By Leilani Chavez, abs-cbnNEWS.com | 12/03/2009 3:11 AM
(Sixth of a series on ANC's Harapan presidential debates held December 2, 2009 at UST)
MANILA – Ruling party standard-bearer Gilberto Teodoro Jr will not turn his back on party mate President Gloria Arroyo, but he will not be her puppet.
Teodoro stressed that if President Arroyo wins in her 2010 congressional bid and eventually becomes Speaker of the House, they will be serving in different chambers of government.
The presidential bet of ruling party Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats was replying to a question posed during the ABS-CBN News Channel’s “Harapan” presidential debate on President Arroyo’s influence over the government should Teodoro win.
Teodoro stressed the platforms of the party, which he currently heads, will prevail.
He expects President Arroyo to observe the party’s positions.
“Miyembro po, kung sakaling manalo si Pangulong Arroyo, ng lehislatura. Ang trabaho po nila ay gumawa ng batas. Bagama’t magka-partido kami, inaasahan po natin na ako po, bilang pinuno ng Lakas-Kampi-CMD, ay susunod ang magiging kongresista…na pinangungunahan ko.” Teodoro said, smiling.
The forum was not the first time Teodoro was questioned on what he intends to do after Arroyo steps down from the presidency. Observers attribute Teodoro’s dismal performance in poll-related surveys to President Arroyo’s very low net satisfaction ratings.
Teodoro, however, strongly denied the president’s appointment as a curse.
Questions on his loyalty went a step further when a student from the University of Santo Tomas asked the root of his “passionate loyalty” to the current administration.
Teodoro defended that it is “un-Filipino” to turn his back on the person who gave “a 45-year-old his break.”
Before Teodoro became the standard-bearer of Lakas, President Arroyo appointed him as defense chief and disaster coordination chair. He transferred to the ruling party from the Nationalist People’s Coalition
Although indebted, Teodoro emphasized that he will not be “dictated upon.”
Touted as always under Arroyo’s shadow, Teodoro shares that once seated as President, he will “do what is right.” “Kapag presidente ka na, Presidente ka na. Gawin mo ang tama,” he said during the debate.
Seven presidential candidates attended “Harapan” at the University of Santo Tomas. Standing alongside Teodoro are former president Joseph Estrada, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas, religious leader Eddie Villanueva, senators Richard Gordon and Benigno Aquino III, and councilor JC de los Reyes.
Although he agreed that growing population is an issue that needs to be addressed, Teodoro was less enthusiastic on the Reproductive Health bill issue. He said population should not be legislated because this creates conflicts.
Teodoro used to advocate the controversial reproductive health bill but said his administration will “support the freedom of choice of the couple.”
He explained that “It is the moral responsibility of those who don’t want legislation to control population, to do it themselves in the way they think is moral.”
He also stressed out that part of the moral obligation of couples is “to bring to the world children [who] can be cared for,” and will not end up in streets or become criminals.
Teodoro, however, has been consistent with his platform on increasing police and military presence in certain areas in Mindanao. When asked what the first three rules he will order as President after the Maguindanao massacre, Teodoro said he will increase the spending for the department of national defense.
As former defense chief, Teodoro mentioned the lack of “authority visibility” in Mindanao. He has consistently stated that a stronger police and military force in the region will help minimize the proliferation of armed groups.
To a question raised on the close ties between President Arroyo and the Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao, who were allegedly behind the carnage, his answer was safe: The legal processes should be above political relationships.
Another presidential aspirant Kapatiran’s de los Reyes, however, rebutted his statement. De los Reyes emphasized moral values among leaders, apparently taking a swipe at President.
Teodoro’s response was practical. He explained that the real debate is not in being moral but in how this is put into practice.
“Kahit moral values, kapag trina-translate sa government, dapat may enforcement. Walang debate sa moral values, ang debate nasa enforcement, wala tayong infrastructure,” he said.
Assuming he wins the presidency, Teodoro has a lot to implement in his first 100 days in office. Some are continuing programs from the current administration.
Among the programs he has adopted for his 2010 presidential bid is the conditional cash transfer program. Teodoro notes that there are still 700,000 poor Filipinos that need assistance from the government.
He likewise mentioned the need to repair infrastructure damages incurred during the onslaught of typhoons Ondoy, Pepeng, Ramil, and Quedan. The further development of infrastructure works for a “seamless transportation” system between and among islands is also one of Teodoro’s priorities.
If elected, he will also spend his early days in office strengthening the basic education program, balancing military campaigns in Mindanao, and scrutinizing appointments.
Under a Teodoro presidency are the following priorities:
1) Agricultural assistance to farmers affected by the recent calamities
2) Participative health care
3) Reverse brain drain
4) Development of information technology and other technical skills
5) Develop ecotourism
6) Environment care and disaster risk management
Consistent with his interview in Probe Profiles, Teodoro reiterated the need for a healing president. He pushes for transparency and is open to discussing his platforms with other chambers of government and organizations. Likewise, he stressed the importance of addressing graft and corruption issues in the country.
“We need cooperation and healing,” he said.
as of 12/03/2009 4:00 AM