The Philippines was once again in the global spotlight, but sadly not in the way we would wish. The gruesome massacre in Maguindanao has raised questions about civil order in our country and cast a pall on the 2010 elections. The series of typhoons that devastated entire regions, including the National Capital Region, are estimated by the World Bank to have set back national GDP by some three percentage points. And these are in addition to the fact that we are facing a world economy in recession, the specter of terrorism in the world, and a rapidly changing global order.
Against this background, the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation, the Asian Institute of Management, and ABS News Channel came together to help voters decide.
The key contenders were sought for their policy responses in five areas of concern:
- The Maguindanao nightmare and the wider challenge of peace in the Philippine South. What is your assessment of the situation in Maguindanao and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, and what policies and programs will you pursue to bring an end to the conflict in Mindanao and Sulu, and install stable government and sustainable development across the region?
- Philippine foreign relations and international security. What significance do you attach to Philippine relations with the world, what countries and regions are most important, and do you believe the nation should be involved or not in the international fight against terrorism?
- Philippine economy and international economic relations. What policies will you adopt for strengthening and growing the national economy, how will you expand foreign trade and investments in the country, and what importance do you attach to key economic organizations such as WTO, IMF, WB, and APEC?
- Migrant workers. What policies will you adopt with respect to Filipino labor migration, the welfare of OFWs, Philippine relations with labor-receiving countries, and conventions for the protection and rights of migrant workers?
- Philippine competitiveness in the world. What specific policies and programs will you adopt to reverse the erosion of Philippine international competitiveness in the world, and what particular areas do you consider most vital to national interest?
Each Presidential Candidate was given time to present his policy ideas on these topics and issues and answered questions from a panel of interlocutors. The discussion was fully televised over ANC cable channel and a national terrestrial network.