By Tessa Mauricio-Arriola, The Sunday Times Magazine Editor
There are times when the perfect introduction for a feature article simply falls on its writer’s lap. Fortunately for The Sunday Times Magazine’s third and final batch of senatorial candidate profiles, today is one of those times.
The credit for this spot on preamble goes to no less than one of the Philippines’ most prolific senators, the Honorable Edgardo J. Angara, who is also famed for his endless well of knowledge.
Forget for a moment that his son and namesake is running for a senate seat, and simply heed his words. Then, if you find them to be true, go and bring them with you as you exercise your right to vote tomorrow.
Angara, who is the longest serving senator of post-Edsa Philippines, shared with The Sunday Times Magazine a book he read that is co-written by Harvard University professor James Robinson and Turkish economist Daren Acemoglu. Titled Why Nations Fail, he summarized the sole conclusion of 546 pages-worth of research on the rich and poor countries of the world, which indeed is a timely awareness at this current crossroads in Philippine history.
“In the 1980s, someone wrote that the Philippines was a basket case because of our ‘damaged culture’ [Atlantic Monthly, 1987],” recalled Angara. “But according to Robinson [and Acemoglu], this is not the reason why the Philippines, or any other country for that matter, should fall behind, and neither is it geography as suggested by others.
“According to the book,” relayed Angara, “nations fail because of their leaders.”
Tomorrow, we Filipinos are once again given the opportunity to influence the course of our country’s growth, our economy, and most importantly, our dignity; so that exercising our right to vote should not be regarded as a simple privilege but an important obligation.
For in casting our crucial ballots, we take into our own hands the future, not only of our institutions, but of the whole nation and the life of every single Filipino.
With this, let us take time to discern and choose the leaders who we know will become instrumental in improving our lives and our children’s tomorrows. Let our love for country and our people motivate us to elect those who will truly bring our nation back to greatness.
On the day before the vote, let The Sunday Times Magazine complete its service to the Filipino public, and deliver to you, our readers, these final words from this final batch of senatorial candidates.
Sonny Angara: More than just his father’s son
“Mas guwapo at mas matalino sa akin ang anak ko,” was the confident declaration of Sen. Edgardo J. Angara when the entertainment press egged him on for a comparison between him and his son, Rep. Edgardo “Sonny” Angara of Aurora.
On Tuesday, the graduating senator sat next to his good friend Regal Films matriarch Lily Monteverde who organized a luncheon to endorse his namesake’s current bid for the Upper House of Congress. Even as he insisted he was only part of “Sonny’s supporting cast,” the 78-year-old solon and National Living Treasure could not escape the prodding of showbiz scribes who rarely get the chance to sit with him in a casual gathering.
While Angara merely sounded like any proud father, The Sunday Times Magazine knows from previous interviews that if he were asked to substantiate his claims about his son, he would do so with the clarity and accuracy that made him the star that he has always been on the senate floor.
The “mas guapo” or “more handsome” part is easy to prove with the beauteous former Cultural Center of the Philippines president Gloria Manalang-Angara as his wife and mother of his children. It is, however, the “mas matalino” or “smarter” declaration that “one of the Philippines’ brightest minds” has the task to attest.
Back in March, The Sunday Times Magazine had the opportunity to ask Angara how he can be sure that his 40-year-old son is ready to become senator of the Philippines. He meaningfully replied, “Sonny grew up with a strong sense of public service, passed on from my own parents, and within our family.”
Secondly, he pointed out that he and his wife had given Rep. Sonny “the best education” that any parent could ever hope to give their child, which is a sound foundation from Xavier School in San Juan for elementary and high school; an undergraduate degree at the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom; a law degree at the University of the Philippines; and a Master of Laws degree from Harvard Law School in the United States.
A passion for public service and first-rate education, according to Angara, is a potent combination for succeeding in elective office, which in turn Rep. Sonny has already proven in his three consecutive terms as congressman of Aurora province.
