Last February 7, a presidential forum was held in Miriam College, organized by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and TV5. Six out of the 10 presidential candidates attended the event: Councilor JC De los Reyes, former President Joseph Estrada, Senators Richard Gordon and Jamby Madrigal, environmentalist Nicanor "Nicky" Perlas, and evangelist Eddie Villanueva. The forum was divided into three rounds. During the first round, the candidates got the chance to ask each other a question face to face, and were given two minutes to answer. A follow-up question was also asked each time, but with only a minute for answering.

In the second round, each of the candidate were asked, in turn, a question from five expert panelists representing different fields: law, education, youth affairs, media and the environment. Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, was the panelist for environmental concerns. I was among the Greenpeace volunteers in the audience who went with him to the forum, wearing shirts bearing the Greenpeace message for the 2010 national elections -- "Wanted: President for Clean Energy, Clean Water and Safe Food." Von asked Senator Jamby Madrigal about her plans for mitigating climate change impacts in the Philippines, should she become president, in light of the fact that the country is among the most vulnerable and least prepared. In response, the Senator ticked off a lot of issues regarded as causes of climate change that she intended to address, such as agro-chemical farming, mining and pollution in Laguna Lake. Regrettably, two minutes wasn't enough time to hear about how she intends to address these climate change factors, much less about her program on mitigating their effects on the country and its people.



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For the third round, PPCRV and TV5 had gathered and recorded questions for the presidential candidates from people on the ground, representing various sectors in society: overseas workers, farmers/fishermen, the differently abled, marginalized women, ethnic minorities, detainees/prisoners, transport workers, the urban poor, and manual-labor workers.

This is my first time to attend such a forum and I must say that, in theory, it must be a good venue for informing the people about the platforms and plans of the politicians, but what you can get is really just their general views and not the particulars of their intended programs, nor the nuances of the issues. I hope that the other forums will be more informative than this one, not just for the politicians, but more so for the audience, to help us decide which president is deserving of our votes.