Wednesday, May 15, 2013


"L" stands for loser?
We cheered for her when she stood her ground for the RH Bill. We gave our loudest hurrahs during her appearances and statements in various debates. We flooded Twitter and Facebook with status updates, memes, infographics, posters, and tweets, all with the same battle cry: “Risa Hontiveros for Senator!”

Now, the same crying mouths are left gaping, with hands above heads scratching. In Filipino, “nganga!”

Soon, our denial turned in anger, with many posting rants in social media, lamenting the irony of “stupid” candidates winning and “intelligent, upright” candidates losing. Did the electorate do something wrong or is it a lapse in judgment on the part of the candidate and her handlers? If you’re the type of person who is quick to judge a candidate and his/her voters as “stupid”, clearly there is something wrong in your judgment.

If Risa Hontiveros haven’t learned from the past, that lesson is “repeating the same mistake.” From the beginning of the campaign, she got a lot of factors wrong. Her entire packaging—from the fashion sense down to the image she portrayed—it’s all reflective of 2010.


From that year when she first lost, nothing has changed in her attire. She still wears that classy, yellow blouse reminiscent of the traditional attire balintawak. Add to that the signature purple shawl or alampay which baffled most of us until they found somewhat of a use for it—as a sling-like contraption to “take out” corruption and poverty.

93% of our electorate comes from poor, usually less educated masses, and obviously, it’s very rare for them to wear a garment reminiscent of the balintawak or even an alampay. These masses, dubbed as class D and E by survey firms, can relate more to candidates who dress like them either in plain t-shirts or polo shirts, and jeans. If you can even wear slippers or sandals during your campaign, much better.

Hontiveros' fashion sense did not change since 2010.
If Hontiveros could have taken a page from a team mate’s book, it should’ve been Sonny Angara. Just look at him during the last leg of Team PNoy’s nationwide campaign. He wore a yellow camisa chino or loose shirt commonly worn by farmers. That shirt sent the message that this guy is pro-farmer and pro-masses. Look at him now; he’s trailblazing at 6th place!

And to strike closer to home, just look at Nancy Binay—the bullied candidate which most of her supporters pitted against her. In all her sorties, Binay usually wore a plain t-shirt or polo shirt with UNA’s signature color orange. You now know how her attire made a difference in the election.


Never mind the attire and focus on the message: Yes, her handlers and supporters portrayed her as a tough, determined, no holds barred activist ready to take on issues such as corruption, poverty, discrimination, and women’s rights. The message is good, clear, and even concise but this has always been her message even in 2010. The masses have heard this before. What they need to know is what else can she do for us? What else can she transform into?

If her handlers packaged her as a multi-faceted candidate such as a mother (like Nancy Binay), a good daughter (like Grace Poe), or an entrepreneur (like Cynthia Villar), she would have appealed to the masses even more. And instead on focusing her platforms on issues closer to her heart such as women’s rights and RH Bill, she should have shown the electorate her plans of tackling issues closer to the masses’ heart like food, poverty alleviation, jobs, housing, health, and the likes. [1]


Another important factor Hontiveros and her campaign managers got wrong is the image. To tickle the electorate, one must present the image that you are “for the masses and with the masses”. But didn’t she do just that when she came out with President Aquino last year during the aftermath of Typhoon Gener, giving out relief goods to flooded residents around the Metro Manila? Yes. But it wasn’t election season yet and it was misconstrued by the masses as electioneering or as they would have it in Filipino, “umeepal”. [2] What could have been an alternative is for President Aquino to appoint her as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or even the Commission on Human Rights so she can have a legitimate reason to be with the masses and in a national scale.

Unfortunately, instead of compensating for her somewhat absence in masa events such as provincial sorties, Hontiveros focused on reinforcing her strong-willed and intellectual image by attending more debates—10 in all, the highest attendance among Team PNoy candidates. This is not bad if you’re attracting the intellectual and educated classes A, B, and C or a miniscule 7% of the electorate. Even if this percentage all troop to Facebook and Twitter proclaiming how eloquent she is in her command of English while elaborately answering all debate questions, this wouldn’t matter to a whopping 93% masses who have no access to the Internet and have little penchant for televised debates.[3] She would’ve fared better too if she didn’t join the bandwagon of Nancy Binay bullies. [4][5]

At the end of the day, your intellect and stand in various issues is not as important as what you can do for a hungry and deprived electorate. Unless, of course, if you are Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who won in 2010 for her command of the vernacular.