In the past nine years, Rep. Sonny has succeeded in uplifting the lives of the citizens of Baler, Casiguran, Dilasag, Dinalungan, Dingalan, Dipaculao, Maria Aurora and San Luis—the eight municipalities of Aurora—with over 300 classrooms, libraries and gymnasiums built and repaired; over 500 computers distributed in public schools; over 7,000 scholarships granted; and over 12,000 patients provided medical assistance.
Besides these, the younger Angara has authored more than 50 laws, and filed over 200 bills in the House of Representatives, many of which are expanded acts of his father’s most important contributions to the nation, namely the Senior Citizens Act, the Free Kindergarten Education Act [co-authored by father and son], and the Personal Equity and Retirement Account Act.
According to political observers, the fact that Rep. Sonny, who is running under the administration ticket, has picked up from his father’s significant endeavours shows the kind of man and public servant he is. It is not his egotistic goal to make his own name and wriggle out of the shadow of his celebrated father, but is committed to the duties of his present office.
“My father taught me well that to build institutions, you don’t knock down foundations started by others,” Rep. Sonny told The Sunday Times Magazine. “He said you should build on these foundations if they’re good, because that’s how you truly put your country first. And yes, this is what I’ve done and what I will continue to do.”
Asked for his final words the day before the vote, “the more handsome and intelligent” Eduardo “Sonny” Angara said, “If given the chance to serve in the Senate, I’d like to see a smarter, more developed Philippines that fully realizes its potential.
“Ang ganda-ganda ng ating bansa at ang galing-galing ng mga Pinoy. It’s time for our government to really invest in our people’s potential by putting money in education.
“Ang edukasyon ang makakapagbigay sa ating mga kababayan ng trabaho, at pag meron silang trabaho, hindi na nila kailangang mangibang bansa para lamang sa ikagaganda ng kanilang pamilya.” TMA
Nancy Binay: Life begins at 40
Today is the 40th birthday of senatorial candidate Nancy Binay. Currently pegged at the No. 3 spot of likely winners in tomorrow’s elections, it most certainly looks like the greenhorn of the opposition is about to start a whole new life with her very first foray into government.
The eldest daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay and Dr. Elenita Binay admits that her candidacy is a phenomenon. Often criticized for her lack of experience in government service (she has never held an elected position but has served as personal assistant to the Vice President, as well as her mother when she was Makati City Mayor), Binay nonetheless soared up the surveys, and is in fact the strongest contender of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
“Nung umpisa kampanya, nagsimula po ako sa No. 19, tapos 12, tapos 10,” she recalled at a luncheon jointly organized by supporters Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Regal Film’s Lily Monteverde on Thursday. “Ngayon po, nasa No. 3 na po tayo, and yes, it’s a phenomenon, but I also believe it is a validation na na-a-appreciate ng mga kababayan natin ang serbisyo ng pamilyang Binay. Hindi lang po ng aking ama, ngunit pati na rin ng aking kapatid na si [Makati] Mayor Jun-Jun Binay,” she added.
Binay recalled that when her father won the vice presidency after serving as Makati City mayor in 2010, he laughingly told his friends that his own family never thought he would make it.
“Ganoon din po siguro ang iniisip ng karamihan dahil baguhan ako, pero tulad ng nangyari sa ama ko, at the end of the day it’s destiny,” she continued. “Na kahit anong pigil ng tao sa iyo, there’s a strong call to serve, and all you can do is to embrace the calling.”
Asked what she will bring to the Senate if elected, she immediately cited her long-time advocacy for children’s rights and welfare.
“Sa pag-iikot ko po sa buong Pilipinas, naging lalong malinaw na kulang ang gobyerno sa mga programa para sa mga batang 0 to 5 years old. Bilang isang ina [Binay is married to Jose Benjamin Raymundo Angeles, with whom she has four children aged 11 and nine, and three-year-old twins], gagawin ko pong priority bill na dagdagan ang mga day care and feeding centers sa buong bansa, at palawigin pa ang mga vaccination programs.”
Binay is confident she will ably represent her chosen sector what with her continued involvement in numerous nongovernment organizations for women and children, as well as her first-hand experience in the Office of the Vice President and the City of Makati.
