Should you vote for Risa Hontiveros?
A meet-and-greet with the senatorial candidate*
This third and final run of Risa Hontiveros for the Philippine senate caught my attention because of her campaign slogan Healthy Pinoy, Healthy Pinas (Healthy Filipino, Healthy Philippines). I am a non-practicing certified renal nurse and I have a keen interest in preventive healthcare. I’ve also been running this lifestyle and wellness blog since 2014. I thought her to be a worthy subject for my Well-thy Pinoy Profiles series and so decided to extend an invitation to be featured in this blog through her official Facebook page.
I finally got a chance to ask her a few questions (though not necessarily my original ones) last Friday when Team Hontiveros invited me plus several other netizens to a meet-and-greet at The Chocolate Kiss Cafe in U.P. Diliman. The former congresswoman and senatorial candidate arrived around 12:30 p.m. in a white cocktail dress with black lace accents and – after quickly ordering a chiffon cake – immediately started answering the various questions thrown at her. Here are some of the answers we gleaned over the quick lunch:
On campaign fund costs
No running costs but it’s under Php 50 million. The biggest contributors are family members and none of them engage in government contracts.
None of my ads was spent using PhilHealth premiums. It was paid for by private individuals who believe in my PhilHealth initiatives.
On running again
This is my third and last effort so I am giving it my all.
On the FOI bill
It should’ve been passed in the 16th Congress. It has the overwhelming support of the citizenry and, as a courtesy to them, should be one of the first things to be filed in the 17th Congress.
I support K-12. It is an essential educational reform. “Nahuhuli na tayo (We’re getting left behind),” and that’s costing our graduates and our employees. If there’s a problem about it, “Ayusin. Hindi sagot na ipawalang bahala siya (Let’s fix it and not discard it).” K-12 sets the foundation for tertiary education. There should be greater dialogue between the two systems.
On theater and the arts**
Theater and music is my first love. I started theater back in second year high school when I was 15. I think that it is my theater and music background that enabled me to have an enduring spirit.
I support the conservation act. I would love to be an arts and culture advocate in the Senate.
On same-sex relationships
We should recognize same-sex relationships. The government must take the first step in equal application of the law. There should be civil recognition for same-sex partners. This takes time, society-wise.
On the LGBT community***
I will fight for LGBT rights as hard as I’ve fought for the anti-discrimination bill. We need to create a more conducive society.
It’s time to start talking about divorce. “Nakakadagdag sa sugat (It’s like adding salt to the wound)” the way the annulment process is created. Even Pope Francis says that a church annulment must be cheaper and speedier.
On the perception that she is an extreme leftist
The extreme left will never vote for me. I have a tradition of standing for social justice and I am solidly democratic. I do not support the armed struggle. I believe in fighting for peaceful change.
On the application of a universal basic income
Offhand, the idea seems to fit with social protection. It a nice idea that both working and non-working individuals have the support of the government, alongside with PhilHealth and SSS.
I agree with his stand against criminality and corruption. I agree with his health-supported programs in Davao City. Like him, I am also against contractualization.
On the RH Law
The RH Law must be implemented fully. That is the hurdle today!
PhilHealth has robust and healthy assets. “Maayos ang investments ng PhilHealth (PhilHealth’s investments are sound).” Though I left PhilHealth late last year, its “financial health is for the long-term.”
Every PhilHealth member pays Php 2400. premium/year. and indigents are sponsored by national government. As the late great DOH Secretary Quasi Romualdez said, “Universal healthcare is a priority sa mga mahihirap (Universal healthcare is a priority for the poor).”
On Senator Alan Peter Cayetano’s pronouncements that there should also be a lung, kidney, and heart centers in Visayas and Mindanao****
I support that but that’s already at the tertiary level. My primary priorities include the creation of super barangay health centers***** which is at the primary level of healthcare and also the declogging of tertiary hospitals.
On the Democratic Party nomination******
I am excited by the even more progressive ideas of Sanders. If I were a U.S. citizen, “Susubukan ko i-kampanya si Sanders (I will try to campaign for Sanders).”
The entire lunch lasted just around 30-45 minutes. Ms. Hontiveros seemed amiable and graciously fielded all the questions thrown her way from the get-go. She had to be whisked immediately after to the College of Economics, however, for the Rappler-organized senatorial debate. That’s why we weren’t able to get a group shot. She didn’t even touch her dessert!
If you had the chance to speak with Ms. Hontiveros, what questions would you ask her? Are you gonna vote for her? Is it third time’s the charm for Team Hontiveros? We’ll find out on May 9. Vote wisely, Philippines!
* Full disclosure:
I was invited to last week’s netizens’ lunch by Team Hontiveros. They paid for our meals.
I’ve also recently signed up as an online media volunteer for Ms. Hontiveros’s senatorial campaign because I believe that someone needs to continue to take up the cudgels for public health (I’ll hold her to that promise!). My past hospital duties at government health institutions opened my eyes to the realities of public healthcare. I have yet to contribute as an official volunteer as of this writing.
** Her answer to the question, “You have a theater and music background. I’m just wondering how you evolved into becoming a health advocate?”
*** Her answer to the question, “How hard will you fight for LGBT rights?”
**** I attended one of the campaign sorties of the Duterte-Cayetano tandem this month. It was in that sortie that Mr. Cayetano mentioned his plan of having lung, kidney, and heart centers built in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.
***** I wondered if the super barangay health centers Ms. Hontiveros mentioned were similar to the super health centers proposed by Rep. Vargas, so I clarified this with Team Hontiveros. They said they weren’t sure about the intricacies of the proposal of Rep. Vargas, but that the super barangay health centers envisioned by Ms. Hontiveros will have in-patient facilities, laboratory units, a birthing room, and a physician.
****** Her answer to the question, “Sanders or Clinton?”
JUNE 14, 2017 POSTSCRIPT
While Senator Risa and I agree on such things as the RH Law, the 120-day maternity leave, and the Healthy Bulilit Act, I am very much dismayed by her recent pronouncement that the Maute group’s acts in Marawi “only” fall under terrorism and not rebellion. Why is this seriously troubling? Read this. I am also very much aghast by this recent pronouncement of hers: “To the Maute group, you can raise a million ISIS flags but we will only swear allegiance to the Philippine flag.” Seriously? Should a million ISIS flags be raised in the Philippines, that would only mean one thing: WE HAVE BECOME A FAILED STATE. Should that happen, then there would be no state left to protect. So again, seriously??
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Image from Risa Hontiveros’s official Facebook page.
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