Press Release
May 12, 2022

Senator Risa Hontiveros on ANC Rundown with Mike Navallo

Q: Let me first get your reaction to the outcome of this year's polls. You're the only opposition candidate who made it. How do you feel about it?

Senator Risa Hontiveros (SRH): I'm grateful, lalo na doon sa lahat ng naniniwala at nagtaya sa Risa Pa. If I will be proclaimed, I dedicate this to them. Ipinaglaban ko para talaga saming mga kababaihan, yung ating mga kabataan, ang pamilyang Pilipino, lahat ng mga mahihirap at hindi ko sila bibiguin.

Of course, I share with all of our colleagues and mga kababayan natin in that unforgettable People's Campaign. Aside from joy, also the sadness, anger, incredulity, shame, but with a clear eye, we will continue to work for the reforms we've been working on for so long. Nananalig ako na ang Senado, bilang institusyon, will continue to strive to sustain and to gain even more over time, yung tiwala ng ating mga kababayan.

And I believe na magagawa namin ito by continuing to fight against corruption, struggle against fake news, uphold human rights, everything that we fought for in the People's Campaign. Everything na siguro pinapangarap ng ating mga kababayan, in terms of a better future for our country.

Q: Were you surprised though that former senator Bongbong Marcos was able to obtain this huge lead over Vice President Leni Robredo?

SRH: Even early in the quick count, I sensed, we sensed that he was really establishing a lead, pero I do admit, nagulat ako sa laki ng agwat. And I share the concerns of many at sinalamin din ito ni VP Leni in her messages, there were incidents of vote-buying clearly shown in videos; there were reports of electoral violence, very regrettable. May mga kababayan nating napatay pa at nasugatan. Reports, video documented, lahat ng mga ito kailangan talagang imbestigahan at linawin, satisfactorily, ng government and constitutional bodies involved to the satisfaction of our citizenry. Importante na yung tiwala ng ating mga mamamayan sa isa sa pinaka-importanteng demokratikong proseso natin ay makamit.

Q: Has the opposition had the chance to do a sort of post-mortem of what happened? Where did the opposition fall short? We were seeing the huge turnout in campaign sorties of Vice President Robredo, there were celebrities joining to endorse her, there were volunteer-driven house-to-house campaigns, so what could have been done better?

SRH: I think those analyses or evaluations will be starting soon. All of us have to learn from our experiences, lalo na the stakes were and are still so high. There will be time to thank everyone na lumahok talaga sa People's Campaign na ito, to gather our lessons kasi we have not just the next six years, but our whole future, the whole future of the country ahead of us.

And we have to learn always better how to consolidate any gains of the past, keep our eye clearly on the unfinished tasks, the unfinished business, and keep on preparing for the hard work that continues to lie ahead. And yun na nga, kung maproproklema talaga ako bilang miyembro ng 19th Congress Senate, ang dami po talagang kailangan naming atupagin, and I believe, I know, lahat kami na lumahok sa people's campaign, alam nating lahat, hindi natapos ang tungkulin natin kay Inang Bayan on Election Day.

Kailangan ipagpatuloy parin natin ang paguusap-usap, yung pagbabayanihan, yung pagkilos para sa ating mga kababayan. We have to keep our shoulders to the wheel, ika nga. And keep on working, working even harder, and working even better.

Q: What's the future of the opposition in the country? When Pres. Duterte started, there were a few Senators in the minority. In the 2019 midterm polls, none from the opposition made it. Now it's just you. So what does the opposition do at this point?

SRH: We have to survive. Hindi yan gusto lang namin. It's a fundamental requirement of a working democracy. One of my colleagues, one of my comrades, Nathan Quimpo has a beautiful description of Philippine democracy, such as he calls it a contested democracy, so the opposition has to stay in the game, and we intend to.

