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If given the chance, what would you ask the 2022 presidential candidates? These are my questions

By Joel Pablo Salud Published Oct 22, 2021 7:24 pm

A candidate’s campaign platform shapes future policies. 

While such political manifestos rarely see the light of day, given the volatile nature of political promises—whimsical, fanciful, many times downright comical—knowing what their plans are remains our best bet in gauging what their administration would be like.

As a voter less likely to cast his vote for anyone who’d pursue a continuation of Dutertismo, there are issues I would like to raise before casting my vote. 

They were simply carrots dangled for our own gastronomic entertainment as the gullible rabbits that we are.

These issues, and more besides, form the crucial and necessary elements that could, on some level, guarantee me, and hopefully the rest of the country, that real changes are forthcoming. That assurances such as these are not anyone’s figment of the imagination.

As a citizen of this Republic, I, for one, am sick to my stomach of the three-to-six months “vows” to end corruption and the manufacture and sale of illegal drugs, the same vows which never saw the light of day six years henceforth.

As we have witnessed, promises made by this administration are a dime a dozen—including the gazillion times the President promised to resign—which were never meant to assure anyone that he meant any of it. 

Police investigators recovered alleged shabu stashed in Chinese tea packs following an anti-illegal drugs operation at an alley in Barangay Rosario, Pasig City on July 12, 2021. An estimated four kilos of alleged shabu valued at P27.2 million were confiscated from three suspects who were killed during the sting operation. (Miguel de Guzman / The Philippine Star)

They were simply carrots dangled for our own gastronomic entertainment as the gullible rabbits that we are, caught between a desperate situation and the promise of sleight-of-hand solutions. This and many others are the legacy of Dutertismo, which we can all live without.

With human life possessing the highest value, my first question would have to be this: how would the candidate deal with the issue of extrajudicial killings? 

Fatou Bensouda, former International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, estimates in her report that the death toll of the war on drugs as between 12,000 to 30,000. That’s nearly double the seating capacity of Araneta Coliseum. This figure does not include the murders of activists, journalists, lawyers, clerics, humanitarian workers, protectors of the environment, and above all, the lumad and our farmers.

Lest we forget, 122 children fell by the bullet on the war on drugs, as detailed in a 2020 study by the World Organization Against Torture and the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center. The latest tally of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines on journalist killings has reached 20, with hundreds more harassed daily. 

Would a real investigation be launched on these matters? Will the guilty parties be indicted, including officers of the law who were implicated in this hair-trigger campaign? 

Will those who enabled the Duterte regime to carry out this inhumanity be charged? What about paid trolls? Will they be held accountable for the widespread intimidation and harassment of those critical of this regime? Should a law be passed deeming troll farms illegal?

What about the bereaved families of EJK victims? Will compensation be granted? What of the thousands imprisoned without due process?

My next question would be an overlying issue to the first: the Anti-Terrorism Law. Will the new administration retain or abolish this piece of draconian legislation? Will the incoming President preserve freedom of speech, expression, and freedom of the press? What opinion does the candidate hold on the matter of the Bill of Rights?

Reforms do not fall from the sky like the seasonal rain.

By the way, Marawi City remains in ruins as of this writing. And what of the squabble in the West Philippine Sea? Will it lend the ICC a hand in apprehending the culprits should a ruling be handed out? It would be interesting to know what candidates are planning on doing.

My third query will have to involve the pandemic and the alleged corruption surrounding it: will a deeper and thorough investigation on expenses for the pandemic response be imminent? 

What about questions involving international donations, access and availability of vaccines, transactions with China and that nation’s participation in all this? Will the new President ensure a closure on the controversy surrounding Pharmally? Any talk of China would have to include the influx of POGOs. 

My fourth would be on the matter of certain laws, policies, and practices agreed upon under Duterte: the Rice Tariffication Law, for one, where rice imports literally choke local production and sales; the Executive-Legislative dynamic where Congress kowtows to the whims of the Office of the President; and the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which spearheads the red-tagging of all those critical of the incumbent regime.

Let’s not forget the controversy surrounding the franchise which Congress, under Duterte’s prodding, refused to give ABS-CBN. How would all these issues figure in the new President’s sociopolitical agenda? I really want to know.

My fifth and final question remains a decisive one all because this has something to do with the impunity officials enjoy even though they’re implicated in cases of graft and corruption. One such issue is Imelda Marcos who remains at large regardless of the verdict of guilty of seven counts of graft. Will the new political dispensation finally compel her to serve her sentence?

Should officials facing charges be barred from running in future elections is another question worth raising. A thorough discussion on the attempted return of the dictator’s family to power should be paramount if the new administration would bring closure to this divisive issue. 

While we can all argue on the merits and drawbacks of each candidate, their individual platforms must remain a vital component in our choices for public servants.

The candidates’ answers to these queries reveal the trajectory our country would be taking should they win the 2022 polls. There are other issues of note, more on the economy no doubt. But I feel these first questions must remain a priority if we were to know where we will be heading as a nation.

Reforms do not fall from the sky like the seasonal rain. One must always seize the moment. To grab the ways and means to raise issues once the chance presents itself. That chance is now here.

While we can all argue on the merits and drawbacks of each candidate, their individual platforms must remain a vital component in our choices for public servants. 

It’s time we pick our candidates for what they can offer us as a whole and not just the privileged few. If they fail as Duterte has failed, then we’d know what to do.