But what destroyed Hontiveros’ campaign this year is what killed it in 2010: the rift between two sides of the Left movement, Social Democrats (SocDems) and National Democrats (NatDems). In layman’s terms—Akbayan and Makabayan coalitions. Their rivalry, rooted in their ideological differences during the post-Martial Law era, became hot in the House of Representatives in 1998 and came to a boiling point last year when Akbayan allied itself with President Aquino.

Makabayan’s questioning of Akbayan’s party list status and the subsequent brawl of its representatives at a restaurant in Malate proved disastrous for both the Hontiveros and Teddy Casiño campaign. [6] Not only did it widen the gap between two sides of the Left Movement, it also publicized both party’s ugly tendencies and (by impulse) reminded the masses of their earlier connections with the New People’s Army.

If only Akbayan and Makabayan temporarily placed their ideological differences in the backburner and work together towards a common end, we would have more socialists in the Senate by now.


There are other factors I have failed to elaborate such as Hontiveros’ stand on RH Bill and her failure to get Iglesia ni Cristo’s endorsement. [7] But I think the factors I mentioned are enough to convince you why she lost.

Nevertheless, Hontiveros is not a lost cause. I’m sure PNoy could find some good use for her in time for 2016 if ever she still wants to run for Senate. And given that she learns all her election campaign lessons and change her strategy by then, maybe—just maybe—she could finally clinch that elusive seat. But the House of Representatives, where she first shined and made a name for herself, is also not a bad place to come home to. If ever she decides to run again, she won’t be without convinced voters. TSS

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Monday, May 13, 2013


She’s the one who took a ride on her father’s popularity during campaign season. With her unfit educational background and bare political experience, we were quick to draw conclusions on how out of shape she is to become a senator of the republic. We lambasted her for her total absence in senatorial debates, questioned the cliches in her platform, ridiculed her intelligence and experience by pitting her against Risa Hontiveros, and teased her dark brown complexion.

As of writing, in 5th place: Nancy Binay: 5,436,011 votes! (8:53 PM)

Early on in this race, it looks as if the woman we all hated will win a Senate seat much to our dismay. Soon, we will be scratching our heads and crying “Anyare?” (“What happened?”) How is it possible that the very person we all hated could likely win in this election?

As film director Maryo J. De Los Reyes said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s “Ang Tipo Kong Kandidato”, Filipinos have a penchant for drama. As in the soap operas we are hooked into every afternoon and on prime time, we tend to sympathize with the underdog—the oppressed and maligned character, usually from poor background and physical attributes.  Over the years, election candidates and their managers have learned to utilize this flaw in the Filipino psyche resulting in a type of social engineering we see every election season.

Turn a candidate into an underdog and s/he will have the sympathy vote s/he needs.

This is one trap most of us fell into early on in this election season. After all, there is another flaw in the Filipino psyche utilized by these candidates and their handlers—our penchant for criticism or (in Filipino) “pamumuna, pamumulà”. And the demographic most guilty of this crime against Nancy Binay during this election season are those belonging in classes A, B, and C or those from the educated, tech-savvy upper and middle classes that make up 7% of our society. From the day Binay announced her candidacy and campaign, this demographic was on the attack both in mainstream broadcast media and in emerging yet powerful social media.

Facebook and Twitter were the main platforms of cyber bullies against her, most notably through the use of parody accounts @IamNancyBinay and @DonyaAngelica (based on Angelica Santibañez, the famed and hated antagonist from the soap opera “Marimar” in the 90s). These two parody accounts were basically hook and sinker which baited us into the type of drama Binay’s handlers were expecting—to draw and encourage a large, educated demographic to push Binay to the ground. Some well known figures, such as comedian Vice Ganda, and even Liberal Party senatorial candidate and former Akbayan partylist representative Risa Hontiveros, joined the bandwagon—a step, I bet, she’d later regret.

