[Updated] Opinion: ‘Pia Cayetano for President’

 

Senator Pia Cayetano. Image from the Senate of the Philippines website.

The alternative to Vice President Jejomar Binay and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, according to earlier reports, is Senator Grace Poe – a predictable choice, considering she topped the 2013 senatorial elections.

Since then, we have heard other possible contenders: Rodrigo Duterte, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Ramon Revilla Jr., Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Alan Peter Cayetano, and even Leni Robredo.

I have decided to throw in another name in the fray: Senator Pia Cayetano.

This is not a statement of support – at least for now. Rather, this is an appeal for the public to view her as a possible contender in 2016. She is one, even if most of us would agree that she will not win if the elections are held today.

But the elections are two years from now, and President Aquino and Secretary Mar Roxas would agree that a lot of things can happen in such a period of time.

Senator Pia, while able to remain in the radar during her ten years as a member of the Senate, does not seem to be the type of politician who comes up with a reaction to every single issue that has hounded this nation.

She never hogged the headlines, unless of course it concerns her advocacies – women’s rights, health, and education to name a few. But during these times, the discussions are often focused on the message and not the messenger.

Looking into her track record, however, there is no denying: She knows her priorities, and she knows how to do her job.

Over the past week, I have mentioned her twice in my articles – both about online campaigns supporting her legislations on the ban on age discrimination in work places and incorporation of graphic warnings in cigarette packs.

Prior to this, she authored, co-authored, or pushed for the passage of the expanded senior citizens law, Magna Carta for Women, mandatory newborn screening, sin tax law, and the reproductive health law, among others.

We have seen her in action – along with Senator Defensor-Santiago – during the uphill battle of the RH law. We have seen her take on one of the most senior legislators, Juan Ponce Enrile, during the debates on the sin tax law.

I see her as one of the most productive lawmakers, even though some – including her brother, who recently came up with an infomercial – appears to get more media mileage.

During the 2010 senatorial elections, Senator Pia – I vaguely remember – focused her re-election campaign on her track record. Her brother, in 2013, set sights on the future and bombarded the public with his PTK (presyo, trabaho, kita) advocacy.

She placed sixth, with over 13 million votes. He placed third, with over 17 million.

The results say a lot. Senator Pia is not forgettable, but neither is she memorable enough for people to come up with her name when asked for a possible contender for the top post in 2016.

The issue, as explained, is not her track record as a legislator. It’s her image.

Senator Pia is often viewed as the smiling, pretty senator who is pleasant to look at on the Senate floor. She is the caring mother, or the physically-built athlete in the Senate. She is the daughter of former Senator Rene Cayetano, or the sister of the outspoken Senator Alan Peter Cayetano.

Not everyone sees her as an accomplished lawyer, or a talented legislator who supported time and again relevant measures that have the potential of helping millions of Filipinos. We should see beyond the stereotypes, and start scrutinizing her for who she is: an intelligent senator who is competent enough to face other frontrunners in the 2016 presidential elections.

Popularity, regardless of competence, has elected more than enough people in this land. Perhaps it’s time to change that. Let’s look beyond one’s image and start asking our politicians the right questions.

Here are mine, for Senator Pia Cayetano:

  1. A report included you in the so-called “Napolist.” Did you benefit, in any way, from your pork barrel? (Update: Read Senator Cayetano’s response below)
  2. You are one of the biggest spenders of pork, according to another report. Where did the money go? (Update: DBM issued a clarification regarding this report, read here)
  3. What’s your stand on political dynasties, considering that you belong to one?
  4. Will you, given your track record, consider running for President of the Philippines in 2016?

UPDATE:

Senator Pia Cayetano responded to this blog post. Following is the full reproduction of her letter, sent via e-mail:

18 June 2014
MR. JANVIC MATEO
theonlinebeat.wordpress.com

Dear Mr. Mateo,

I was able to read your recent blog post entitled, “Pia Cayetano for President,” and I
wish to thank you for your kind words. It is heartening to be appreciated for the work I
do in the service of the people.

I would also like to set the record straight regarding some points that were raised in
the blog. I have never been included in any so-called ‘Napolist,’ nor have I benefited in
any way from the PDAF. Prior to its abolition, the bulk of my PDAF went to schools,
hospitals, and local government units. These can easily be verified through the
records.

I would appreciate it if you could make the necessary correction on your blog to
prevent any further misinformation. Again, I express my gratitude for your generous
words, and I wish you well in your endeavors.

Sincerely yours,

PIA S. CAYETANO

 


 

Disclosure: The author is a Philippine Star reporter assigned to cover the University of the Philippines, where Senator Pia Cayetano is a member of the Board of Regents. She was previously quoted in a report, UP allows 4 students to pay late, file for graduation. Views expressed in this blog post are of the author and do not reflect that of his employer.

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