To those who continue to doubt her, however, Nancy Binay’s final words are short yet strong: “I’ve had 20 years of OJT [On the Job Training].” TMA
JV Ejercito Estrada: Right place, right time
He could have been watching this long and arduous campaign season from a comfortable office in Pasay City, but because of his love for country, Rep. JV Ejercito Estrada of San Juan had to endure a hotter summer, higher radio and TV ad rates, and generally a tougher race in his bid for the Senate this year.
It will be remembered that back in 2007, then San Juan City Mayor Ejercito could have easily snagged a victory in the senatorial elections. He was only in his second term as mayor but was already ranking from the ninth to the fifth spots of senatorial surveys, even before the official filing of candidacies.
“Had I pursued the Senate then, I would have been a shoo-in simply because I was one of the faces of the opposition and the anti-Arroyo sentiment was very high,” he recalled during a one-on-one interview with The Sunday Times Magazine on Thursday. “The best example at that time was when [Sen. Antonio] Trillanes won even when he was in jail, simply because he was anti-administration.
“But there are times when a true public servant has to sacrifice his own personal interest for the sake of the country. We needed a strong opposition during the 2007 elections, and had to accommodate the liberal party—specifically then Rep. Noynoy Aquino and Sonia Rocco—to show a united stand. The common good was more important than my aspiration to serve the people as a senator so I took a step back.”
While he knew he made the right decision, he cannot help but realize just how difficult it is to run in the opposition today. To keep his Top 5 spot in the lead up to Election Day, Ejercito has thrown his 100-percent in the campaign and scoured the far-flung parts of the country, so much so that he was hospitalized for week for fatigue.
“It’s tough to be the opposition—to have no access to government machinery, resources and the President’s endorsement. Just look at the TV ads; they dominate the airwaves with a ratio of 1 is to 6. But against such odds I’m thankful I’m still at a very respectable level, and modesty aside, had I ran under the administration, I may have even made the Top 3 of the surveys.”
Still, Ejercito is also a believer that good things happen to those who wait. This is especially so for his constituents in San Juan whose lives had changed for the better when he completed his third and final term as mayor from 2007 to 2010.
“Looking back, it was only in my third term that I was able to fulfil my dream projects for San Juan since my first and second terms were focused on the build-up of funds,” he elaborated. “From P300 million, we had over P1-billion revenue in the city coffers, which enabled my administration to construct a new city hall, the government subsidized PUP [Polytechnic University of the Philippines] San Juan, and other projects I never dreamed of being able to achieve.
“I admit in this senatorial race that there are candidates who are better than me in public speaking—whether in English or Tagalog—but I can honestly say that what makes me a cut above the rest of the other candidates is that I have proof that I’ve been able to uplift the lives of my constituents,” he added.
Indeed, San Juan City, under Ejercitoy’s final years as mayor and his current term as representative has been adjudged as the local government unit with the lowest poverty incidence in the country.
“It isn’t the huge buildings or the infrastructures that we have in San Juan but a genuine change in the lives of the people,” he reiterated.
And so, when he takes his rightful place in the Senate after the elections, the highly experienced son of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada will focus his energies in crafting laws that will also have a direct impact in improving the lives of the ordinary Filipino.
“When you watch the news and read the papers, they keep painting a rosy picture of the economy, with the Philippines as the rising star of Asia. The numbers are great, yes, but in my travels all around the country throughout this campaign, I haven’t seen them trickle down to the ordinary workers and laborers—the everyday Juan dela Cruz.
“In fact, according to the National Statistics Coordinating Body, the poverty incidence in the country remains the same since 2006. If elected, I will work on narrowing this gap because what we have are good economic numbers, but the prices of commodities continue to rise, while the wages of the average Filipino has not gone up since 1998.”
Ejercito further said he will ensure that every Filipino family would have at least one college graduate by pushing for an increase in the annual budget of state universities and colleges. He will also pursue education reforms and measures that would increase jobs in the country.
He is confident he has honed his legislative skills in his three years in the House of Representatives where he filed a total of 149 House Bills and 18 House resolutions, five of which have been approved and transmitted to the Senate, including the Kasambahay Act, enacted early this year.
