2019 Senate Candidate Profiles: Batch One

2019 Senate Candidate Profiles: Batch One

Get to know the names that may be responsible for the success — or downfall — of our country.

by Enzo Escober and Jam Pascual

 

This always happens. Whenever a senatorial race takes place, concerned citizens constantly oscillate between moods of hope, despair, rage and confusion, trying to cram everything they can into reviewing the policies and stances of whoever’s got the gumption to run, whoever may or may not be responsible for the future successes and failures of the Philippines at large.

This is where we come in, dear reader, dear tired citizen. From today, Young STAR will be giving you summaries of everything you need to know about this year’s senatorial candidates, from their histories and legislative platforms, to amazing or wack things they’ve done in the public eye. Think of these pieces as those No Fear Shakespeare books you used to plow through in high school. But instead of Shakespeare, it’s even more impenetrable world of Philippine politics.

There are 62 senatorial candidates in total so we’re going by batches here. Presenting the first 15 candidates, in alphabetical order. Happy reading.

ABEJO, VANGIE

(IND) Independent

Ms. Vangie (Vaaaangie) Abejo is an urban poor leader from Cebu. She’s campaigned on increasing the budget for urban housing and educating the poor on financial literacy.

She’s also set on making the Bible required reading for all students, saying she’d deal with non-Christians depending on their region. Ms. Vangie isn’t exactly an LGBTQ ally, which is honestly a waste of her name. When asked what her stance on same-sex marriage was, she said she was undecided.

It turns out Abejo isn’t too big on making decisions, because she’s also undecided on whether Duterte’s drug war is to blame for all the extrajudicial killings. She has been pretty clear about her approval for the president though: from a scale of 1 to 10, she’d rate Duterte’s performance in office a solid 9, and would endorse his daughter, Sarah Duterte should she run for president in 2022.

Abejo also supports federalism, pushing for the Puno federal draft. —Enzo Escober

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AFUANG, ABNER

(WPP) Workers and Peasants Party

Abner Afuang loves burning flags. The former mayor of Pagsanjan, Laguna has set fire to the Singaporean flag to protest the execution of Flor Contemplacion, the Malaysian flag in response to the Sabah conflict, and the Chinese flag after an incident in the Spratly Islands. So he’s not exactly the diplomatic type.

His platform includes lowering the age of senior citizenship from 60 to 56 and exempting seniors from parking and toll fees. He also supports the extension of martial law in Mindanao and the reinstatement of the death penalty.

People might also remember Afuang as the guy who poured a bottle of water on Hayden Kho during a senate hearing surrounding his sex scandal. His reason? He said Katrina Halili reminded him of his daughter.

Back in 1982, when he was a policeman and bounty hunter, Afuang shot and killed four alleged car thieves. When he was asked recently about what measures he would take to curb police brutality in the Philippines, he evaded the question, choosing instead to sympathize with policemen killed on the job by criminals. —EE

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AGUILAR, FREDDIE

(IND)

Freddie Aguilar basically announced he was running, made headlines, then disappeared.

Though he was one of the first to file a certificate of candidacy (COC), the folk singer has been lying low for pretty much the whole election season. So far, he hasn’t commented on any pressing issues or shown up at any debates. He did emerge from under his rock to make a clumsy clapback to Chel Diokno, who questioned if he was fit to run for senate.

Aguilar’s run was, in fact, pretty clumsy to begin with: he was disowned by ruling party PDP-Laban because he filed his COC with a rogue branch of the party.

Despite belonging to PDP-Laban himself, Duterte has publicly endorsed Aguilar: “He’s smart. He can talk in English,” the President said. Aguilar was an avid supporter during Duterte’s 2016 campaign, singing his campaign jingles and performing at his inauguration.

The last time Aguilar made headlines like this was when he married a 17-year-old girl back in 2013. They started dating when she was 16 and he was 60. Anak will never be quite the same. —EE

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ALBANI, SHARIFF

(WPP)

A businessman from Tawi-Tawi, Shariff Albani is the part owner of a Singapore-based investment company and the chairman of two trading corporations. He’s run for office several times before, but has never won.

Albani has centered his campaign on peace in the Mindanao region. He’s advocated for an interfaith department between Muslims and Christians, as well as the de-armament of private armed groups in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

He supports federalism, the death penalty, and the martial law extension in Mindanao. He is against same-sex marriage, the TRAIN law, and lowering the age of criminal liability.

When asked whether he was for the removal of term limits, Albani said that his decision would vary depending on the concerned politician’s track record. —EE

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ALEJANO, GARY

(LP) Liberal Party

Remember the Oakwood mutiny? You know, that one attempted military rebellion against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo back in 2003? Yeah, Gary Alejano was one of the soldiers.

After failing and serving a detention sentence, the soldiers went on to form the Magdalo party-list. Alejano is currently the party’s only representative in Congress. Now that GMA is the House Speaker, things must be pretty awkward.

Alejano has been one of the loudest critics of the Duterte administration, having filed the first impeachment complaint against the president in 2017. He opposes the war on drugs, advocating instead for the rehabilitation of drug users.

