A stickler for details, Panfilo Lacson usually takes his time in setting up the context of a problem or issue, showing that he has a grasp of it before he offers his own solution. This works against him in Sunday’s debate.
MANILA, Philippines – While Senator Panfilo Lacson believes in the value of attending presidential debates, such as the one mounted by CNN Philippines on Sunday, February 27, he also groaned about the constraining time limit for candidates to respond to questions or rebut charges against them.
“Bitin na bitin (Too short),” Lacson said, complaining about the allotment of a minute and a half to answer each question.
A stickler for details, Lacson usually takes his time in setting up the context of a problem or issue, showing that he has a grasp of it before he offers his own solution. This worked against him in Sunday’s debate as he ran out of time on several instances before he could present his answers.
Overall, Lacson consistently tried to relate the questions to his central platform of budget reform, frequently recalling his experience as a senator known for anti-corruption probes, and his scrutiny of the national budget.
Considering the issues tackled during the CNN PH debate, here is what Senator Lacson failed to present, based on his previous interviews and his past actions as a senator.
How will he fight corruption?
CNN asked if candidates had had a bout with corruption in their career. For Lacson, it was during his time as a policeman going after jueteng (illegal numbers game) operators. He recalled telling his subordinates that if he accepted any bribe, they could tie him to a flagpole and shoot him.
Lacson’s program to fight corruption is anchored on good budgeting. He is advocating for his bottom-up Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment (BRAVE) program that aims to devolve the budget formulation to local governments.
Together with his running mate Vicente Sotto III, Lacson is also advocating the digitalization of government processes. They say that if human intervention is lessened, corruption would be lessened too.
Cleaning up the Bureau of Customs
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) was voted by most of the candidates as the most corrupt government agency without having to explain their votes.
Lacson has been at the front of Senate probes into the BOC, notably flagging its tara system in 2017. He named customs officials as high as the chief himself, then head Nicanor Faeldon.
He has continuously called on the Duterte administration to sack the officials and to reform the bureau, also calling for its digitalization to prevent further corruption.
Keeping nurses in the Philippines
Lacson gave a backgrounder that he was to thank for realigning around P3 billion in the national budget for nurses’ salaries after the Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that nurses should be at Salary Grade 15.
Before he was cut off by the bell on Sunday’s debate, Lacson suggested a solution for raising salaries for nurses in private hospitals: “tripartite agreements,” which is a regional mechanism to evaluate and raise the minimum wages for nurses. He did not give a definitive call to raise their wages, but urged for these agreements to take effect.
Solution to traffic
Lacson said he was in favor of building new roads across the country, but he said the country had had enough of Build, Build, Build programs. He advocated for public-private partnerships, to lessen the burden on government spending.
His main solution, however, is advocating for regional development to decongest Metro Manila. A part of his budget reform advocacy is to make sure that the national budget reaches the farthest communities.
“Fixing the traffic situation is attached to village empowerment,” Lacson said in a radio interview in November 2021.
Lacson on Ukraine and Russia
As he was able to explain in the debate, Lacson said the Philippines, in accordance with its international agreements and its own Constitution, rejects war. According to Lacson, Russia’s attack on Ukraine was a clear act of invasion, so the Philippines should release a statement in solidarity with other countries condemning Russia.
Experts have warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may embolden China’s expansion. When it comes to fending China off in the West Philippine Sea, Lacson had earlier said that the Philippines could count on the international community – from America, to Europe, to neighbors in Southeast Asia – to back its claims over its territorial waters.
As for rising oil prices, Lacson pointed out that, when oil prices skyrocket, the government has the P2.5-billion fuel subsidy program to tap.
Lacson said the answer to paying the country’s P11.73 trillion debt would be rooted again in his key platform: balanced budgeting and judicious spending.
He pointed out that P328 billion in appropriations in the budget had gone unused annually from 2010 to 2020. He also cited former deputy ombudsman Cyril Ramos, who estimated that the Philippines was losing P700 billion a year to corruption.
To increase economic activity, Lacson, along with his running mate Senate President Sotto, voted in favor of amending the retail trade liberalization law, which lowered requirements for foreign investors. The two senators believe foreign investments can aid in boosting the country’s economy after the pandemic slump. – Rappler.com