As of writing, in 5th place, Nancy Binay: 7,874,404 votes! (10:18 PM)

Just one of the many racial slurs against Nancy Binay.
Back in 2010, Vice President Jejomar Binay got the most votes from that other demographic of our society who can relate the most to soap operas: the uneducated masses from classes D and E or a whopping 93% of our society. They are the ones who have less access to social media or the Internet and rely only on TV, radio, print media, and campaign sorties itself to get to know a candidate. They aren't the ones who frequent Twitter or Facebook and see Nancy Binay being bullied, but they know very well what is happening there from word-of-mouth. Hence, it is no wonder she would get the sympathy vote from this sector just three years since her father won.

The masses related a lot to Nancy’s father: from his complexion, to his platform, down to his bearing and approach during campaign season. Being a vice presidential candidate, the elder Binay did show he was competent enough to do the bigger job by attending debates and granting interviews. After all, he has bullets to spare from his experience as Makati mayor. In the interest of expanding his political clout in preparation for 2016 Presidential Elections, VP Binay gambled that his strategy in 2010 would work for her inexperienced daughter. Before she was picked, we virtually heard nothing of Nancy Binay. If not for her complexion, people wouldn't believe that she’s related to the vice chief executive. This is the only characteristic father and daughter share and in order to win, the former would let the latter ride on his popularity and devise a strategy to win: to turn her daughter into an underdog in order to get the sympathy vote she needs.

Risa and Senyora: Alter-egos?
We never knew (and dared to inquire) who are these people behind the parody accounts against Nancy Binay. It could be her handlers or non-affiliated sympathizers  Or maybe it was indeed created by some savvy tweep disgruntled by Binay’s inclusion in the race. We will never know the truth behind it. Only one truth remains—the more the upper and middle classes bullied Nancy Binay, the more it endeared her to the lower classes. With every slur against her color and inexperience, it was a swipe against the lower classes. By turning Nancy Binay into the enemy, you turned against someone who is with the masses.

As of writing, in 5th place, Nancy Binay: 8,594,831 votes! (11:10 PM)

It was a mistake bullying Nancy Binay no matter how legitimate our issues are against her. Now, with the inevitable about to happen, we just have to accept the fact that our own actions helped put a novice in public service. As of writing, there are sentiments in Twitter and Facebook about continuing the smear campaign against her in Senate. It wouldn't help in anyway as it would only solidify VP Binay and his family’s foothold in the presidency in 2016. What is the least we could do?

There are two things we can do: one, we can hold her accountable for her election promises by closely watching and criticizing her legislative work or we can encourage and help her accomplish the gargantuan task that awaits her novice hands. After all, she is an elected official and part of being in a democracy is accepting the results of democratic exercise. If we turn her into the senator we expect her to be, she could transform into the compelling legislator we don’t expect her to be. TSS

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Photos courtesy of Yahoo! Philippines, Liberal Party website, and Twitter.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Do not tell me you’re not voting tomorrow. Do not tell me you’re not voting because the candidates are of the same corrupt color and that voting won’t make any difference. If you don’t vote, there will just be millions more who will vote for the same dimwits who make the current flawed system. So yes, even if you vote for the right candidates, there will be thousands, millions more who will fall for money and popularity and elect the kind of politicians that make this vicious cycle of politics in our country go round.

You’re vote doesn't make a difference. Who said voting was a one-shot cure for our society’s cancer? Voting was never the end—it is the start. Because after you vote, your responsibility doesn’t end; you know have a greater responsibility of ensuring that the officials who won would make good on their election promises of representing the people’s interests and executing projects for the common good. By voting, you cast in your hands the task of pressuring your public officials to excel in their jobs. If you don’t take on this responsibility, you’re vote is but a worthless piece of paper.

In this last part of ELECTION EXTRAVAGANZA, you’ll learn about the background and legislative platforms of four candidates in my endorsement list. Hopefully, this would be a fitting conclusion to this three-part series I started.


