MANILA—Independent presidential candidate and Senator Grace Poe said on Sunday there is no proof that having a long experience as a public servant would make one best qualified for the presidency.
”There is no proof that if you have long experience, you are good. I think that among us, I might have the shortest experience but, as a mother, I can see the needs of a family,” Poe said during the first presidential debate held in Cagayan de Oro City.
Poe’s first-round critic, Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, belittled the experience of Poe, saying the country needs “not an OJT (on the job) president.”
”How will we be able to know if we are being flattered? For me, experience is the best qualification of a president,” Roxas said.
In response, Poe said she investigated in the Senate the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DOTC), two government agencies that Roxas handled before announcing his presidential bid.
”I think, you do not need long experience to know what is lacking in the government’s assistance for our people and if the assistance is consistent,” Poe said.
In her short experience in the government, Poe led the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) and got the highest number of votes of 20 million to earn a seat in the Senate where she led high-profile investigations and passed important measures, including the Freedom of Information Bill.
Under her stewardship, the FOI bill hurdled the Senate but not the House of Representative, prompting her to promise during the televised debate that, if elected, her first executive order will be about FOI.
Poe said her experience as a teacher, although belittled by an opponent, would also be helpful for her to become a successful leader of the country.
”It is because a teacher has the real concern and teach us what is right or wrong and on what to do on certain topics,” Poe said.
”I might be new, but our problems are no longer new and many have long experience but their solutions are all the same,” she said in her closing statement.
Poe said she will also push for free student lunch in public schools and subsidies for the poorest farmers.
In her opening statement, Poe said the debates are the proper way to inform the public about their candidates and for the people to understand what they can do once elected in May 9 polls.
She said there are already experienced politicians who led the country but Mindanao remains poor despite having the best products, particularly pineapple and banana.
”What we need is leaders with true compassion, determination, fast action and immediate solutions,” Poe said.
If elected, Poe said 30 percent of the national budget should go to Mindanao for the immediate solution to development.
She also intends to improve the power supply for Mindanao by rehabilitation the hydro power plants—Angus and Pulangi in Mindanao.
On Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s being a womanizer, Poe said the mayor should “restraint a little bit.”
”All of us commit mistakes, because we’re just human, but I always give respect whoever you are—men or women, LGBT. All of us should respect each other,” Poe said.
On the poverty and development which turned out as the hottest issue during the presidential debate, Poe promised to use the untouched Php70-billion coco-levy fund to help save the dying coconut industry.
”Let’s remember that an average age of coconut tree is six years old. We need replanting. Let’s use the coconut levy fund for our coconut farmers. Create livelihood like coco coir, coco oil, coco water and whatever added value for our farmers,” Poe said.
To improve the agriculture sector, Poe pushed for agro-industrial zones wherein the Departments of Trade and Agriculture will jointly market the products of the farmers.
”Let’s have soil testing. What is the added value that we can do to their lands? How we can increase their income. Irrigation should be free,” Poe said.
On the issue of the South China Sea, Poe agreed with Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States should have been approved by the Senate. The Supreme Court has declared EDCA as legal.
Poe said the Philippines should talk with China “constructively but let’s take a leadership role in the ASEAN so that we can follow a particular Code of Conduct that will be followed by the other countries in the ASEAN.”
On the peace process, Poe said she wanted to have a transparent, inclusive and sustainable talks and agreement with all the groups and sectors—Moro rebels, Maguindanaoan, Tausug, Maranao, Badjao, Indigenous People, and Christians.
While talking peace, Poe said all the projects in Mindanao should be implemented, including the long proposal to build the Mindanao Rail project which, she said, would require Php70 billion.
On Duterte’s federalism proposal, Poe said she is open into it if it would make the country better but she prefers ‘devolution of powers’ wherein local governments have prerogative to spend funds.
The Mindanao presidential debate is one of the three such debates organized by GMA Network and the Philippine Daily Inquirer in coordination with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The next two debates will be held in the Visayas and Luzon.