#TheFilipinoVotes: What eight Senate aspirants have in store for the Filipino public

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 2) — Eight senatorial aspirants bared their plans and expressed their thoughts on the country’s most pressing issues, in the first of a series of senatorial fora by CNN Philippines, as the 2019 midterm polls draw near.

CNN Philippines’ The Filipino Votes: Senatorial Forum was joined by Magdalo Partylist Representative Gary Alejano, incumbent Senator Bam Aquino, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, human rights lawyer Atty. Chel Diokno, Senator JV Ejercito, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, former Senator Serge Osmena, and former Presidential Political Adviser Francis Tolentino.

The senatorial aspirants faced various questions on the economy, the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, the joint oil and gas exploration deal between the Philippines and China, corruption, divorce, traffic in the metros, among other important concerns of the Filipino public.

Here are some of the highlights of this year’s forum:

The ex-chief of police was heckled

The former national police chief, Bato dela Rosa, was heckled by some audience members as he responded to questions on the administration’s policies.

Members of the audience chanted “Never again

to martial law” when dela Rosa defended the President’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

As for the extension of martial law to the rest of the Philippines, the former prisons chief said, “Hindi pa naman iniisip ni Presidente ‘yan.

[The President is not yet thinking about it.]”

He also wants to reinstate death penalty by executing convicted drug lords through a firing squad in Luneta.

In response, members of the audience jeered and chanted, "Karapatan ipaglaban." Dela Rosa is known for his strong ties with President Rodrigo Duterte. He was Davao City’s former top cop, during the time of then-Mayor Duterte.

There were unanimous answers

The eight senatorial aspirants agreed unanimously on certain Yes and No questions asked by the moderators.

When asked if they have plans to run for office in 2022, all of them said no, including 94-year-old aspirant Juan Ponce Enrile.

The eight senatorial aspirants said yes when asked if the President should issue medical bulletins, amid rumours of Duterte’s failing health.

When asked if same sex couples should have the same legal rights as married couples under the civil union bill, it was only Magdalo Rep. Alejano who said no.

They all want to decongest Manila

Several aspirants proposed different ways to decongest Philippine cities.

Tolentino, who was former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman said that heavy traffic could only be solved by urban planning. This is to avoid the threat of other metros in the Philippines having similar traffic issues with Manila.

"We really have to plan our cities,” Tolentino said.

Both Tolentino and senator Ejercito also want to strengthen the Philippine railway system. The incumbent senator added the Philippines is 30 years behind infrastructure development, explaining that there are 30,000 vehicles added to our streets monthly.

"Railway is the only way,” Ejercito said.

"In 5 years time, we will not move, we will have a gridlock."

Osmena, meanwhile, wants to open up some gated subdivisions to help ease traffic.

Two senators want death penalty as punishment for corruption

Both Dela Rosa and Tolentino, two of administration-led PDP-Laban bets, want death penalty as punishment for corrupt government officials.

Dela Rosa also defended the President’s stance on appointing military officials to government posts.

“The President is, kawawang-kawawa na talaga kawawa… May nangyari na ba yung tinanggal lahat ng Customs (officials) dahil gusto niya ng bago at nilagay niya yung mga sundalo? Meron na ba nangyaring yan sa (history) ng Pilipinas?” Dela Rosa claimed.

[Translation: The President is in a pitiful situation. Has there been an instance where all Customs officials have been removed because he wants something new and he wants soldiers to lead it? Has that happened in the history of the Philippines?]

Ejercito, however, wants those corrupt officials just jailed. He added that

the government should show that it is committed to solve corruption.

““Bihira pong may nakukulong dito. Yung mga nakakasuhan may pera,” Ejercito. “Makakalimutan lang ang kanilang kaso.”

[Translation: It’s rare that people get jailed here. Those who

are jailed have money. And their cases are forgotten.]

They have different proposed measures

Asked on the first bill they would pass in Congress, Ejercito said

he wants to focus on infrastructure development and transport modernization.

Diokno, a dean of the De La Salle University College of Law, wants

to amend the Witness Protection Act -- to allow witnesses to testify within six months.

“They spend days months and years in the Witness Protection Program.

They’re given safehouses, they’re given cash and assistance, and security, but it’s like they’re the ones in jail,” Diokno said.

Aquino, who authored a bill to grant free tuition to state universities and college, wants to push for more reforms in the country’s education system.

Enrile meanwhile eyes to revise the taxes imposed on the public under the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

Alejano wants to create a Department of Maritime and Oceanic Affairs to utilize the archipelago’s resources, to address sea concerns. He said this measure will be on top modernizing the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard.

Osmena, meanwhile, wants to support the coconut industry through a measure in Congress.

Tolentino said he will push for the fast reconstruction of calamity-affected areas. He added he wants to boost the country’s agricultural sector, saying that the Philippines is primarily an agricultural country.