With such credentials to present to the Filipino people as he aspires for higher office, Ejercito knows that a victory now would be more meaningful than a win six years ago.
“I am grateful to the Filipino people for appreciating my achievements,” said the very popular candidate. “This, I think, is the reason why I continue to do well in surveys. The people are more discerning now and the surveys reflect this; they want public servants who can walk the talk.”
As JV Ejercito Estrada finds himself at the right place at the right time, here are final words to the Filipino people the day before the vote: “I hope that the voters will truly discern and scrutinize the candidates they will choose. I encourage them not to look at the names alone but to look at the credentials, the track record, and the character of the candidates as public servants because it is through hardworking and trustworthy leaders that tangible improvements can truly be made in the lives of the Filipinos.” (TMA)
Loren Legarda: A woman of strength and compassion
In her two terms as senator, re-electionist Sen. Loren Legarda has displayed both strength and compassion, earning both the respect and love of the Filipino people.
Leandro Legarda Leviste, the youngest son of Legarda, believes it is this unique mix that makes his mother special, and today, on Mother’s Day, he shares with The Sunday Times Magazine why he admires the most important woman in his life both in the home and the halls of the Senate.
“As a mother, mama has raised us, her two sons, well. Despite her busy schedule as a senator, she always finds time to be with us, she would always call us to know how we’re doing. It’s not easy being a single mother while also being a national government official, but mom does both wholeheartedly,” Leandro said.
Leandro also recalls how Legarda helped in the safe release of military and police officers and journalists held captive by armed groups in separate instances, putting her safety at risk because she could not abandon her duty to help her fellowmen and contribute to peace efforts.
“The same care and attention she gives to her job, to her being a senator, she’s also like that as a mom, very caring. When we were kids she taught us schoolwork in between and her busy schedule, and now that we’re adults, still she is very much present in our lives.
Simple gestures like asking if I have taken my vitamins, or I am sleeping well. I fell sick a week ago and in the middle of the campaign she cancelled everything for me so she could bring me to the hospital. I know deep in my heart that for my mom, it’s always been family first,” he recounted.
For his final words on his mother’s behalf, the day before the vote, Leandor said, “Sen. Loren Legarda has always been a strong woman, even conquering her own fears in order to better serve others. Being true to one’s values, that’s what I’ve learned from her, and that’s what makes her the outstanding public servant that she is.”
Koko Pimentel: On lessons of the past
Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd is a staunch believer in the Filipino saying, “Ang taong hindi marunong lumingon sa kanyang pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa kanyang paroroonan.” But while most would give this adage the rough translation of the value of acknowledging one’s roots and those who paved the way to one’s road to success, the re-electionist has chosen to give it a meaningful appendix.
“Hindi lang puwedeng lingunin ang pinanggalingan, ngunit kailanang rin matuto sa nakaraan, para makarating sa paroroonan,” he added.
Pimentel stressed the importance of learning from the past as he explained to the entertainment press, gathered by supporter Mother Lily Monteverde, the reason why he chose to run on a platform of clean elections—one that inescapably reminds the public that a fellow senatorial candidate today had taken his seat in the Upper House of Congress for over four years after the 2007 national elections.
“Kulang-kulang dalawang taon lang ho akong nakapag lingkod sa senado after I was declared the winner of the Senate’s 12th seat in 2011,” he recalled.
Pressed to reveal if he had already forgiven the fellow senatorial candidate who benefited from the nationwide cheating six years ago, Pimentel quickly replied, “Matagal ko na hong pinatawad si Miguel Zubiri at nasabi ko na ho iyan noon pa man. It’s nothing personal against him; it’s the act of cheating that I’m fighting.
“Alam nyo po, I’m always willing to forgive, but you will agree with me that para maayos tayong makarating sa paroroonan, we shouldn’t totally forget but we should learn from the past.”
One of Pimentel’s campaign materials—a simple black and white comic strip—further explains why he has christened himself “S.K.P” for the 2013 elections. While also the initials of “Sen. Koko Pimentel,” the acronym now doubles as “Senador na Kalaban ng Pandaraya.”