Bahagi iyon ng pagtatasa nitong nakaraang eleksyon, because it's our duty. Kung meron kaming mga fundamental disagreements with any administration, tungkulin namin not just for ourselves but for the citizens who deserve representation kapag merong mga puna, kapag merong pagkukulang, pagkakamali.. These have to be corrected, these gaps have to be filled and the opposition in the last years, we've always strived to be fair kapag ka may mga tamang programa, tamang polisiya, we say so, and we certainly try to contribute our fair share, sometimes a lion's share, of positive policies and programs, so long game kasi ito. Long game ang pagbubuo ng ating bansa. Long game yung pagmamature ng ating heavily contested democracy. And the opposition, we intend to stay in this long and very serious game.

Q: A lot of people may be asking, if almost all of the senators are in the majority, aligned with the President, can we still expect an independent Senate?

SRH: Yan actually ang legacy ng Senado, in the past more than a century, that it's been an institution in our Republic. Kita natin even in the last six years, already very challenging, ilang beses tumindig ang Senado para sa independence on questions of checks and balances and fiscalizing the executive, on questions of national sovereignty for example in the West Philippine Sea, on questions of surviving this terrible public health emergency of COVID-19 and we're not yet out of the woods there, yung resesyon pa natin, lalong hindi pa tayo nakakaahon diyan.

And the Senate has spoken at many critical moments in the past six years, and I expect no less from us in the closing days of this 18th Congress, at kung maproklama nga ako, in the 19th Congress Senate. Expect that much from the Senate, yan ang masasabi ko sa ating mga kababayan at nananalig ako na we will step up to the task.

Q: How will the Senate look like now though? Who will be most likely the Senate President? And who will head some of the major committees, like for example, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee?

SRH: Blue Ribbon ay isa sa primyadong kumite, pinagaagawan yun na ma-Chair, it's arguably the primus inter pares of the Senate Committees, napakaimportante, lalo na sa ilalim ng mukha talagang incoming administration, na kung sino man ang mag-chair niyan, miyembro ng majority of course, pero isang Senador na talagang titindig para sa pagbantay laban sa anumang malfeasance, misfeasance, at nonfeasance.

As we have seen in the closing days of this 18th Congress, and I salute our Chair, Sen. Dick, lalo na sa imbestigasyon namin sa Pharmally, ay yung tapang niya, yung pagpupursige niya, has produced the results, findings na tatayuan ko talaga, especially in terms of the overpriced PPE supplies.

And how will the rest of the Senate look? Of course, the question of the senate officials is a majority decision to make. I look forward to remaining a very active member of the minority, lalo na tulad ng Senado, sa ating Republika, the minority in the Senate will remain and become, I think, even moreso an important part of the next challenging six years.

Q: But senator, how will you navigate your way through the Senate? Are you seeing potential allies who may have been with the majority under the Duterte administration but who may potentially join you in the Opposition on at least some key issues?

SRH: Definitely. The minority itself will be a work in progress in these closing days of the 18th Congress, yung minority para sa 19th Congress. At kung makabuo ng minority ay as again, I experienced in the past six years, depende sa bill, depende sa resolusyon na iimbestigahan, depende sa budget interventions na kailangang gawin, we often in the past six years have crossed the minority, majority line to make common cause on common advocacies. Ganyan parin ang inaasahan ko at pagtratrabahuan para sa susunod na Senado.

Q: Are there specific senators that you can think of at the moment to possibly support?

SRH: There are. Magsisimula palang kami mag-usap, and I hope that we will be speaking publicly soon.

Q: How do you think a Bongbong Marcos presidency will look like? What happens now to the issues of ill-gotten wealth and unpaid estate taxes among others?

SRH: Yun nga ang ilan sa maraming unfinished business of the past, unanswered not just valid but very significant questions. The questions themselves substantively, at saka yung scale ng itinatanong natin. Kaya napakahalaga ng Blue Ribbon, kaya napakahalaga ng Senado mismo, kaya napakahalaga ng Oposisyon, para bigyan ng balanse yung ating political system, para to keep the questions alive that could otherwise be silenced or just thrown into the shadows by an overly strong Executive, lalo na ang isang Executive na may historical links sa mga mahahalagang tanong na ito.

