By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY — Of the four speakers representing four Philippine presidential candidates, businesswoman Loida Nicolas-Lewis emerged as the most applauded during the “Know Your Candidates” forum on the Philippine Presidential Elections at the Kalayaan Hall of the Consulate General of the Philippines March 30.
Nicolas-Lewis insisted that “as congressman and senator, Mar Roxas has had no record of corruption whatsoever. And believe me. It is so easy to ask for cash-sunduan and commission when one is in power.”
She added: “Mar Roxas has a track record of success in his 22 years of public service as cabinet secretary to three presidents–Erap, GMA and P-noy.”
Nicolas-Lewis said “Roxas is an experienced executive who can deal with the presidents of the United States, France, Germany, and other big countries; he has inborn integrity and loyalty to the Philippines and to the people.”
“Of the four speakers, Loida presented the most candid and most substantive argument why her bet should be the next president of the Philippines,” commented Lourdes Constantino-Penn, 70, a Fil-Am businesswoman, who attended the two-hour forum presented by the Filipino American Press Club of New York, Inc. and the Consulate General of the Philippines headed by Ambassador Mario Lopez de Leon Jr.
Nicolas-Lewis, chair of the US Filipinos for Good Governance, represented Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party.
“Loida ably represented Roxas with her brilliant explanation of the administration candidate’s plans of revitalizing agriculture and sustaining economic growth,” observed Jonji Jalandoni, past president of the Philippine Independence Day Council Inc. (PIDCI).
The second most applauded speaker was Sani Guillena, who represented Rodrigo Duterte of PDP Laban.
Guillena, coordinator of GoDuterteUSA/NY, spoke passionately on the need to elect an iron-fisted leader like the Davao City mayor who vowed to eliminate graft and corruption and criminality.
“Mayor Duterte is both the medium and the message and he is the only candidate who lives a modest life and who leads by example,” Guillena, former editor and publisher of Peryodiko Mindanao Scholar, asserted.
Los Angeles-based speaker Art Garcia, a former scholar of Mar’s father, the late Sen. Manuel Roxas, explained why he ditched Mar for Grace Poe.
“I campaigned for President Benigno Noynoy Aquino Jr. and I used to support Mar Roxas, but when I learned that Grace Poe would run for president, I decided to go for Grace. I know her father, Fernando Poe Jr., a courageous man who went against Marcos during Martial Law,” explained Garcia, lead convenor of the Grace Poe for President Movement in L.A.
Garcia described Poe as “an intelligent and sincere woman who will reform and industrialize the Philippines.”
Jesse Arteche, the first speaker to give a statement and a “brother” of Vice President Jejomar Binay in the Alpha Phi Omega, lamented that “Binay is a victim of black propaganda ever since he decalred that he would run for president.”
“Only the court can delcare that he is guilty of graft and corruption. All the accusations against him in the senate are black propaganda. If the senators believe that Binay is guilty they should have brought the case against the vice president in court,” said Arteche, who calls Binay “Brod VP”.
Binay is the most qualified to become the next president, insisted Arteche.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago did not have a representative.
Ricky Rillera, president of the Filipino American Press Club of New York, Inc., moderated the forum.