Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday said he will continue to pursue “an agenda of economic and moral recovery” in the Senate ahead of the official proclamation of a new batch of senators this week.
“Crucial ang next few years years para sa ating bansa. We will stand on our faith-based and values-oriented campaign platform and bring it to our work in the Senate,” Cayetano said.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to proclaim the veteran lawmaker as a Senator Wednesday, May 18, after securing over 19 million votes in the May 9 national elections through an eco-friendly campaign that saw his camp veer away from traditional printed campaign materials and motorcades.
Cayetano, who ran for a Senate comeback on a faith-based and values-oriented policy agenda, said he is ready to make his key advocacies and the welfare of the people “front and center” of his work in the 24-seat upper chamber.
On the top of his list: improving the livelihoods of Filipinos who have been severely affected by the pandemic-induced downturn.
“Ang kahirapan ng ating mga kababayan ngayon, nakatuon talaga sa ‘pitik’: presyo, trabaho, kita,” he said.
“Presyo, Trabaho, Kita” is also the name of his personal livelihood assistance program which provides seed capital to cooperatives so that their members, such as public utility drivers, vendors, and other sectors, can avail themselves of loans for their family businesses at a very low interest rate.
“Kung mataas ang presyo (tapos) malaki ang kita mo, OK lang. Kung may trabaho ka, hindi malaki ang kita mo, pero mababa naman ang presyo (ng bilihin), OK rin,” he said, adding that the problem arises when one’s earning does not match the cost of living.
“‘Pag nagsalubong y’ung tatlo – humahataw y’ung presyo, wala ka nang trabaho, wala ka pang kita – [mahirap talaga],” he said.
With the country still recovering from the economic crisis due to the pandemic, Cayetano said his legislative agenda in his return to the Senate will revolve around the same three elements of PTK – price stabilization, livelihood opportunities, and aid to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
The programs, however, will be on a much larger scale, involving a nationwide 10K Ayuda direct stimulus program; reforms in agriculture, education, and tourism; and low-interest loans to MSMEs.
Another component of his agenda in the Senate is his push for a five-year economic recovery plan which would follow a “Relief-Recovery-Reform” framework.
Part of the “Relief” aspect of the framework is the need to streamline the process by which people can access social aid and safety net programs that are already being implemented.
He said mobile apps that can be tied with the national ID system can be used to make it easier for people to access cash aid. “May pondo; ang problema po sa ngayon, mahirap makakuha kung walang padrino. You have to go to your mayor or congressman or woman or your senator para makuha,” he said.
Programs under the “Recovery” aspect of Cayetano’s proposal include livelihood aid grants given by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Department of Trade and Industry, as well as the small-loans facility provided by the government to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
“Around 60 percent ng employment sa Pilipinas ay nasa small, micro, and medium enterprise. So ibig sabihin, kapag binuhay mo ‘yan, mas magkakatrabaho ang tao, at kapag may trabaho ang tao at buhay ang negosyo, may buwis,” he said.
Finally, the “Reform” aspect of Cayetano’s proposal involves improvements in digital infrastructure as well as in agricultural and tourism infrastructure.
According to the former Speaker, all Filipinos must have access to water, electricity, and fast internet connectivity so they can fully participate in the digital economy.
This, in turn, will distribute economic activity more evenly between urban and rural areas of the country.
“If every square inch of Philippine territory has water, electricity, and internet, then hindi magsisiksikan sa siyudad, at mag-go-grow ang ating ekonomiya,” Cayetano said.
Asked what his main motivation is as a public servant, Cayetano had a simple answer.
“Pagmamahal. Everything goes down to values.”
Cayetano had anchored his campaign on a faith-based and values-oriented platform, having voiced his strong opposition to online cockfighting or e-sabong and legalizing the use of vaporized nicotine or vape products for youths under 21, and he said he intends to stand by every word he has said.
“Ang ibig sabihin ng faith-based at values-oriented ay ikaw ay Bible believer at ang namumuno ng buhay mo ay hindi ang sarili mo o ang makamundong puso mo kung hindi ang Panginoong Hesukristo,” Cayetano said.
Acknowledging that the Philippines has various religious beliefs other than Christianity, the former Speaker said this poses no challenge when it comes to good governance.
“Ang tunay na maka-Diyos na administrasyon, kahit ito’y multi-faith, ay nakaka-deliver, whether [ang programa] ay anti-corruption, anti-drugs, anti-crime, pro-education…dapat nakaka-deliver yan,” he said.
“Iba-iba tayo ng paniniwala, iba-iba tayo ng faith, pero ako ay naniniwala bilang mga Pilipino, we share the values of pagiging maka-Diyos and makabayan. We can have different religions, but we can share the same values,” he added.