The Philippine Reporter
June 12, 2009
on June 6, 2009. From left: Rey Tolentino, Dr. Mario Andres, Paul Arena, Wendy Arena, Dr. Francis Rementilla, Pangilinan, Consul General Alejandro Mosquera, Mr. Hidalgo, Linda Javier, (FCT President) and Efren de Villa.
TORONTO — Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, who’s here with megastar wife Sharon Cuneta last weekend, tried to build a strong case for overseas Filipinos to register and vote for the 2010 presidential elections.
Speaking at the Rizal Hall of the Filipino Centre-Toronto on Saturday (June 6), Pangilinan who reportedly topped the Philippine senatorial winning candidates in the Toronto count in 2007, challenged Filipinos in the audience to help bring change in their home country by registering and voting during next year’s elections.
Calling them the “missing middle class” who have left the country due to the lack of opportunities there, he likened them to the Israeli Jews who, regardless of where they are in the world, decided to support their Jewish state.
He said that in the Philippines there is a very small economic elite and “an ocean of impoverished, very poor kababayans”. “The middle class is missing precisely because they have left. And so they say that the overseas Filipinos are part of that missing middle class.”
Because of the Internet, the Filipino Channel (TFC) and the information communication technology, overseas Filipinos are more connected, more aware of what’s happening in the Philippines than 10 or 15 years ago, and more concerned, he said.
“And you are that middle class potentially, that missing middle class that will push for reforms. Sabi nga nila, pag nakatikim ka na ng kama, hindi ka na babalik sa papag. (They say if you’ve experienced a bed, you won’t go back to the floor.) That’s the middle class. Once you’ve tasted the better things in terms of governance, in terms of economy, you will not settle for something less. And why am I emphasizing this? Because being that missing middle class, you actually play a very important role in terms of trying to help shape the sense of our nation, the direction of our nation,” he said.
He urged those who have not done so, to reacquire their Filipino citizenship, apply for dual citizenship and register to vote in Philippine elections.
During the question and answer period, he revealed that his plan is to run for vice president of the Philippines although he said he has not announced this. Consistent with his stand of running as an independent, he extolled the virtues of not being beholden to any major political party. He said he is not obliged to vote in the Senate with any party. And although some big businessmen have supported him, they were risking with him because he’s not aligned with any party.
According to official sources, he said there are nine million first time voters who have not registered. And they are not registering for three main reasons: 1. No need for it. 2. It’s an exercise in futility, and 3. There’s going to be cheating anyway.
He admonished those who share this thinking that they are actually leaving the fate of the country to those who are voting and to the politicians. He also said he is heartened that there is now a common effort to get people to register. He gave the example of Davao City where there is an estimated over one million voters because of a renewed interest in the electoral process.
Pangilinan lamented that the country is left behind in economic terms. He expressed disappointment that while the Philippines has not increased its per capita income in 30 years, China has registered 400 percent; Malaysia, 150 percent; and Thailand 100 percent in the same period. “What we’re earning 30 years ago, we’re earning today. In other words, we’re running in place,” he said.
He blamed the “public sector leadership” for “the mess we’re in” without specifying any president or past leaders and offered new public sector leaders as a solution.
“As a student of public administration, I would say public administrators and public sector leaders failed us. That’s why we are where we are today. And how do we get out of the mess we’re in? Simply put, it will be public sector leaders who will succeed in terms of vision, in terms of programs, in terms of policy that will bring us out of the mess we’re in. That’s why registering in the coming elections is very important.”
When asked about the case of Melissa Roxas, the Filipino American activist recently abducted who claimed to have been tortured by what she suspected to be military forces, and the numerous cases of human rights violations in the Philippines, as presented by torture victims in the recent session of the United Nations Committee on Torture (CAT) in Geneva, he said a bill against torture has been filed in the Senate.
He also said that the problem of current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is that she is much indebted to the military.
Consul General Alejandro Mosquera, who earlier spoke to introduce Sen. Pangilinan, stood to explain that in the recent UN CAT session, it was acknowledged that there was improvement in the human rights situation in the Philippines and that the “alleged torture” of Roxas is being investigated.
According to a news story published in the June 1-15, 2009 of The Philippine Reporter, the UN CAT report said that torture was widespread in the Philippines and that the Philippine government report did not provide specifics on how human rights violations are being prevented by authorities.
On the question of the recently-passed House resolution for a Constituent Assembly for a Charter Change that would exclude the Senate, Pangilinan said all of the sitting 23 senators are against it and would work against it.
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