I am from Manila, not Quezon City.
I did not register to vote this year, and have actually stopped voting since I got married (so that's at least two elections I missed already).
I have no real politics and am fairly ambivalent about our leaders.
I am not saying 'go vote for Mike Defensor' nor am I saying 'don't vote for Mike Defensor.'
I went to this blogger event mostly to hang out with my friend, who helped organize it. I had no expectations, no real preconceived notions, no agenda.
The blogger event was held at Mike Defensor's home in La Vista Subdivision in Katipunan. He/they even alloted drivers to fetch some of the bloggers at Petron, outside the village, and bring them to the house.
The event was scheduled to start at 5 PM but of course, people only started coming around that time. Mike's gracious wife welcomed everyone and directed them to the lanai, which was set up for 40 people or so. Catering was by Henry's Catering Service (highly-recommended for the great waitstaff and good food).
Highlights of what Mike Defensor said during the forum, and his answers to questions thrown at him:
1) Sonny Belmonte has, during his three terms (I think), increased Quezon City's budget to P10B (with an expected P2-4B more, making it P14B) for this year
2) Quezon City is now the leading city in the country and still has much potential for growth
3) Potential for growth stems from nature parks (Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife and Lamesa Eco Park); number of schools in the area; land area still available for development, business center in the Trinoma area; and the entertainment industry
4) Has many businesses, at least three were mining-related, one environment-related, one housing-related, and a mineral water business with Boy Abunda and Kris Aquino (hehe, they should go into the rv repair business too, seeing as more and more stars are getting RVs and private buses)... he estimates his net worth at P30M
5) Asked what he will ask election opponent Herbert Bautista, he said he will ask him to explain the almost P100M food expense the Vice Mayor's office has incurred in the last three years, given that the Vice Mayor's office only has P300M allotment per year...
6) Mike Defensor apologized if people think that his service to the present administration helped the government they hate, but hopes that people will at least be fair and consider his achievements as councilor, congressman, and cabinet member
7) He claimed to have no record of graft and corruption
8) He at least has been living in QC for many years and claims to still paying off loans for their lovely home in La Vista
9) Believes the RH Bill shouldn't have been adopted in QC because the high population growth in QC is due to informal settlers brought there by squatting syndicates, not due to actual baby boom among QC residents
10) Also said that the RH Bill should be a matter of national policy and not something chosen to be adopted or not by whichever city
11) Asked how he intends to address the perception that he is PGMA's pup, he responded by detailing achievements (e.g. 41 steps for Pag-Ibig Loans was reduced to 7)
12) Agenda in a sentence: UPLIFTING THE LIVES OF PEOPLE IN QUEZON CITY
13) Asked why he stuck it out with PGMA, he first stated the fact that no President left a Presidency in high favor (hubs kidded Magsaysay, who died in a plane crash). He said he joined PGMA when her ratings were high and saw no real reason to just up and leave. He also said that he isn't like other politicians who immediately jump ship just because something is going wrong. He did leave the LIBERAL PARTY because they weren't united anymore in what they want.
14) He is now supporting Villar's bid for the Presidency, believing he is the kind of President we need right now. His running mate is Aiko Melendez (who is running against Ara Mina)
15) Asked why run against Herbert if he believes Sonny Belmonte did a good job, he said he still feels that despite the growth, there are still these other things that need improvement and he believes he can lead QC and deliver those improvements.
IF ELECTED, HE INTENDS TO:
a) Use P1.5B of the QC budget to address three things: more scholarships to OSY with no grade requirement (as long as it's passing); QC Medical card for QC residents like the one enjoyed by Makati residents; and more perks/benefits/discounts for QC senior citizens and disabled citizens
b) Phase out the use of two-stroke tricycle engines (?) for tricycles and clean out creeks as part of his first executive agenda
c) Work closely with local NGOs to provide awareness campaigns, expert support and alternative livelihood to commercial sex workers to address growing HIV/AIDS concern in the country (given that there are about 60 colleges and many BPOs in QC where adolescents are engaged in risky sexual behavior)
d) Convert Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife into a night park like the Night Safari Park in Singapore; develop business district around Trinoma; create a celebrity hub like Hollywood in QC; change the penalties to drivers/petty criminals so that their families won't get penalized as well
e) Focus on projects that promote a sustainable environment
f) Focus on putting the youth back into school as a strategy to reduce crime and drug use and make QC more sustainbale
g) Make SPED more accessible to communities by integrating them with existing schools (at least, one SPED school per district)
h) Continue streetsweeping for small-time and big-time drug pushers
To be honest, I was impressed with Mike Defensor's ability to answer questions. He may have given safe answers sometimes but there was no beating around the bush only to not have a point. He had specific plans which he would iterate one by one. He had justifications. And though there was a point in the forum when he was relating hush-hush stories, he did not spend the two hours in front badmouthing other people. Most of the session were spent on actual issues. He really talked about his plans.
He only balked a little twice:
1) When asked what his specific net worth was (for purposes of comparison to what it would be someday), he had a guarded expression. But I don't take that against him... even the common folk don't like saying how much they earn or how much they got paid anyway.
2) When I asked him about his take on restorative justice and if it was part of his agenda to complement the work the DSWD does and invest on conversion programs for children in conflict with the law (CICL). He was honest about not knowing much about R.A. 9344 but said he intends to strengthen existing youth centers like the one in Molave... and also connected that with his free education agenda. He also later approached me about being interested in what I do (with FAD Inc. and the Rotary Club of Chinatown-Manila) for restorative justice. He gave me his number and I also told him I would contact him about breastfeeding training for his plans of free prenatal care and child delivery for QC residents.
Politics aside, I loved their home. It was huge but it was more spacious than opulent. It was a modern Filipino home. And I also appreciated that though they exerted a lot of effort for our comfort, there was no grand display of generosity.
tables were laden with healthy snacks like peanuts
and chestnuts and oranges
a lot of bloggers had laptops open at the event
he remained cool on the hot seat
Aside from the press kit, we did get a 2 gb thumb drive. I also have a button bearing my name and blog! Just so I am transparent as well.
To be fair as well, they did include photocopies of proofs of Herbert Bautista's questionable spending in the press kit. I wish though that they scanned the pages instead and just saved it in the thumb drives. At least we could easily share it with online friends.
Also a fact. Despite the improvements Mike Defensor has made with PNR, they were still unable to pay their debts to PPA. I checked with former colleagues.
He will never be my Mayor and I am still on the fence about him as a politician, but if he can help me further my advocacies, then I intend to work with him.
Now, I hope this helps others who are voting this May. If he's just lying, then it's between him and the people of QC.