The former marine sniper has repeatedly voiced his concern over China’s intrusion into Philippine seas, and says that he’d strengthen the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard if he becomes senator.

Alejano is socially conservative: he’s against same-sex marriage and divorce. He also would’ve voted against the RH Bill had he been senator at the time—not because of contraception, but because he isn’t “comfortable” with educating school-age children about sex.

He is opposed to the extension of martial law in Mindanao, lowering the age of criminal liability, the removal of term limits, the TRAIN law, and federalism. —EE

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ALFAJORA, RICHARD

(IND)

Richard Alfajora has blamed the country’s water crisis on privatization, saying that the government should take control of our water resources. He has also pushed for modernizing elections, holding them online and making them hack-free.

He’s a supporter of federalism and the Anti-Political Dynasty Law. He’s against Oplan Tokhang, the death penalty, contractualization, and the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Alfajora has also disapproved of Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), mainly because he wanted the president to reform the country’s justice system from within and emerge ever-more powerful. High expectations, indeed. —EE

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ALUNAN, RAFFY

Bagumbayan Party

Raffy Alunan just wants to “find out if [he’s] electable.”

The guy lost his last bid for senator in 2016. But he said he only ran to re-introduce himself to voters. This time it’s for real, he swears.

He’s endorsed by both Duterte and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He’s also served in the cabinets of Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos. So it’s safe to say that he just likes making friends, okay?

Alunan is a vocal supporter of the drug war. He’s using the whole debacle as an excuse to bring back the death penalty.

He’s also the lead convenor of the West Philippine Sea Coalition, which aims to protect the country’s sovereign rights in the face of China’s aggression. —EE

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ANGARA, EDGARDO SONNY

(LDP) Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino

Sonny Angara is all for the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill. He’s also a scion of the Angara political dynasty, so he might need to rethink some things.

An incumbent senator running for re-election, he’s one of Duterte’s chosen candidates, and supports the president’s drug war. During his past term, Angara abstained from the vote on whether to give Ferdinand Marcos a hero’s burial. He also voted to extend martial law in Mindanao.

Angara and his father, former senator Edgardo Angara, are the principal sponsors of the APECO Act of 2007, which has been criticized for land grabbing and violating the rights of indigenous people, fishermen, and farmers.

Angara recently let his privilege show when he tweeted that the water crisis made sexy time in the shower difficult. Meanwhile, affected hospitals had to limit the number of patients they admitted. —EE

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AQUINO, BENIGNO BAM

(LP)

Having been in the senate since 2013, Bam Aquino’s track record in terms of advocacy and law-passing is nothing to scoff at. Among his bills passed into law, many have to do with social entrepreneurship and the empowerment of small businesses: there’s RA 10644 “Go Negosyo” Act, which was made to promote job generation by strengthening by micro, small, and medium enterprises (apparently they size companies like Starbucks cups, but tiny); and the Youth Entrepreneurship Act, which aims to integrate entrepreneurship-related education into high school and college. Not surprising, considering his career history as the president of social enterprise company Microventures, Inc. Naturally, Aquino is also anti-contractualization.

The man himself acknowledges that when he ran in 2013, it was the popularity of his cousin and former president Benigno Aquino III that rode him through the polls. It’s a different game now, what with a political landscape run amok with anti-Dilawan trolls. Aquino is currently out of the top 12.

Moving forward, Aquino (who is apparently an ardent supporter of Filipino e-sports players) plans to focus his policy-related efforts on educational reform, true to form.

In 2018, Aquino proposed a frankly soft stance on the issue of the West Philippine Sea, saying that a treaty must be crafted before China and the Philippines can consider joint exploration of resources. In 2019, Aquino said that the government is not doing enough to assert its rights on the territory. —Jam Pascual

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ARCEGA, GERALD

(WPP)

The last time Gerald Arcega, a.k.a. Sultan Muhammad Issa, entered the arena of politics was when he filed his certificate of candidacy of president, with nary a track record of public service to his name, saved for his experience as a former pastor (ex-Christian) and former army general. Now he’s running for senator, with stances and policies that overlap with the current president’s.

The man has been hella vocal about his support of the death penalty (“Patayin lahat ng mga kurakot sa gobyerno! ‘Yan po ang nararapat” were his exact words.) He’s expressed a preference for a federalist style of government (he’s also cool with a parliamentary system) and, regarding the drug war, has stated conditional support for it — go after the drug lords, not the pushers. (A precarious statement to make, considering the indiscriminate, on-site tactics of our police force.)

On the other hand, Arcega is also pro-same sex marriage. And regarding China’s encroaching on the country’s political affairs, Arcega has emphasized placing the welfare of Filipino workers over the interests of the Chinese, which makes sense, as a senatorial bet of Labor Party Philippines. —JP

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ARELLANO, ERNESTO

(IND)

You might’ve heard of the Labor Win Alliance through talk of one of its most popular bets among the left, Neri Colmenares. We’ll get to him soon enough. Another bet under the LWA that deserves your attention is Ernesto Arellano, head of the National Confederation of Labor, who’s been in the labor movement for decades.

