I envy other bloggers who could find time and energy to write everyday. How I wish I could also narrate my everyday angst and observations of this funny world inhabited by interesting creatures. There are various times I want to blog about the places I visited, the best food shops, peculiar road signs and petty street quarrels. But its always difficult to write about these things. Blogs could not always ‘capture the moment’ in a way I experienced these events. Let them be archived in my mind so that when I become a senior citizen, I will have something new to say about this world of ours.

But I could always give a glimpse of my travel diaries. Today, I will share some of my discoveries of Dumaguete, a small but enchanting university town in Negros Oriental.

1. I first visited Dumaguete in 2004. A friend of mine joked that the name Dumaguete came from the word ‘dumagit’ or a rough translation would be ‘to steal’ since pirates and foreign invaders have been stealing beautiful women from this town for many centuries. Hence, there are no longer beautiful women left. (How untrue, I saw beautiful women in Dumaguete).

2. Dumaguete has four major universities. The most famous and prestigious is Silliman University. Preetam, a colleague from Global Voices, thinks the name Silliman is funny for a school. I asked why. He said it could be understood as ‘silly – man’. Sometimes, an outsider viewpoint can make us see the things we often overlooked. Like the PERC survey result which confirms our status as the most corrupt nation in Asia from the perception of foreign business executives.

3. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo once described Dumaguete as the most peaceful town in the Philippines. This statement was quoted in travel magazines. Now, foreigners are flocking towards Dumaguete. Foreigners are buying lands and retirement homes. Many restaurants are charging dollars not pesos. Business is booming, so is, sadly, prostitution.

4. Dumaguete is five hours away from Bacolod by bus. It is four hours away from Cebu City, also by bus. Tricycles are spacious. A proposal to create a super port was shelved since it was vigorously protested by the Silliman community. The plan will require the removal of historic buildings of Silliman University.

5. Boulevard, the baywalk of Dumaguete. But its cleaner, more peaceful, no traffic, no foul odor from the sea and definitely a major tourist hang-out. Food is expensive by the way.

6. There is no PLDT DSL in Dumaguete. The market is monopolized by Globe’s broadband service. There are no classy cafes –which is good.

7. Airport personnel greeted Korean tourists in Korean language. But they forgot to greet me or other locals, not even in our native language.

8. In 2004, I did ask about the Dumaguete scandal, the infamous mother of all sex videos. I learned some information about this spicy subject. But it cannot be written here. Perhaps, some other time.

Related entries:

Iloilo impressions.
Travelogue.

Why partylist?

Invite friends to campaign for Kabataan Partylist. Click here to know more about our online campaigning. Be part of Kabataan Partylist friendster: email us at kabataan.national@gmail.com

New pictures: click here and here. Thank you Inquirer.net blogs for this article: Blog to end poverty, hunger, injustice.

The partylist system is an admission that the House of Representatives is dominated by the elite. It validates the criticism that Congress has always failed to address the needs of the marginalized groups in society. Through the partylist, we can teach the people that elections should be about choosing the political party with the best platform and not about choosing candidates who are popular or wealthy.

This May, a partylist group needs at least 300,000 votes to secure one representation in Congress. (In 2004, the winning threshold was 254,000 votes). Winning in the elections is not an easy goal. There are real obstacles in gathering the necessary votes.

Not all voters are aware of the partylist system. Half of our campaign time is devoted in explaining the significance of partylist representation. I have to remind many voters that they don’t have to memorize or write my name in the ballot. I have to explain to disappointed voters that our campaigning does not include the distribution of cash gifts.

Through the years, traditional politicians have almost succeeded in bastardizing the essence of the partylist system. In 2001, traditional political parties like Lakas participated in the elections. Even sugar barons from Negros formed a partylist group believing they are marginalized in Philippine society since they are only few. The Supreme Court ordered the cancellation of partylist registration of major political parties. It also provided guidelines in determining if a group deserves to be accredited by the Comelec. It reminded sugar barons that yes, they may be numerically small but they are powerful in Philippine society.

