Last January 20, the much-anticipated #TheLeaderIWant President and Vice President forum held at the Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium resulted in the disappointment of many students after it was revealed that only the lone duo of Rodrigo Duterte and Alan Peter Cayetano would be present at the event.
In separate exclusive interviews with The LaSallian, the four other president and vice president teams reveal their reasons for not appearing in #TheLeaderIWant forum.
Roxas and Robredo
Former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas explains that he had urgent matters to attend to and was simply unable to commit. Nonetheless, he is confident that the members of the electorate all know his platform, since he is essentially continuing what the previous administration did.
“Alam ninyo naman po kung ano ang platform ko at ng party ko. We have always been consistent and open about our party’s platforms as we continue the Daang Matuwid,” he explains. “If I was not confident about this, then I would have needed to go [to the forum].”
Furthermore, he claims that any information needed about him is readily available at all times, and that attending the forum would have been redundant.
“I have never tried to hide anything. Look at public records. Look at my track record. Look at my site. It’s all there. It speaks for itself. Just google it,” he adds. “Let me tell you. Kung gusto ninyo akong tanungin about anything regarding what we stand for, let’s meet at the nearest karinderya, and I’ll lay it all down for you.”
However, he clarifies that he plans to reach out to more voters especially in Mindanao, and hopes to be able to engage in a debate with Duterte in the near future.
Meanwhile, House Representative Leni Robredo shares that she regrets not having been able to attend the forum, but hopes nonetheless to impart a message to the youth and academe of DLSU.
“The role of students and educators to our country’s future is great,” she describes. “Students, as early as now, strive to exercise good governance. Educators, guide them in this endeavor.”
Defensor-Santiago and Marcos
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, despite having difficulties with her physical well-being, is still as sharp as ever. Defensor-Santiago expressed her regrets over not being able to attend the forum as she saw it as an opportunity for her to grill her political rivals.
“It was an opportunity to finally show my enemies that I have survived cancer and I am runningfor president no matter what! Akala nila makakapagsaya na sila dahil maylung cancer ako! Well, unfortunately for them, I have this mission to rid our country of idiotic government officials! And I shall not rest until I accomplish this!” she exclaims.
“I always put myself in harm’s way because that is where I am most effective!” she adds. “Parang gubat itong gobyerno natin. Punung-puno ng mga hayop! Kaya ang mga pinaggagawa, mga kahayupan din! It’s about time that we elect real people in government positions!”
When asked about whether she was worried about losing prospective voters for the national elections due to her absence at the forum, she replies, “[For] those who like me, raise your hands. For those who don’t, raise your standards.”
Senator Bongbong Marcos, on the other hand, reasons that he was busy preparing to support his claim that his father, former President Ferdinand Marcos, is the best president the Philippines ever had, and that his time of administration was the Philippines’ “Golden Age” in light of the the People Power Revolution’s 30th anniversary, which was celebrated last February 25. He explains that even if he went to the forum, he would not have been able to accomplish what he wants the people to see, for the people demand that he, on behalf of the Marcoses, apologize for all the damage done by his family tothe Filipinos.
“Ang gusto ng mga tao, humingi ako ng paumanhin sa mga nagawa ng aking pamilya noong pangulo pa ang aking ama,” he says. “Kung mayroon akong sinaktan, I will always say sorry. But what have I been guilty of to apologize about? Will I say sorry for the thousands and thousands of kilometers that were built? Will I say sorry for the agricultural policy that brought us to self-sufficiency in rice? Will I say sorry for the power generation? Will I say sorry for the highest literacy rate in Asia?”
“What am I to say sorry about?”he questions.
Binay and Honasan
Vice President Jejomar Binay explains that he had to pull out because he was feeling unwell, and denies that he had reservations about facing another crowd in a forum.
“Alam kong sinasabi ng mga tao na natakot akong pumunta sa forum dahil sa nangyari dati sa [University of the Philippines Los Baños],” he posits. “Hindi po totoo iyon. Nag-enjoy nga ako doon, kahit na ‘na-roast’ daw ako. Mabuti nga na kritikal yung kabataan natin para makaboto sila nang tama.”
He further shares that he felt unwell because of the hectic schedule he had in the weeks prior to the forum. This included campaign promotions and preparations for cases recently filed against him
“I just came from Cebu at that time, kung saan nag-attend ako ng Sinulog kasama ang mga mabubuting mamamayan ng Cebu,” he describes. “When I got back to Manila, I had to prepare for several hearings. That’s why hindi ako nakapunta sa forum.”
Regarding the allegations of corruption, Binay denies any wrongdoing and says that he has said enough on the issue.
“Sa totoo lang, ang dami-dami na naming paliwanag pero ayaw nila kaming pakinggan,” he laments, “Saan daw nanggaling ang aming kayamanan? Sinabi ko na dati, ‘di ba? I come from a poor family. I know what it is like to be poor. But a government official can earn money and serve the people. We inherited land from my parents. I am a lawyer. My wife is a doctor. Ba’t kayo nagtataka? Tanungin na lang ninyo: Ano po ang nangyari sa Makati? Umunlad, at iyon din ang gagawin ko para sa buong Pilipinas.”
When asked how he could have inherited the land if he came from a poor family, he replies, “We are too focused on corruption. The real problem of this country is poverty.”
Senator Gringo Honasan also shared his reasons for not having been able to go to the forum.
“I would never miss an opportunity to educate the youth, especially voters,” he declares. “But this time, I could not commit due to prior commitments. Alam kong kayong mga kabataan ay mahusay sa pagmu-multi-tasking. Pero ako, I cannot be in two places at one time. In any case, I hope the students of DLSU would continue to educate themselves on national matters,” he adds.
He further explains that accusations of involvement in the pork barrel scam made it hard for him to commit to the forum.
“It’s ridiculous,” he exclaims. “The accusations have no bearing. I am very far from being corrupt. I know it is easy to see me as a bad guy, but trust me, I am a good boy now.”
Poe and Escudero
Senator Grace Poe shares that she reluctantly declined to attend because she had to cater to pressing issues surrounding her candidacy at the time.
“As you all know, my qualifications as a candidate at the time were in question,” she explains. “I had matters to attend to in order to answer such doubts.”
As of October 2015, Grace Poe’s candidacy had been in question especially ever since Dr. Antonio Contreras, a professor from DLSU, and other private petitioners, filed a case for her disqualification.
“We were working for a positive outcome in the decision,” Poe narrates, “Thankfully, the recent ruling was in our favor, and we can continue our campaign smoothly.”
Escudero, on the other hand, explains that he, as Poe’s running mate, cannot go to the forum without his counterpart. “Tinatanggap ko, ng may buong tapang at pagpapakumbaba ang hamon ni Senator Grace na maging katuwang niya sa landas niyang tatahakin bilang kanyang bise-presidente,” he says.
“Kung hindi siya nakapunta sa forum dahil kinu-kwestiyon ang kanyang pagka-kandidato, katuwang niya ako sa pag-aayos ng mga gusot na ito,” he firmly states.