Arellano has expressed in an interview the following positions: increasing minimum wage, upholding the right of workers to form unions and exercise their right to self-organization, and being for federalism. He has also called out the presence of illegal Chinese workers in the country, saying that such a situation hurts the chances of Filipino workers’ being employed, and indicates corruption in the way Duterte’s administration has warmed up to China.

Arellano has also expressed wanting to create more jobs for the youth. Labor Win, as a coalition of labor leaders, is something to watch out for, as the alliance (though not Arellano, at least directly) has urged voters to choose them instead of Otso Diretso, an opposition party whose slate platform includes fighting for wages for workers and the alleviation of poverty. It’s not entirely clear how Otso and Labor Win differ from each other. —JP

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ARIAS, MARCELINO

(WPP)

Attorney, former police officer, and pastor of Bible Baptist Church, Marcelino Arias is an interesting character, running under the WPP.

Job creation and an anti-endo position form Arias’s general stances as a senatorial bet. He has also stated that freedom of information is the key to regulating social media, addressing and exposing corruption in the government, and curbing the spread of fake news. He has not addressed however, in a policy-specific sense, how exactly to engage these issues.

There isn’t much information on how Arias’s position as a currently active pastor will play into what he’ll achieve as senator. It’s sensible to consider how one’s politics and theology intersect, after all. But he has stated way back in 2006, that as a pastor among baptist ministries fighting to block the passage of the anti-discrimination bill, that there is no factual evidence of the oppression of gays and lesbians. Oof. —JP

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AUSTRIA, BERNARD

(PDSP) Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas

As a social democrat, Austria has taken measures of clarity to articulate how his platform anchors itself to his subject position as a left-leaning senatorial candidate. “Bilang social democrats, ang trabaho namin ay yung creation ng wealth at distribution ng wealth […] Dapat maging parte ang manggagawa,” he has stated for DZMM Teleradyo. He has even gone as far as stating that the Philippines’ style of governing should be “ideologically based.” Not very often you hear a candidate say the “i” word, tbh.

His platform indicates that he ain’t playin’. Austria’s legislative agenda includes ending contractualization, pushing for a universal healthcare system, and consolidating land and aquatic resources through agrarian reform. It is not clear though how he has pushed for the key issues in his agenda during his experience as a former consultant for both the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Special Concerns and the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

Austria is also a candidate who hasn’t exactly been chuffed about the country’s deals with Japan, and has vocalized that the president should stop the drug war, insisting instead that the administration should focus on protecting its ports to prevent actual drug smuggling. —JP

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BALDEVARONA, BALDE

(FFP) Filipino Family Party

The Filipino Family Party seeks to solve the problems and uphold the dignity of the Filipino family. Okay. Cool! Family. There are many ways that the issue of the family unit intersects with today’s most salient political issues. But how do Balde Baldevarona’s stances on key issues look after the Filipino family?

Well according to Baldevarona, the act of lowering the age of criminal liability, even to as low as nine years old, is nothing to be afraid of, stating that passing the law can spur rehabilitation programs for the youth and their parents. Yikes, okay. What about the drug war? Well, Baldevarona has also vocalized support for Duterte’s anti-drug policy. Yikes again. As of press time, Baldevarona has not yet been grilled on Kian delos Santos, the other minors who were slain in Duterte’s drug war, or the Filipino families who’ve lost children and loved ones to police brutality.

The retired colonel and former Chief of Police of the Municipality of Maluso, Bataan, is also pro-federalist and generally cool with the presence of Chinese workers. —JP

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BINAY, NANCY

(UNA) United Nationalist Alliance

Nancy. Oh, Nancy. The incumbent Senator has come a long way in terms of stepping out of her father Jejomar Binay’s shadow and the graft charges levelled against him and the rest of the Binay family years ago.

There’s something about the way Nancy Binay has been portrayed by the media over the years, from the discrimination she faced for her skin color to the way modern meme culture has shaped her image, that makes her progressive statements sound absurdly astounding. She has called for the cops responsible for Kian delos Santos’ murder to be held accountable. She voted against the re-imposition of the death penalty and voice disagreement against the P1,000 budget of the Commission on Human Rights.. She also called for the cancellation of the work permits of Chinese construction workers.

Voters would be wise though to not accept Binay as the full-fledged progressive that she’s been styled to be. She abstained on the issue regarding Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, and has also voted in favor of the anti-poor TRAIN law. And while Binay did vote in favor of the Anti-Discrimination bill based on SOGIE, which aims to protect the rights of the LGBT community in the workforce and other contexts, she is not pro same-sex marriage. I mean, c’mon lady, if you’re gonna support one it may as well be both.

No news yet though on how the wife of Thanos will play a part in Avengers: Endgame. —JP

This story is the first of a four-part series. Check back next week for batch two.

Tags:
##ELECTIONS2019 #politics

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