Now, local politicians are fielding their own regional or provincial-based partylist groups. Here is an imaginary conversation between local politicians:

Congressman 1: Pare, we have five districts dito sa province. Magbuo tayo ng partylist. Tapos sabihan natin ang mga tao natin na ito ang ikampanya at iboto.

Congressman 2: Maganda yan, pare. Pwede natin ipanalo kahit dito lang kumuha sa probinsiya ng boto.

Congressman 3: Tapos yung pork barrel paghahatian na lang nating lima.

Congressman 4: Sige kausapin ko asawa ko na maghanap na ng mga tao na mag-aayos nito, pati yung mga officers ng partylist. Baka pwede yung asawa ko na lang kaya ang nominee?

Congressman 5: Ako na bahala sa mga dapat kausapin sa Comelec. Teka. Hello, Ma’am, mayroon na kami pantapat sa mga pro-impeachment at anti-chacha.

At the national level, the military, First Family and big political parties have fielded their own partylist dummies. They are also supporting divine partylist groups which will be a source of votes for the senate race. The government could not fail to notice that almost all partylist representatives voted in favor of impeachment. They could not accept how the Left has always topped the partylist elections.

Protecting partylist votes is also difficult, especially in Mindanao. Some partylist groups are not campaigning in Mindanao. They just approach warlords and results will be delivered if the price is right. Since so many people are not voting for partylist representative, cheating is accomplished easier by simply filling up the blank ballots.

The partylist system should attract small but organized groups in the country. This will be difficult to sustain if moneyed and scrupulous politicians continue to establish a network of bogus partylist groups.

The partylist law needs to be amended. We should subsidize partylist groups. We should not limit the number of partylist representatives; or as an alternative, recognize the top 50 partylist groups as members of the House of Representatives. Remove partylist groups and nominees which are not marginalized or underrepresented in our society. (Let me say this candidly: You basketball stars are not marginalized individuals!). I think almost all partylist leaders want to reject the Panganiban formula. If we will follow this formula, only the number one partylist group will have three seats in Congress.

The partylist system must be protected from elements who want it removed or deformed. Strengthening the partylist is also strengthening our capability to harness a more democratic future.

So, vote for Kabataan Partylist, hehe.

Losing the student vote

Vote Kabataan Partylist! Check out the new pictures in my photoblog.

Since 1998, student groups have been complaining how easily schools could impose exorbitant and ludicrous fees without consulting the students. Many schools have been foregoing tuition increases in favor of miscellaneous fee increases since the latter are not subject to regulation.

In 2003, the Commission on Higher Education formed a committee to review tuition guidelines in the country. Private school owners were represented in this body. After more than two years, Ched announced its decision to impose a tuition cap and the regulation of miscellaneous fees.

Since 2005, Ched has been bragging how it resisted the intense lobbying of private school owners to reverse its decision. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has boasted how her administration took appropriate steps to make college education more affordable to young Filipinos.

A few weeks ago, Ched surprised us with its announcement of restoring the old tuition guidelines which empowers schools to charge not only higher but also a variety of unnecessary fees. Private school owners admitted of having a dialogue with President Arroyo to appeal the removal of the tuition cap and other tuition regulation measures. Obviously, the President relented to the lobbying of schools.

The government is inconsistent and lacks political will in implementing its higher education policies. Ched’s action runs counter to recent efforts to bring down the cost of other basic social services: Congress passed a bill which intends to lower the prices of medicines and the President herself vowed to reduce electricity rates. Private school owners were no different from drug firms which have been shamelessly blocking measures to lower the cost of medicines.

Election candidates are challenged to condemn the recent decision of Ched for failing to consult all stakeholders of education. Candidates are urged speak up against the rising cost of education which deprives thousands of young Filipinos the chance to enter college.

President Arroyo, the politician, may have succumbed to the pressure of private school owners – which include the Catholic Church and big business – for fear of losing their support in the coming elections. We remind the President that schools may have the money but young Filipinos, which include the students, will comprise majority of voters this May. And we will not forget how she turned her back on her promise to work for a more accessible type of college education.

