The Hamlets Among Us



“To be or not to be, that is the question!” Thus goes a famous line from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet which our high school English teacher asked students to memorize. I remember her in the late 60s egging us to recite Prince Hamlet’s opening soliloquy with “feeling” describing the lead actor in a state of confusion and anxiety, arguing with himself “to choose life or death?” Imagine Hamlet extremely depressed at this point in the story, faced with a myriad of contradictions.


This powerful phrase popped up in my mind as I got to talk to more Bicolanos outside of Naga City, known as a solid turf of presidential candidate, VP Leni Robredo, after the February 8 proclamation rally. But, the farther I went outside to Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes, in contact with our TBM network, discordant choices from ordinary folks convinced me just how divisive the present elections have gone. I am astounded why another candidate from Ilocos and son of the country’s longest president is making a dent in these far-flung provinces. Also astonishing is that after 27 years most people have low awareness on the Party List system and are still stuck to the usual traditional names of senatoriables.


I realize many Hamlets in our midst struggling to come to terms with their contradictions as poor members of society, and voters who are fed up with failed promises and service delivery from national and local politicians for the past 40 years since the Marcos years ended in 1986. There are 82 days before the crucial day of judgment. Let’s face it. Even if we want it to be, the whole Bicol is not a Solid Leni bloc. Voters are rooting for other job applicants offering the same promises to effect change in the lives of 112 million Filipinos among them 6 million Bicolanos.


After being asked some TBM group members gave me a long list of problems they believe should be changed to raise the quality of life in Bicol: Socio-economic such as illegal fishing, livelihood for farmers/fisherfolk, farm production, unemployment/underemployment, food/nutrition security, poor health care, subsidy/ayuda, no industry, water access, land degradation, landlessness/housing, SMEs; Political/ bureaucracy such as digital information system, corruption, equal opportunities to all, padrino/epal system, poor climate change and DRRM, road/transportation infra; Socio-cultural like violence against women and children, peace and order, marginalization of the poor and indigenous people, moral values formation especially on culture of lying and stealing.


There are 10 job applicants for the highest position of the land. For this column, let me focus on the top six contenders in alphabetical order. Their resume, portfolio and platform should be open to public scrutiny with effective reality check to guard against fake news and disinformation.


*Leodigario “Ka Leody” de Guzman, 62, a labor leader and street parliamentarian who finished customs administration from the PMI; Partido ng Lakas ng Masa and Labor Win Alliance, Bukluran ng Manggagawa national chairperson and affiliated with other international labor unions; no experience in government but has consistently fought for the workers’ rights, uncompromising on the issues of corruption, independent foreign policy, political dynasty, land reform and national industrialization, push for “system change” of elitist politics instead of just plainly changing the leader at the helm of the country; wants unequal treaties and agreements like the WTO to be repealed that only benefit big business and foreign interests.


*Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso, 47, multi-awarded Manila Mayor, finished Business Administration, MA in Public Administration (PLM), courses in Local Legislation & Local Finance (UP NCPAG), Law units (Arellano), Leadership & Governance (Harvard University and Oxford); co-founder of Asenso Manilenyo, joined Aksyon Demokratiko; 23-year public service (Councilor, Vice-Mayor, Chair-North Luzon Railways, Usec-DSWD, Government Consultant in the Peace Talks; narrative: born dirt-poor in Tondo, scavenger/squatter, self-supporting student, joined showbiz and politics; Bilis Kilos programs in pandemic response – biggest covid hospital built in 52 days, free gadgets, load and ayuda to Manila’s poor students and families, aggressive clean-up and environment campaign, set up five in-city vertical housing projects in three years for long-time Manila squatters, 5 new upgraded hospitals, 6 public schools and anti-drug war with 97% no EJK; for independent foreign policy, against political dynasty, “land for the landless;” jobs, SMES, and Digitalized Manila, from cash strapped Manila, revenues up to more than 100%; continuing 24/7 free vaccination/booster and health services open to non-Manila residents; practices meritocracy in the bureaucracy; wants to replicate success in Manila to the rest of the country, develop countryside-agriculture, electric power cost cut by 50%, cold storage facilities in all provinces, infrastructure, life and livelihood, basic needs for the poor to stop root cause of insurgency.


Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson, 73, Senator, from Imus, Cavite, Master in Government Management (PLM), BS from Philippine Military Academy, Engineering (Lyceum), Chairman of Partido Reporma; 17 years as Senator, 32 years with the PNP; known as top Senate Fiscalizer and fighter of corruption, only lawmaker who did not receive pork barrel; co-authored the laws on Bayanihan as One, National ID, Anti-Red Tape, Anti-Money Laundering, Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act and the Anti-Terror Law; appointed Rehab Czar in Yolanda Tacloban; known for exposes and led Senate investigations of alleged red-tagging of progressives; IMPSA, Jose Pidal, Jueteng, Textbook Scam, Pharmally scam, among others. With PNP, achieved 58% public approval rating for PNP—highest in PNP history, focused on “kotong” eradication, carnapping and anti-drugs. He sees the Duterte drug war a failure. He wants to bring public trust and have clean government with his vice-president, SP Tito Sotto.


Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr., 64, finished Special Diploma in Social Studies (Oxford), Chairman of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas reviving the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, party of the late president dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr who declared Martial Law later in his rule; Senator who chaired committees on Local Government, Public Works, Oversight Committee on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Organic Act; twice elected representative of 2nd district Ilocos Norte, Governor of Ilocos; member of one of the biggest political dynasties in the country; co-author of Expanded Senior Citizens Act, Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act; reportedly embroiled in the Pork Barrel Scam with the PDAF to the bogus foundations of Janet-Lim Napoles; misdeclaration of educational background; His latest legal case is tax evasion or not paying income tax returns from 1982 to 1985 when he was vice governor and, later, governor of Ilocos Norte. With his vice-president, Davao city Mayor Sara Duterte, Marcos wants to bring Unity for the country.


Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Dapidran Pacquiao, 42, senator since 2016, former World Champion in boxing; born in General Santos, Sarangani province of poor family; finished Political Science in Local Government Administration (University of Makati); PROMDI party and chair, People’s Champ Movement; head of an emerging political dynasty in Mindanao; congressman of Sarangani Province (2010-2016); principal author of National Bible Day; co-author of Expanded Maternity Leave, Philippine Sports Training Center, Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, Quantitative Import Restrictions on Rice, Free Internet Access in Public Places, Universal Health Care Act, among others. Tax evasion case for six years non-payment of P3.3 billion deficiencies; openly disapproved the issue of same-sex marriage which enraged the LGBT community; known for his “generosity to a fault, he is known for distributing money openly to his constituency and during campaigns since 2002; criticized for his habitual absences in Congress because he claims “laziness in listening to congressional hearings” and devotes more time to building his Pacman Village of houses for the poor in Saranggani. He is open to abolishing the Anti-Terror Law. He wants to stop corruption in government and uplift the lives of the poor with his vice-president Lito Atienza.


Maria Leonor ‘Leni’ Robredo, 56, Vice-President, finished BA in Economics UP Diliman, Bachelor of Laws (University of Nueva Caceres), MA Business Administration San Beda; heads the Liberal Party; running as independent for President endorsed by ISambayan; head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council; Co-Chair-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs; representative, Camarines Sur 3rd District 16th Congress; vice chair of the House of Representatives committees on good governance and public accountability, and revision of laws; worked as researcher for USAID-funded Bicol River Basin Development Program. NGO worker as former coordinator, Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Pang Legal (Saligan) Naga Chapter, providing free legal services to the poor. Notable achievements: Pandemic and disaster response to affected communities; Angat Buhay Program: livelihood program and anti-poverty program with feeding programs, medical missions, and education for the marginalized, Anti-Poverty and Advocacies Programs with international NGOs, World Bank, ADB and big business Co-authored Republic Act 10708, Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (TIMTA). With her VP Kiko Pangilinan she hopes to bring the “Tsinelas Governance,” after the good governance experience of her husband, the late Ramon Magsaysay awardee Jesse Robredo, Mayor of Naga City, people empowerment through people’s councils and transparency in government. Her OVP gained high ratings with the COA.