Initially, the ninth person in this list was Marwil Llasos. However, I gave it a thought over night and I realized that if I picked him, there will be two candidates from the religious sector in my list already (the other being Bro. Eddie Villanueva). While Llasos’ educational background and law experience makes him qualified to run for a Senate seat, I believe he needs more legislative experience. If he had served as first as city councilor of Daraga City or as board member of his district in Albay, I might give him more chances.

Anyway, I am putting my money on Jun Magsaysay mainly because of his experience. During his two terms in the Senate, he legislated bills that enable our country to be in keeping with the changing trends in finance and electronic commerce—the E-commerce Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Act. Being a former soldier, he also made great strides to improve social service for soldiers and their families through initiation of an off-base housing program for soldiers and passing of the New AFP Base Pay Law. As for agriculture, he passed and amended the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act and encouraged youths to take on jobs in agriculture through the Young Farmers Program he initiated. He also called for a Senate inquiry into the controversial Fertilizer Fund Scam under Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante.

This soldier and public servant hasn't faded yet. He still has a lot of rounds to fire, so let’s give him that last shot by electing him for another term.


Forget the surname or the fact that he’s using his father’s image as a strategy to earn votes. Let’s address her as Mrs. Llamanzares and let’s focus on her credentials rather than her family’s image.

With a degree in Political Science and Development Studies and an impressive record of leading incredible reforms the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), Mrs. Llamanzares has the calibre neither her nor Nancy Binay didn’t have. And with a pro-women, pro-children, and pro-poor platform—a platform she has already proven during her work in the MTRCB, Mrs. Llamanzares could prove to be a excellent addition to the rank and file of women already serving in the Senate. It would be great to see a powerhouse cast composed of Defensor-Santiago, Legarda, Cayetano, Hontiveros, and Poe, if the last two women are both elected. Grace Poe is one woman you shouldn’t underestimate.


This guy has some unfinished business that’s worth giving another look into. If only disgraced former senator Miguel Zubiri didn’t steal his Senate seat from him, he would’ve proved to be an excellent statesman. But somehow, that theft was more of a blessing in disguise for Koko as it gave him a crusade worth fighting both in and out of the Senate and made us look up to him for his stand against cheating.

I want to see what more Koko can do aside from being a dashing crusader against electoral fraud. Is he just the statesman bent on putting to justice the person who stole his Senate seat from him or the fair and impartial lawmaker determined to reform society through excellent legislative work? Let’s give him that chance to show the kind of statesman he really is.


I wanted to tip the scales by electing Bro. Eddie Villanueva as senator. We’ve got commies, leftists, right-wingers, members of political dynasties in this list—why not a leader of a religious group? From the many times I’ve watched him in “Diyos at Bayan”, he has proved himself a visionary just like Senator Gordon but with a moral perspective. Villanueva could prove to be the moral compass the Senate of the Philippines needs.

This is list is a cornucopia of personalities, competencies, and platforms. I’m very much satisfied with the way this list is in keeping with the principle of plurality. If only all these candidates could win, we’ll have a colorful Senate open to all the exciting possibilities and results. In the end, this is just an endorsement; don’t let it influence you, but rather encourage you to look into the candidates even closer. It’s your vote, not mine. Take pride in claiming your vote by exerting an effort to prepare for it.

Nevertheless, regardless of who wins, the crusade doesn’t end with casting our votes. The end of election season is just the beginning of our society’s arduous but courageous task.

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“Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” 
― Abraham Lincoln
Photos courtesy of GMA News Online and the Philippine Star

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Exercising your right to vote is more than just an obligation but a privilege. Not all democracies get to vote for national leaders such as in countries with parliamentary form of government where the ruling party or coalition gets to pick the head of state and/or head of government. Others are just failed democracies with various factions fighting a bitter civil war against each other.

We’re just lucky to have this kind of electoral privilege. Hence, we shouldn’t waste it by being too lazy to think about the candidates we’re going to write on our ballots come May 13. Let’s not take it for granted in exchange for a temporary fill in our aching stomachs. Our vote will determine if our aching stomachs will be filled for the next three to six years. Do we want someone elect someone who can only temporarily fill our tummies? Moreover, are these candidates responsible for filling our hungry tummies in the first place? Think about it.