I can't yet say ano yung magiging hugis at kulay ng parating administrasyon. In the first place, we heard little to nothing from them sa mga debate that should have informed the election, the voters in the past months. Ngayon, wala nang kawala. Mukhang sila na nga ang mag-ookupa muli ng Malacanang, siguro naman ngayon, they will address the public because these are issues of bygone decades and of course very urgent issues paano talaga pagagalingin ang ating bansa mula sa COVID, paano iaahon sa resesyon, with already downgradings beginning with the stock market not in the healthiest, not in the pinkest of health. Paano tayo hahabol sa iba't ibang krisis, hindi lang pangkalusugan, pang-ekonomiya, pati pang-edukasyon, at iba pa? Within our own borders and in the international community.

And speaking of borders, paano ngayon yung pagtaguyod ng national interest, for example, sa West Philippine Sea? Given yung presumed, I hope I am mistaken, I hope yung mga kinakabahan ito ay nagkakamali, yung presumed, sustained and even intensified friendship of the incoming administration with Beijing? So kung kayo na ang Executive, kung kayo na yung Chief Executive, you cannot a cipher for the next six years as yung naging kayo nung nakaraang mga buwan.

Kakailangan na ninyong kausapin ang sambayanan. At mamuno, if you intend to lead in the proper direction.

Q: You talked about the economy, the stock market.. There were jitters in the business community when the results of the elections came out. PSEI opened in the red on Tuesday, there's also the development with JP Morgan dropping the Philippines to the bottom of the ASEAN investment list in Southeast Asia. Are these concerns warranted? How will the business climate look like under a new administration? And did you hear enough about the plans of presumptive president Bongbong Marcos for the economy?

SRH: Not enough at all.. Wala pang economic roadmap. Paano natin palalakasin muli at lalong palalakasin ang productive forces dito sa ating ekonomiya? Paano natin iaaddress ang unemployment at underemployment? Paano natin sasaluhin ang mga nag-drop out sa pag-aaral, mga fresh graduates. It's the first batch of K-12 students that are graduating this month, at sinabi na ng mga kompanya it will take them two years to absorb just this year's batch of fresh graduates. I'm waiting to hear even more from our private sector, proposing to and advising the incoming administration, how are we going to get ourselves back to where we were before COVID struck na medyo on an upswing in certain aspects. Paano tayo hahabol sa [Sustainable] Development Goals, how are we going to catch up sa ibang mga bansa that did a much better pandemic response. So Day 1 pa lang ng papasok na administrasyon, these are all on their plate. At kailangan yung economic team for one, on the ball, Day 1 pa lang, if politically bumalik tayo sa ating kasaysayan, dapat on the economic front hindi ganun din lang, hindi lang yung old tired playbook that brought us to ruin in the first place in the past. Kailangan ng circa 2022 economic roadmap as much as the incoming administration is capable of drawing up.

Q: There are also concerns of historical revisionism. We've heard this during the campaign but during a presscon in January 2020, Marcos said there's a need to revise textbooks because they allegedly teach children lies. How can the Senate address this issue?

SRH: On a point of fact, mali na walang pronouncements ang korte tungkol dito. Courts not just domestically but especially internationally have spoken unequivocally on the wealth that at the very least needs to be accounted for, and at most, at best, ay dapat isauli. Not just talking about estate taxes, kasi lahat naman tayong mamamayan nagbabayad ng buwis, and we who work in government, we should set the example of paying our taxes para sa social protection programs para sa mamamayan. And as for the hidden wealth issue, that is also established by the court, by the PCGG, kailangan lang ikwento yung buong kwento niyan. The historical revisionism is a concern not just now, not just the past few months, but in the past several years kasi nagkaroon ng organisado at well-funded na campaign na isulat muli ng hindi kumpleto at hindi tama yung ating kasaysayan. We have at least one fantastic crusader on correcting and completing our history books Antonio Calipjo Go. Hindi siya napapagod, o napapagod na siyang laging magpaala sa ating education agencies kung paano iwasto at kumpletuhin ang ating mga textbooks. This is such an essential task kasi ang isang sambayanan, at sinabi na ito ni George Santayana, sinabi ito ni Jose Rizal, kapag wala tayong alaala, kapag butas-butas ang ating alaala o kapag mali ang ating alaala and it's worse if that is a deliberate project of historical revisionism, kapag ganyan ang ating isipan, saan tayo pupulutin, uulitin natin ang mali ng nakaraan, and how will we craft our future if we don't have a clear grasp nung mga tama at mali at kulang ng mga nagawa natin sa ating kasaysayan. I'm sorry I don't think the incoming is in the best position yet to correct the historical revisionism. Baka maging schizophrenic ito kung sila ang gumawa. I think it will have to be a project of civil society with the education sector, not just for the sake of those who are advocating this but for everyone's sake. Tignan natin yung Germany. Itinuro nila yung holocaust sa education system nila, kaya imposible ngayon makapaghalal sila ng mga Nazi at neo-Nazi. They went through that painful educational process, but look where they are now moving forward, and their own democracy, imperfect also but a lot more mature and a lot stronger, their own political culture and civic culture is a lot less challenged than ours.

