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Four for the hustings

The three-hour pre-recorded program showcased thoroughly fleshed out, honest and thought-provoking questions. It covered a gamut of issues and topics which put the aspirants on their toes.



Screen grab from GMA

With the May 2022 national elections fast approaching, four leading presidential aspirants faced the nation Saturday to tackle important national issues that concern the public and the electorate.

In the “Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews,” aired over GMA-7 Vice President Leni Robredo, Senators Manny Pacquiao and Panfilo Lacson, and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno were asked personal questions, their positions and platforms should they get the highest post in the government.

The three-hour pre-recorded program showcased thoroughly fleshed out, honest and thought-provoking questions. It covered a gamut of issues and topics which put the aspirants on their toes.

The exchange, was for many, totally rewarding that one would hardly have time to look for one missing contender — Ferdinand Marcos Jr. — who backed out. Five others, including Leody de Guzman, were not invited.


On diagnosis and prognosis

Robredo, the highest incumbent official among presidential hopefuls, said that the country’s recurring problems are due to the fact that most of the Filipinos did not learn the lessons from the past.

“We did not learn from the mistakes of the past. There were so many lessons that we should have learned from these mistakes but we keep on repeating the same mistakes,” she said.

She stressed that embedding the history and values in the country’s educational system would solve this problem.

Lacson, who has been a senator for 17 years with 32 years of experience in Philippine National Police (PNP), believed that one of the problems of the Philippines is that its citizens have become “dreamless, hopeless and helpless.”

He noted that the solution to this problem is a change in attitude of those who are running the government.

“There is no other way since everything is coming from the government. Our biggest problem is the government, the solution is the government itself,” he added.

For Pacquiao, Filipinos’ lack of discipline is one of the problems that hindered the nation from prospering.

“The solution to this problem is we should follow the authorities and government. Let us help each other,” the boxing-turned-politician said.

Meanwhile, Moreno, who is the local chief executive of the Philippines’ capital city, urged Filipinos to end the political dynasty by giving chances to other aspiring leaders from non-political clans.

“For the past 40 years, what has been happening is that the issues always revolved between these two families. It looks like it’s always about them,” he added.



Robredo defended her decision to run as an independent candidate despite being a member of the once-ruling Liberal Party.

“I never left the Liberal Party but I am running independently because we hope to convey the message that we are open to everyone, even those who do not belong to the party,” she said.

It was noted that before she filed her Certificate of Candidacy in October last year, the former Camarines Sur representative initiated unification talks with other presidential candidates to beat the supposed candidate of the current administration but eventually did not succeed.

“I will admit that I got frustrated when it failed because I knew it would be the best chance to unite under one candidate. Despite this failure, we were successful in uniting so many different groups that were not politicians even if they were not in our party,” she added.

Robredo said that should she be elected President, her administration’s three main priorities would be jobs, health, and education. Robredo has already introduced her Kalayaan sa Covid Plan and Hanabuhay Para sa Lahat Plan. Both are detailed roadmaps on how she would address these three issues.

Soho asked Robredo if she was prepared to be voted to the highest position in government, pointing out that she has the least experience in politics among the presidential candidates. Robredo was elected to Congress only in 2013.

The Vice President replied that long before she became a politician, she was already a public servant.



Moreno, the only presidential aspirant who is not in a national office, said he will institute a decisive government whose main focus is the welfare of the people and the uplift of the poor, citing his experience in his early life.

“For me, I understand what most of the Filipinos are experiencing. That is why in Manila, you can see that we focused on housing, education, health, and livelihood projects. It is basic governance,” the actor-turned-politician said.

“Other people would dream so many big things without realizing the basic needs of the people,” he added.

Moreno said others may say that his rhetoric and narrative smacked of populist politics and a call for a class war, but he stressed that his loyalty is to the people and what matters most to him is the result.

“At the end of the day, there is a goal and there must be a result. And results matter. More than naming things about what a person is doing, it’s about the result. Results matter,” he added.



For Lacson, it was his track record and nearly two decades of experience.

“I have a lot of accomplishments during my tenure in the executive and legislative,” the 18-year senator answered.

“I view the presidency as a sacrifice. After I serve the country then my duties are done — my only satisfaction in this life is to deliver meaningful service to the people,” he said.

“But I saw the problems of our country and I felt like it would be such a waste, to say, for my track record. Some of the promises other aspirants were making? I am already doing it or have done it as a legislator. It would be such a waste if I would not at least offer my experience, competence, track record, and the knowledge I have acquired for a long time. I think. I can still do something, that’s why I decided to run,” he added.

A long-time legislator and former chief of the PNP, Lacson was instrumental in the passage of landmark laws including the bill establishing the National ID system.

He is also known as the former PNP chief who eliminated the kotong (bribe) culture within police officers.

But his years in the public service were not without controversies.

In 1995, Lacson was accused of taking part in the Kuratong Baleleng massacre where 11 of the notorious robbery gang were summarily executed. He was named as the alleged mastermind behind the kidnap-slay of publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito years later in 2001.

The senator denied involvement in the killings and said the courts have proven his innocence.

“Right now, I’m looking at you straight in the eye. The courts have proven that I have nothing to do with it… the evidence is flimsy,” he said.



For his part, Pacquiao said he should be elected because he still has a lot to offer to the country.

“I saw that there’s still a lot for our government to do to address the problems of our country. We only need a clean government that is without a spark of corruption, a great plan for our country, generate jobs, provide housing, and most of all, jail abusive politicians who are stealing from state coffers,” he said.

“Time comes, we will focus on empowering our economy so that jobs will look for workers and not the other way around. If that happens, Filipinos will be prosperous,” he said.

One of the most controversial presidential bets, the retired boxing champion explained his side on issues thrown against him including his statement against the LGBTQ+ which he claimed as a misquote.

He explained it had already been clarified and that he has a lot of supporters from the sector. His stance against same-sex marriage, however, remains.

“We should abide on what the Lord wants, that is based on our faith,” he said.

The sportsman-turned-politician also set the record straight with his supposed tax deficiency cases and the allegations that he had been vote-buying when he was doling out money to his supporters.

He explained that critics only highlighted his act of giving away money when he became a politician but he had been extending help to poor Filipinos — whether in form of money or housing projects.

Should he be elected, Pacquiao vowed to eradicate corruption and address the Covid-19 pandemic, among others. He likewise said he would continue the administration’s war on drugs but in “a right way.”

GMA Network Inc. previously said it extended the invitation for the interview to the top five presidential aspirants based on the latest pre-election surveys.


Noticeably absent

Marcos Jr. was noticeably absent, with his camp justifying his refusal to participate with the veteran journalist’s supposed bias against the Marcoses.

Soho’s mother network took exception to the accusations and said it was “unfortunate” that he declined the offer.

“The questions are tough because the job of the presidency is tough,” it said.

“We believe that this is an important exercise to inform the public about the candidates seeking their votes in Eleksyon 2022, to help them make the best, most informed choice on their ballots,” it added.