The comic strip tells the story of how his father, the illustrious Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., was also cheated in the 1978 and 1995 elections. The older Pimentel, who was also a political prisoner during the Martial Law era, had since instilled in his son the need to fight cheating and injustice of any form in society.
“Kaya sa senado, kahit sa maikling panahon ng aking paglilingkod, naging bukas ang aking opisina upang may matakbuhan ang ating mga kababayan na nangangailangan ng tulong dahil sila ay naging biktima ng pandaraya, pang-aabuso at kawalang hustisya,” the younger Pimentel continued.
For him, true democracy begins with clean elections—that which will pave the way for him and other rightfully elected leaders to be able to fulfil their promise of a better Philippines.
And so, following his advocacy of clean and honest elections, Pimentel conveyed that if elected to the Senate, he would expand his father’s Local Government Code, which has given significant powers to municipalities and cities across the nation, through his “Bigger Pie, Bigger Slice Bill.”
“Bibigyan natin ng mas malaking budget ang local government units para mas mabilis silang rumesponde sa pangangailangan ng tao,” he explained.
Pimentel further said he would work on boosting scholarships for more Filipinos. “I can say that I’m a credible speaker on scholarships because I was a scholar both at the Ateneo de Manila for my pre-law [B.S. Math] and in law school at the University of the Philippines.”
Given his scientific background, the bar topnotcher also sees himself giving attention to improving laws on technology, taxation and the Internet.
Asked for his final words before the vote tomorrow, Sen. Koko Pimentel urges the public to use their conscience in choosing the nation’s rightful leaders, and to continue to guard their precious votes even in this age of automation.
“Clean and fair elections is the cornerstone of a strong democracy,” he reiterated. “It is through this activity that Filipinos are able to exercise their constitutional rights and make their voice heard. It ensures that the elected government is their government—the leaders and public servants of their own choosing.”
Miguel Zubiri: Restoring honor
Former senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri is ready to take a seat in the Upper Chambers of Congress once again, but hopefully if he is elected, with a win that is beyond doubt.
It can be recalled that while Zubiri clinched the 12th post in the highly controversial 2007 elections, then opposition candidate Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd filed an electoral protest with the Philippine Senate Electoral Tribunal. With a margin of 21,519 votes between the 12th and 13th spots, Pimentel accused Zubiri of benefitting from massive cheating in Southern Mindanao, which in 2011 was rectified by the court, forcing Zubiri to resign from office, two years shy of completing a senate term.
Despite the controversy—and Pimentel’s anti-cheating platform in the current campaign—Zubiri swears to this day that neither he nor his supporters participated in any kind of poll fraud.
In an interview with ANC, Zubiri said, “We never cheated. We never asked anyone to cheat for us. And when we found out that there was cheating and I was the recipient, I did the most honorable thing to do—I stepped down.”
In his privilege speech on the day of his resignation, Zubiri said for the record, “Let me just emphasize to my detractors, as I paraphrase a quote from General Douglas Macarthur, that I am not actually retreating; I am merely advancing in another direction.”
Certainly the family man from Bukidnon knows the path that he is resolved to traverse anew, throwing his all in this difficult 2013 senatorial race. Restoring his honor, he has made known to the Filipino public that his four years in the senate—though controversial—were well spent with 954 sponsored projects across the nation, 651 bills filed, 40 national legislations signed, and a 100-percent perfect attendance.
Pursuing the advocacies he began as representative of Bukidnon and senator of the Republic, Zubiri is running on his “HEEPFS” platform, which stands for Health, Education, Environment, Peace and Order, and Security.
He is also known as the champion of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 and the Biofuels Act of 2006, which gave him the monikers “Mr. Clean Energy” and “Mr. Biofuels.”
He is also noted for his Socialized Medicare and Food for School programs, which respectively aim to lower the cost of medical care in the country, and provide elementary and high school students adequate food from government.
With a clear vision to accomplish his unfulfilled plans, Zubiri hopes that the Filipino public will give him the opportunity to serve them once again—with honor and dignity come the vote tomorrow.
With a report from Sheila Mañalac