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With just six days before the national elections, Liberal Party senatorial bet Teofisto “TG” Guingona III yesterday called on the Filipinos to cast their full support to whoever gets the highest number of votes on May 9.
Saying that the political fever now is too high, Guingona said that one must seriously consider to veer away from politics once the election fervor fizzles out, and pitch in his effort to unify the “Team Philippines,” an idea he got from former President Fidel V. Ramos.
“Though it will not be easy, let’s work together and put our house in order,” he said during a roundtable discussion with Manila Bulletin’s (MB) editors at MB’s head office in Intramuros, Manila.
Continuing his crusade
Should he retain his Senate seat, Guingona said he will continue fighting corruption, addressing the problems in the country’s healthcare system, and helping counter the prevalence of rebellion.
“As early as my high school days, the rebellion of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have been [hounding the Philippines]. Now, I’m a senator already and the problem about them is still out there,” Guingona said.
He stressed that final peace talks must take place to achieve lasting peace. He added that Mindanao has always been the “weeping boy” when it comes to atrocities brought about by rebellious groups.
“Having final and lasting peace enables us to shift…if you’ll look at the map of the Philippines, what do you see? More land or more water?” Guingona asked rhetorically. “So [it’s a] no-brainer, we should have a bigger Navy and Air Force than our Army. But, what we have is the opposite.”
According to him, 80 percent of the country’s Armed Forces are comprised of the Army, while only 20 percent represents the Navy.
“Because we have the rebellion, [we] need a large Army to counter [it],” Guingona said.
Once lasting peace is in place, resources can be freed up and make a paradigm shift “toward having a large Navy and Air Force.”
“And right now, with the superpower right off the shores of Palawan and Pangasinan, I think it’s imperative that we do the paradigm shift in our Armed Forces, which we cannot do that until we have peace,” Guingona said.
Federalism can solve poverty
A lawmaker who hails from Mindanao, Guingona said that he has since batted for federalism to solve problems in the country’s second biggest island.
“I think the problem with poverty is we have to look for inclusive growth. There has to be more inclusive projects like the bottom-up budgeting,” he said.
For him, the inhabitants of a certain community best know what the problems are and the best solutions to them, and not a person sitting in an air-conditioned office in Metro Manila.
“The bottom-up budgeting right now should take up more of the national budget because this really helps the locals, and if it can be done, we should see how we can bring it down to a lower level to the barangay, which is [a] more basic unit of the society,” Guingona said.
Aware that several places in the Philippines, especially the remotest ones, have yet to have their own healthcare centers, Guingona said the implementation of healthcare reforms still remains a big challenge for him.
“There is this Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), yet why do we lack doctors, nurses, hospital buildings, and equipment; it just started, I think it’s just one or two years old [in existence],” he said.
(MARK ANTHONY SARINO)