Monday, August 24, 2009

Mar Roxas engages urban poor in Talakayan 2010

Mar Roxas engages urban poor in Talakayan 2010

Written by Ofelia T. Sta. Maria

The Urban Poor Alliance (UP-ALL) Mega Manila held a forum last Saturday, August 9, at the Institute of Social Order (ISO) Social Development Complex at Ateneo de Manila University. Talakayan 2010: Panayam ng mga Maralitang Tagalungsod sa mga Kandidato aims to invite 2010 presidential candidates to present their platforms, programs, and plans for the urban poor sector.

According to Jose Morales of the Uganayang Lakas ng mga Apektadong Pamilya sa Baybaying Ilog Pasig (ULAP), Quezon City UP-ALL, Talakayan 2010 is one of UP-ALL's steps to learn more about the 2010 presidential candiates. The group discussion, he said, is UP-ALL's participation in the upcoming elections.

Instead of presenting his presidential platform for his opening remarks, Sen. Roxas talked about former president Corazon Aquino's life. He told stories about her struggle with her husband Ninoy Aquino's imprisonment and assassination, the EDSA revolution, and her responsibilities as former president under a revolutionary government. He said that prayer and hope are the things that the people need for a better future. "Ang Pilipino, tatayo, titindig, lalaban [The Filipino shall stand up, make a stand, and fight]" he said, adding that what drove him to talk about Cory was her example of honest service to Filipinos. "Taglay niya ang kadakilaan natin [She carries within her our greatness]," he said.

He ended his opening speech by saying his familiar refrain: "Lalaban po tayo [We shall fight]."

Out of all invited guest speakers (Vice President Noli de Castro, Senator Manny Villar, Senator Loren Legarda, Pampanga governor Ed Panlilio, Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, and Isabela governor Grace Padaca), only Senator Mar Roxas was able to attend the forum. According to John Francis Lagman of the UPA, they have not received word from some invited guests.

When asked about his plans for his first 100 days if he is elected president, Roxas said that cabinet members and all those who are going to have positions in government will sign a waiver setting aside bank secrecy. He said that although this is not the answer to graft and corruption, it could be a step towards a more transparent government, unafraid to be questioned or examined.

He used the agriculture sector as an example: if it becomes more productive, people will have easier access to food. He mentioned the importance of education as "the great equalizer," and referred to "pantay, maayos at mabilis na katarungan sa bansa [equal, proper, and swift justice in the country]." Lastly, he stressed the importance of the domestic economy, saying that it should bloom so Filipinos will not always have to rely on other countries.

Roxas also brought up the Cheaper Medicines Law (Republic Act No. 9502) and how, upon signing the Executive Order, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo met with pharmaceutical companies. Roxas said that out of the 21 medicines recommended by the Department of Health, Arroyo only placed five on mandatory price control. "May martilyo para pukpukin ang presyo, bababain [There is a hammer with which to hit prices and make them come down]." He compared this to the issue of housing and the provisions that fall under it.

One of the sector's advocacies is to raise the national budget for social housing to 2 percent (the current budget for housing is 0.5 percent). When Roxas was asked about his support for the budgetary allocation, he admitted that he could give no exact number for the budget. He, however, assures that he will continue to promote the proclamation of government-owned lands for social housing. Regarding Arroyo's feeding program, Roxas said that he is not against it. "Ang nilalabanan ko po, yung pagnanakaw, yung mali na implementation nitong programa [What I am fighting against is theft, the wrong implementation of this program]."

The forum was attended by around 1,000 people composed of UP-ALL Mega Manila from Montalban, Antipolo, Taguig, Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Pasig, Malabon, Muntinlupa, and Quezon City.

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