At Large

Endorsements

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Turns out it’s not just “Sir Chief” Richard Yap and Dingdong Dantes—both of them actors—who are supporting former senator Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay’s run for the Senate in the May 13 elections.

Recently, the Movement for Good Governance, headed by former finance undersecretary Dr. Milwida Guevara, held a “benchmarking” exercise before a straw vote was taken during a public forum dubbed “Timbangan 2013.” The MGG asked a panel of experts—led by UP professor emeritus (and Inquirer columnist) Winnie Monsod, together with former finance secretary Roberto de Ocampo, former Comelec commissioner Gus Lagman, former Negros Occidental governor Lito Coscolluela, and Joy Aceron, research director of the Ateneo School of Government—to “weigh” the 33 candidates for senator and draw up a list of 12 “winners” based on their evaluation.

Emerging at the top of the list after the straw vote was taken was Magsaysay, who was a unanimous choice for his “impeccable character, his dedication and industry, especially his work on the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act.”

Some of those who made it to the MGG’s “Top Twelve” were surprise choices, while some of the other candidates, particularly those topping public opinion surveys of late, failed to make it.

Here are the candidates the MGG is endorsing: (in the order they emerged): Jun Magsaysay, Koko Pimentel, Risa Hontiveros, JC delos Reyes, Richard Gordon, Ed Hagedorn, Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Teddy Casiño, Sonny Angara, Bam Aquino, Jamby Madrigal, and Chiz Escudero.

According to a news report, the Panel of Experts used a scorecard to evaluate the candidates, guided by a briefer on the candidates’ past performances, their empowering programs and behavior, as well as how their lives are “consistent with the values that the candidates professed.”

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One of the major issues against which the candidates were rated was that of political dynasties, which Monsod said have “monopolized political power and resources.”

Using the criteria they established, the panel members had only one choice among the Senate reelectionists: Sen. Koko Pimentel. Magsaysay was the unanimous choice. One panelist, on the other hand, commented that former senator Ernesto Maceda “has been in politics for so long that he is a dynasty by himself.”

Former representative Cynthia Villar was scored for her family’s involvement in the C-5 controversy while JV Ejercito, said the panel, “still has to explain the sources of his assets.” Angara “faces a huge dynasty issue plus the creation of an economic zone in his district without people’s consultation.” Hontiveros and Casiño were criticized by some for focusing on a few advocacy issues, although Hontiveros’ stand on women’s rights was highlighted.

Of the newcomers, the report says “the panel had nothing to say about Nancy Binay whose major qualification is being the daughter of the Vice President.” Hagedorn received props for his work as Puerto Princesa mayor particularly his championing of environmental causes. The issue of political dynasty was brought up once more against Bam Aquino and Ting-

ting Cojuangco, both related to President Aquino. Monsod spoke well of the leadership of Poe-Llamanzares in fighting electoral fraud. But the choices of the panel among the “newbies” were Hagedorn and Delos Reyes.

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One other group, which calls itself “Change Advocates for Risa Hontiveros,” calls on all those who believe in her—and our—“progressive agenda for social transformation” to muster the vote and get her into the Senate.

“Many of us have known Risa since she was an idealistic college student at the Ateneo, actively involved in peace issues and in the movement to dismantle the authoritarian regime,” the statement says. “As a passionate and compassionate young adult, she dedicated the first few years of her professional life to the pursuit of a just and enduring peace.” And when she left the NGO world to sit as an Akbayan party-list representative in three Congresses, the statement takes note of her advocacies: “she has fought hard against government corruption; for agrarian reform; for cheaper medicines; and for other legislation that addresses economic inequity, the health needs of women and children, and discrimination against groups marginalized by society.”

But I find most interesting the mention of her faith and her practice of it that, given her strong support for reproductive health, have cast doubt on her loyalty to the Catholic Church. “As a practicing Roman Catholic, Risa has not hesitated to challenge her Church’s alienation from the needs of the poor, especially of poor women. But she has also stood with her Church for peace, for agrarian reform, for good governance, for people’s access to health care, and for the broadening of democracy in Philippine society. She believes wholeheartedly in Catholic social teaching and in the Gospel imperative of bringing social justice, imbued with charity, into the politics of the nation.”

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Risa, says the statement, will help “build a kinder, more compassionate, and more democratic Philippines.”

And for Catholics who want to define their faith not by obedience to the dictates of powerful prelates but by adherence to Christian values and living the dictates of conscience, a vote for Risa is also a vote for enlightenment and active discernment. Living our faith calls for compassion and kindness, courage and sacrifice. It also calls for voting for candidates who embody our deepest values, in the most meaningful way, and who will bring all these into all aspects of their life: their work in the legislature, their political sphere, the deepest recesses of their being. I think that describes Risa Hontiveros.

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