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During the past weeks, the military visited some campuses in Metro Manila to educate (read: indoctrinate) students of its anti-insurgency campaign. Soldiers warned students not to join progressive youth organizations which were described as ‘communist fronts’. They accused these groups of being ‘anti-family, anti-God, anti-society and anti-government’. Few students will dare to stand up and question the false claims of the military. How could there be an open and candid discussion of ideas if armed soldiers are roaming the campus?

These ‘peacekeeping missions’ of the military are unnecessary, illegal and dangerous. These create a chilling effect in campuses. The military aims to frighten students who are contemplating of joining groups which are critical of government policies. Students will remember how armed soldiers visited the campus and identified the groups which are ‘enemies of the state’.

We cannot ignore the message the military wants to convey: Members of progressive youth organizations are already legitimate targets of the military since they are ‘communist fronts’. Is this the reason why leftist youth leaders are harassed, abducted and killed in different parts of the country?

School officials should explain why they allowed armed soldiers to enter the campus and intimidate the students. The Commission on Higher Education should not endorse the lecture series sponsored by the military.

These are not ordinary times. The military is accused of abetting human rights violations. Both the Melo Commission and Alston Report identified the culpability of the military in the high number of extrajudicial killings in the country. Instead of instituting measures to restore public trust, the military continues to be insensitive and arrogant by deploying soldiers in depressed communities and campuses.

Our message to the military hierarchy is simple: Send your soldiers to the barracks now! Use the Lenten Season as an occasion to reflect on the sufferings you have inflicted on our people.

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The government is reviving a proposal to impose a tax on texting. Go ahead, do it, now na! On May 14, the results will be 12-0 in favor of GO.

Related entries:

When education becomes business.
Overhaul tuition guidelines.
All out war

Modest proposals

Who are the nominees of Kabataan Partylist? Click here.

I met with political science students last Thursday and I shared some of our legislative proposals. Here is an excerpt of my speech….

Thank you very much for this invitation. Kabataan Partylist does not have a representative in Philippine Congress today, but it aims to succeed in the coming elections, and hopefully, a youth representative will have a seat in the Philippine Congress this July.

So let me now highlight our legislative platform. Our vision and mission statement; and our general program of action can be accessed in our website, http://www.kabataanparty.com. I want to be more specific in discussing our election agenda.

For obvious reasons, our platform is all about promoting youth welfare. Education will be our main thrust. We will look into the issue of access, equity, quality and relevance. What are our proposals?

1. Funding allocation for education. We are not asking for the whole national budget. We want to increase the funding for education. Make it 6 percent of our GDP, or 20 percent of our national budget. This is the minimum requirement prescribed by the UNESCO. We have to catch up with other Asian countries in terms of investment for education. There is an automatic appropriation for foreign debt servicing. Why not an automatic appropriation for social services or education? Why not require a certain percentage of each lawmaker’s pork barrel to be earmarked for education purposes?

2. Initially, we want to review the higher education policy of the government since it is geared towards the phasing out of state universities or the reduction of subsidies for public higher education institutions. Then later on we realized that it is already time to have a comprehensive review of the education sector. The last time this was made was in 1992 through the Education Commission. We have to review our education policies:

Tumaas ba ang investment for education tulad ng minungkahi ng Edcom noong 1992?
Nakatulong ba ang paghahati ng sektor ng edukasyon sa tatlong ahensiya: Deped, Ched at Tesda? O nangangailangan ba ng isang ahensiya ng gobyerno na mangangasiwa sa buong larangan ng pag-aaral?
Nakatulong ba ang Restructured Basic Education Curriculum (RBEC) sa pagtatataas ng kalidad ng karunungan?

I think Senator Angara also has this proposal.

3. Our higher education is dominated by the private sector. We have to regulate tuition collection in the country. Ched insists it has no power to run after profiteering schools. Ched claims it cannot stop schools from collecting exorbitant fees. So why not review the law which created Ched and arm it with more authority? Amend Section 42 of Education Act of 1982 which gives schools the freedom to impose the fees they want to charge.

4. We have a market-driven education. Schools offer courses which are popular since employment in other countries is guaranteed. These courses are not necessarily what our domestic economy requires. We are an agricultural nation, we are on the pacific ring of fire, we have the best marine biodiversity in the world. We have to prioritize in our curriculum the advancement of agriculture, science and technology, engineering, marine and geological sciences. Sadly, most of our private schools do not offer these courses. The most popular course today is…nursing.

