Asked on curbing corruption, VP bets call for digitalization, stronger judiciary; Bello sings


MANILA, Philippines — Most of the country’s vice-presidential candidates said one corruption watchdog is not enough to keep an eye on the government.

Instead, candidates pitched ideas from modernizing agencies, increasing the budget of agencies to attract manpower, to having an internal government overhaul.

The Commission on Elections held debates for vice presidential candidates Sunday evening where aspirants were asked: Should there only be one agency focused on busting corruption within the government, just like how it is in Singapore and Hong Kong? 

Here’s what the vice presidential bets said: 

Rizalito David

Democratic Party of the Philippines vice-presidential candidate David said that the current system with multiple agencies to focus on ensuring accountability within the government is good enough. 

However, he stressed that immorality is the main problem of the country.

Manny Lopez

Lopez, running under Labor Party Philippines, believes that it is not feasible to have one agency in charge of busting corruption in the country.

He said the solution to fighting corruption is through promoting good and just practices. He also pushed for heavier penalties for those found guilty of graft and corruption.

"We can do this by amending the People’s Initiative Law and make it functional," he said. "Let’s make plunder qualify for death penalty." 

Dr. Willie Ong

Aksyon Demokratiko bet Ong focused on the Commission on Audit, suggesting that the agency’s findings be made available to the public with due process. COA reports are already actually published on its website.

He also put forward the idea of rotating auditors among agencies to prevent collusion.

Ong also stressed the importance of the Freedom of Information Bill and how officials should make their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth forms public. He also said congressmen should have a "roadmap" or a detailed developmental fund for their projects.

Citing "experts", he also emphasized that going digital will help minimize corruption. 

Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan

Meanwhile, Liberal Party’s Sen. Pangilinan said the government's anti-corruption agency should be the judiciary and that their budget should be doubled and they need to expedite the processing of cases.

"Ang problema—kulang ang budget ng hudikatura. Wala pang 2% ng kabuuang budget ng ating gobyerno," Pangilinan said. 

(The problem is the judiciary lacks funds. It does not even take up 2% of the government’s whole budget.)

He stressed that courts lack manpower because lawyers do not want to take low-paying government jobs. Meanwhile, he said litigation of cases in the Philippines often take up to six years.

"We must modernize our judiciary so that the corruption drive would be meaningful," Pangilinan said.

Carlos Serapio

The vice-presidential candidate of Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi said the country's need to address corruption should be seen as part of the country's need "for a total constitutional change."

"Until and unless we are also able to change the power structure, meaning the monopoly of economic power and the monopoly of political power, then we will not really be able to address this comprehensively and we cannot continue to provide for band-aid solutions," Serapio said. 

Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III

Senate President Sotto of the Nationalist People's Coaltion also promoted the shift to digital and emphasized the need to streamline systems by cutting down bureaucratic red tape. 

"The government is too large for a single body. What we need is internal cleansing, we must lead by example," Sotto said, saying his running mate and Partido Reporma standard-bearer Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson did that when he headed the Philippine National Police.

Bello serenades ‘Where are you?’

Partido Lakas ng Masa's Bello started his portion by actually singing Frank Sinatra’s "Where Are You?":

"This is meant specifically for Sara Duterte and Bongbong Marcos and I’ll sing Frank Sinatra, where are you? Where did you go without me? I thought you cared about me? Where are you?"

He continued singing with his own lyrics, hitting leading presidential and vice presidential bets Marcos and Duterte. The two skipped both of the debates organized by Comelec held this weekend.

"Nasan ka? Nasaan ang pera? Ibalik mo na ang pera, ibalik mo na (Where are you? Where’s the money? Return the money, return it already)," Bello continued, referring to estate taxes that the Marcos family owes the government and alleged ill-gotten wealth that the goverment has been working to recover.

Bello also hit rival Duterte by saying he plans on focusing on "cleaning up Davao."

Earlier during the VP debate, Bello threatened to walk out after calling out Comelec’s spinelessness for not imposing harsher sanctions on the Marcos-Duterte duo for refusing to attend debates and to present their platforms to the Filipino people.

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