Q: Your reaction to presumptive VP Sara Durtere serving as the education department's chief, what do you think this means for the history and legacies of both their fathers, Duterte and Marcos?

A: That came as a shock cause the chismis was she was going to head a different department, and I'm glad if it will instead be a military and defense expert who will head that department. I don't know what the presumptive VP's track record in education, I would expect other education experts to helm that department. It holds not only the highest budgetary allocation from Congress every year according to our constitution pero kaugnay nga nitong historical revisionism, napakahalaga sana na ang hahawak ng education department ang magpapatupad ng kaka-sponsor namin sa Senado ng Education Committee 2 ang tutugon sa iba't ibang education crisis pre-pandemic up to during pandemic until now ay isang education expert. There is more than a hundred million Filipinos, and I'm sure makakapili pa ng incoming administration ng edukador na mayroon talagang track record at mga proposals moving forward.

Q: Since you mentioned the Constitution, what about the possible move to federalism under a Bongbong Marcos presidency, mas maraming Senators who are for him who are pushing for this. And right now we are poised to have two Villars, two Estradas, two Cayetanos in the Senate, what do you make of this?

A: My party Akbayan and I have long believed it's in ou party constitution sa paghanap ng isang modelo cause there are many, na bagay sa Pilipinas. I just don't think that now is the time to do that during an incoming administration na hindi pa nga nasasabi sa publiko kung ano ang platform nila for government. Palagay ko isang proseso na kasing delicate ng Constitutional reform has to take place in a context na may adminstrasyon na malinaw ang terms of engagement with the public lalo na on questions of constitutionalism, of democracy and of political reforms. Baka let's hold that thought muna on that context.

Q: What do you think of the COVID plans of the presumptive administration?

A: I have yet to hear them, kaya napakaimportante na medical health expert and mag helm din ng DOH. May mga accountabilities pa nga ang DOH because of the unfinished business on the Pharmally scandal. Kailangan iwasto ang nagawa ng DOH leadership, ng PS-DBM at iba pa. So let's hear the incoming admin's plan kasi kailangan gawin pandemic resilient, kailangan malusog muli ang populasyon, kailangan palakasin talaga ang UHC systems under the UHC law, yung anim na pillars ng UHC kailangan itaguyod na malakas at maayos. I hope not just the new Senate but I hope all of us in the public will be hearing the plans of the incoming admin soon.

Q: There are concerns about press freedom under the incoming admin. There was a video of Marcos' spokesperson ignoring questions from the media, and Marcos has not attended debates and interviews of the media, how do you think press freedom look like and what can the Senate do about this? And what about opposition figures who have been supposedly under persecution under the administration like fellow Sen. Leila de Lima, what does the future look like for them?

A: Sen Leila should be freed, yesterday. Dapat palayain si Sen. Leila. On press freedom, [media] please hold the line with us. Kami sa oposisyon kung maproclaim ako sa incoming minority, I believe the same for our colleagues sa House, we'll hold the line with you. Napaka importante you are frontliners for press freedom, last line of defense din kayo para sa contested democracy heavily besieged in the past years na demokrasya dito sa ating bansa.

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