In Part One yesterday, I featured the first four candidates in the list of my senatorial bets, mainly Aquino, Casiño, Cayetano, and Escudero. These are relatively younger candidates. Let’s look into the the much older and more experienced candidates in my list.


Gordon is basically from a political dynasty in Olongapo City. I am surprised that after dissing former president Joseph Estrada over his dismissal as Chairman of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, he’s in good terms with him now—which I don’t appreciate at all (not a fan of the Estradas here). But I am willing to look beyond these things and focus on his legislative accomplishments when he was still senator.

He did a good job (and still doing a good job) lobbying in favor of election automation thru his sponsorship of the Automated Elections Act. He showed his commitment and desire to make tourism an important industry in our economy through his authorship of the National Tourism Policy Act of 2009. And he did a service to World War II veterans for authoring and lobbying the passage of the Veterans Pensions and Benefits Act of 2008.

I’ve listened to his radio program Aksyon Solusyon several times and have grown to admire his vision for the Philippines. I also admire his excellent record of management as current chairman of the Philippine Red Cross. I voted for him as president in 2010 and I have enough reasons to vote for his return to the Senate for another term.


Hagedorn is one of three senators in my wildcard picks, meaning, I wasn’t really keen on voting for them until after much consideration during these past few weeks. The reason for this is because I see Hagedorn more as an executive than a legislative official. He could’ve ran for governor of Palawan and won. Or he could have courted PNoy to appoint him as DILG or DENR secretary, which is a highly unlike thing to do now. We need to put this guy in national government! But how?

Looking at his track record of transforming Puerto Princesa City into one of the cleanest cities and one of the most sought after eco-tourism destinations in the country, I realized that maybe this guy can also translate the same transformation to the entire country if elected senator. He’s an executive official which makes him qualified to do legislative work being part of the Sangguniang Panlungsod and all that. And with a platform of environmental protection and sustainable development, who knows? Maybe we can we have better chances of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 if he’s elected.


Hontiveros should have been in the Senate as early as 2010. But then again, you cannot remove the fact that majority of Filipinos are still conservative Catholics and won’t vote for a character that openly locks horns with the Catholic Church especially on the issue of the Reproductive Health Law.

Hence, I encourage voters (i.e. Catholic voters) to look beyond Hontiveros’ position on the RH Law and focus on her legislative work in the House of Representatives especially on women and workers’ rights. Apart from the RH Law, she is also one of the authors of the Cheaper Medicines Act and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program – Extension with Reforms or CARPER Law. She has authored bills such as the Anti-Prostitution Bill, Gender Balance Bill, and Students’ Rights and Welfare Bill.

Being from the socialist spectrum and with the type of activism and fervor she has, I think she will make things colorful in the Senate. She is the type of legislator the Senate and the country deserves to have rather than fatty, faded action stars and former soldiers-turned-rebels.


As much as she is branded as a political butterfly, Senator Loren Legarda’s legislative work especially on issues of women’s rights, health care, environment, and agriculture. Her portfolio is packed with laws such as the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, Cheaper Medicines Law, Expanded Senior Citizens Act, Climate Change Act, and the Magna Carta for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises.

She has previously passed laws which gained her popularity among women and environmentalists such as the Clean Air Act, Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act, Anti-Child Labor Act, and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. Despite her notoriety for being a political butterfly, I only see such acts as strategies so she can continually serve and consistently pursue an agenda which is beneficial to most Filipinos. No wonder, from 1998 up to now, she still tops the surveys and gets the highest number of votes every time she runs. Nobody can beat experience and accomplishment like that of hers.

On Part Three: Llasos, Pimentel, Poe, and Villanueva

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“They say if you don't vote, you get the government you deserve, and if you do, you never get the results you expected.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Every time an election approaches, most of us get stuck in the dilemma of choosing the right candidates to vote for. We don’t want to be putting inexperienced, indecisive, corrupt, and chauvinistic candidates in seats of power that’s why we try so much to learn about them in order to make an informed vote.