5. Which brings me to our next proposal. How do encourage our skilled professionals to stay? To be more particular, how do we address the exodus of our health workers? We cannot prevent our people from leaving the country. It is their right. We can only delay their departure. We have to do something drastic, and perhaps implement unpopular measures, about the rising number of migrating health workers. We have a large number of nursing students and fewer young people who want to enter medicine.

Review medical education in the country. Make it more affordable, responsive to community health needs and we support Sen. Ralph Recto’s proposal: Create more PMAs or Philippine Medical Academy.

We support the proposal requiring graduates from public medical and nursing schools to render a compulsory service before leaving the country. The Indonesian model can be adopted. Those who serve in remote villages will be required to stay in the country for one to two years only.

6. Let me cite a few other proposals: include climate change in the curriculum, native language should remain as the medium of instruction, ban junk foods in schools. The Congress wants to ban computer shops near schools. Our position: strike a deal with these shops to augment the lack of computers in our public schools.

We want to review the SK law. We do not want it abolished. I remember a conversation I had with the National Youth Commission chairman and he said there was a proposal to introduce a partylist-like system in the SK. Community youth organizations will be tapped. We need to do more. Integrate the SK members not only in government offices but also among NGOs and other civic groups. Review the monetary compensation of SK officials. Do these young people really need a salary to serve the community?

I cannot articulate all the problems of our society. One day is not enough to cover all these issues. Please help us improve our agenda. We want to hear your proposals. Please visit our website, email us and blog about us.

Related entries:

The doctor is out
Private or public education
Refugee nation

Flashback 1995: My Senators

Win Kabataan Partylist Win: Thanks Jeff and Erwin for these Inquirer stories: Locsin, Trillo lead young stars in pitch for youth group and Kabataan woos youth vote on YouTube, Internet.

What are the most reliable election websites? I recommend three useful links: Votester, Halalan 2007 and MLQ3. Yehey! News has a new editor.

Check out the new pictures in my photoblog. Learn more about the authors of Global Voices.

1995 – Aquilino Pimentel and Rodolfo Biazon lost the Senate race because of dagdag-bawas. Miriam became a Senator bust lost her case against Fidel Ramos. I was fifteen years old during that time and I was already excited to vote. For me, Philippine Daily Inquirer and Hoy Gising were the only credible sources of information on Philippine politics.

In my diary entry dated May 7, 1995, I wrote the twelve senators I would have voted if I was a voter during that period. I admit I am now embarrassed with many of my choices. But anyway, it’s still fascinating to reread how I justified my voting preferences more than a decade ago….

“Tomorrow is election day. A very good sign that democracy is working here in the Philippines. I hope that it will be peaceful and honest. If given the chance to vote, here is my list for the Senate:

1. Bongbong Marcos – he is young, he is smart and he is a Marcos. (My grandmother was a Marcos loyalist).

2. Arturo Tolentino – expert in Constitution. His long experience in politics is very much needed today. (Tolentino’s autobiography was the first book I borrowed from the UP library).

3. Gringo Honasan – defender of the people, able leader.

4. Miriam Santiago – we need a loud speaker from the Opposition camp. (This reminds me how boring elections today without the feisty remarks from Miriam).

5. Nikki Coseteng – Senate needs more women members. She is a good critic.

6. Ramon Fernandez – sportsman and small entrepreneur. (Fernandez was my childhood hero. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be the ‘El Presidente’ of Philippine basketball).

7. Juan Flavier – dedicated to his work. (I still remember his tagline: Let’s DOH it).

8. Juan Ponce Enrile – veteran politician (I was a Marcos fan during that time and I really appreciated how Enrile described Marcos as a very competent, brilliant and hardworking leader in his TV interviews).

9. Gloria Macapagal – economist and courageous woman. (No comment).

10. Marcelo Fernan – sincere leader, sincere to the people.

11. Aquilino Pimentel – we need a representative from the island of Mindanao.

12. Kit Tatad – God-fearing leader. A certified intellectual.