Bernardo M. Villegas
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Three Senatoriables (Part 1)

           According to the latest polls, like those of the Social Weather Stations Surveys, there are candidates for Senator in the May 9 elections that are guaranteed to be among the top twelve choices.  Except for those at the borderline, names like Vicente Sotto II, Panfilo M. Lacson, Sr., Franklin Drilon, Ralph Recto and Francis Pangilinan are almost sure to be in the magic twelve.  Whether or not I vote for them, they will be elected as Senators because of name recall and their accomplishments as legislators in the past.  For example, I would have easily voted for Frank Drilon not only for his enlightened participation in the passing of many important laws but also his leadership in the development of the most promising city in the South, Iloilo.  I would have easily chosen Vicente Sotto III for his strong advocacy to protect the unborn and for other pro-life causes.  Serge Osmena III and Richard Gordon deserve their being among the top choices because of their great familiarity with the enlightened solutions to many of our socio-economic problems.  They however, do not need my vote because they already have mass support.

          There are three candidates that I will include in my very limited list because I want to catapult them to the top twelve.  At the moment they are trailing behind in the surveys.  These are Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, Maria Susana V. Ople, and Roman Romulo.  I can speak with authority about their strengths and accomplishments because I have worked closely with them in development-oriented causes for a number of years.  I do not have the same intimate knowledge about the others who are not in the top twelve in the voting preferences that have been published.

          First, let me write about Congressman Ferdinand Martin G.  Romualdez.  I want him to be in the next Senate because of his track record in authoring bills that target the welfare of the poor and the needy.  He just made news by being the author of House Bill 1039, which together with its counterpart Senate Bill 2890, was recently signed into law as Republic Act No. 10754 which has been acclaimed by people with disabilities (PWDs).  The new law entitles PWDs to discounts available to senior citizens as well as exemption from the payment of Value Added Tax (VAT).  This bill is one of the products of the “compassionate governance” for which Congressman Romualdez is famous through which he is constantly searching for ways to create more jobs, provide universal health care, free education for the poor and disaster resilience.  Similar to the roles that Frank Drilon has played in Iloilo and the Angaras in Aurora, Congressman Romualdez has made and can make a big contribution to poverty eradication in Eastern Visayas, his favorite region. 

          It is precisely because of his focus on Eastern Visayas that he has also manifested his strong bias in favor of investing in technology and encouraging IT solutions to improve the quality of life of the masses.  In an interview, he talked about lessons learned from Typhoon Yolanda that devastated Leyte and Samar.  If he is elected as Senator, he can do much to pass laws that can lead to the use of the new technology of better forecasting and warning systems to achieve greater preparedness for natural hazards and to guide government officials in land use and regulations. He is advocating the incorporation of technology-driven solutions to education, livelihood, and healthcare services.

          Another major contribution that Congressman Romualdez can make to future legislation has to do with the banking sector.   He spent many years in the private sector as a top banking official.  More than ever, we need legislators who are very familiar with the workings of banks so that in the next Administration we can fine-tune all the favorable features of the Philippine financial system which I must say is being managed by one of the best central banks in Southeast Asia, despite the recent scandal about money laundering involving a local commercial bank and the casino industry.  We will need someone like Congressman Romualdez, working with equally knowledgeable people like Senators Serge Osmena and Sonny Angara, to legislate on how to plug the loopholes in our bank secrecy laws and in the regulation of the casino industry so that we can prevent future occurrences of money laundering. (To be continued)