But after two months of watching numerous campaign ads on TV, attending local campaign sorties, and keeping tuned to senatorial debates in 24-hour news channels, it turns out that we are merely trying to inform ourselves as to which candidate is the lesser evil. Most candidates come from well-known and influential political families who are trying to expand their political clout in time for the 2016 elections. Some of them barely have political experience nor legislative or executive knowledge. A few don’t even have an informed stand on key social issues and don’t even want to appear on debates.

Here in The Social Scientist, I want to help you make an informed vote. Hence, I’ve listed the candidates I am voting for on May 13 and why I am voting for them. Consider this an endorsement, candidates. But I am writing this post not in support of any particular party or ticket but rather out of admiration for these candidates upon researching their background and following them for the past few months. This will be a three-part series, with each part featuring four candidates. Enjoy!


Ripe for public service: this is the best phrase to describe Bam Aquino, the cousin of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. At 35, Bam has the credentials to back him up in his bid for Senate—credentials that would make Nancy Binay’s face turn white—including being chairman of the National Youth Commission and recipient of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons in the World award.

I’ve seen Bam work when I was in college when he hosted a conference for PeaceTech Philippines, a youth organization promoting peace and understanding among Christian and Muslim youth which I was part of. I really saw in him that passion to bring youth-oriented issues to the limelight and addressing them, a passion which was even more evident in his hosting Breakfast and Y-Speak, two youth-oriented programs in Studio 23. I think he’s the right person to represent the growing number of youths in our country.


He’s a commie, alright. But why am I voting for Teddy Casiño even though I don’t really adhere to the principles of the extreme left to which his principles are aligned?

Simple. I am a strong believer in diversity in politics. It is for this principle that our currently multi-party political system is designed for—to prevent the dominance of only a few individuals, families, or political parties in politics. I would love to see a Senate that has a complete spectrum of political characters from the right, center, and left. By electing a commie to Senate, who knows? Maybe the CPP-NPA-NDF will stop their preposterous, protracted, armed struggle against our way of life and begin pursuing peaceful means to advance its agenda, if not change its agenda altogether.

Nevertheless, as for his legislative track record, Casiño has authored a number of laws which benefited workers and other marginalized sectors of our society including, the Public Attorneys Act of 2007, the Tax Relief Act of 2009, the Rent Control Act of 2009, and the Anti-Torture Act of 2009. He also endorsed a number of bills I am in favor of such as the Freedom of Information Bill, Anti-Dynasty Bill, and Anti-Epal Bill. Casiño has always been a critic of any administration and putting him in the Senate would make for great “check and balance” of our current administration.


Cayetano has been consistent in stand against corruption and this is what I admire about him. He’s one of the congressional representatives who endorsed the impeachment complaint against former president Joseph Estrada and he fought the junking of the impeachment complaint against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. More recently, he’s one of the staunch senators who questioned former Chief Justice Renato Corona’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) which led to his impeachment last year. We need more men like Cayetano who can consistently look into and expose corruption in the government.

Putting this aside, Cayetano has done some amazing legislative work including the passing of the Senate version of the Freedom of Information Bill, filing of amendments to the Anti-Cybercrime Law, and the passage of bills such as the Anti-Camcording Act, the University of the Philippines Charter, Expanded Senior Citizens Act, and the National Book Development Trust Fund Act.


While his political allegiance has changed from that of Estrada to that of Aquino, Escudero’s legislative achievements have always been consistent. With laws such as the Anti-Torture Act, Anti-Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances Act, and the Free Legal Assistance Act on his portfolio (plus open support for the Freedom of Information Bill and Reproductive Health Law), Escudero is without a doubt worth my vote. In 2007, he was the only Filipino named one of Asia’s Idols by the Asian News Network and was honored the following year as Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. While I do have reservations as to whether he can criticize the administration in the coming years, as far as legislative work is concerned, I think he deserves another term.

On Part Two: Gordon, Hagedorn, Hontiveros, and Legarda

Let us all make an informed vote on May 13. Research and weight you candidates' platform, track record, and work ethic well. Remember that our choices will affect us for the next three to six years.

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“A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.”  
― Theodore Roosevelt

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