Actor. Model. Athlete. Senator?

This was the big question left hanging in everyone’s minds when local pop icon Richard “Goma” Gomez filed his candidacy for a position in the Philippine Senate last February 12.

“Oo, tuloy ang pagtakbo ko, lalaban tayo!” Gomez was quoted saying.

Gomez will be joining the senate rat-race for the coming May elections as an independent candidate.

He is, of course, not the first actor to enter local politics. With the filing of his candidacy, Gomez became another of the many actor-turned-politicians the Philippines has produced, among them, Tito Sotto, Fernando Poe Jr., Ramon Revilla Sr., Bong Revilla and Former President Joseph Estrada.

Gomez claims that he is criticized mainly because he in showbiz. According to him, “not all actors in politics are doing their job well. This is the reason why I am being criticized.”

Being a newcomer in the political scene, Gomez admits that his experience in local politics is indeed limited and to a point, lacking. His interest in politics became public when he ran for the post of representative for the party list Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MAD) during the 2001 elections. The party list won, but Gomez was disqualified. “We’re starting all over again. The desire to help people has always been there.” Gomez said in an earlier report when asked about his disqualification.

He boasts that he has done his share in helping the country, especially the youth, through projects such as the MAD Campaign and his appointment by the House of Representatives as a special adviser on dangerous drugs and narcotics.

It came as no surprise when Gomez announced that addressing drug abuse issues will be one of his top priorities if elected into the senate. “There is a need to amend the Anti-Drugs Act” said Gomez when asked about his stand on the issue, “kailangan mas bigatan ang penalties ng pushers.” He also said that he is willing to push this issue as far as giving drug pushers the death penalty. “Personally, I’ll really be in favor of the Death Penalty for pushers” Gomez added, “you have to give (the law) more teeth.”

The youth, according to Gomez, also have to be informed of the dangers of drug abuse and be involved in other activities to counter drug problems. “In order to create an anti-drug campaign, (the youth) should have continued activity such as sports and continued information of the problem of illegal drugs” he noted.

Another integral part of Gomez’ platform is the development of the local cottage product industry. “We have to improve the promotion and propagation of our country’s cottage industry products” he said, “The good thing about it is that they promote local economy in every barangay.” He also explained how the cottage industry program could help the less-fortunate Filipinos. “Ang kagandahan ng cottage industry, hindi mo kailangan ng master’s degree or college diploma” Gomez explained, “You can work from your own home.”

He also believes that there is a connection between the cottage industry and the country’s economic competitiveness. “When you talk of manufacturing, mahihirapan tayong mag-compete sa China” Gomez remarked. He continued by stating his stand on the presence foreign investors. “You have to protect your foreign investors” he explained, “you have to allow them to own a piece of land for that way they can put up their own factories without the fear of trouble when it comes to the renewal of (land rent) contracts.”

Gomez also believes that election fraud is indeed rampant in the country. “If you do not automate the elections now, patuloy-tuloy lang na magkakaron ng gulo” Gomez noted.

He is also for the automation of polls for the coming elections despite the added costs this will bring to our national budget. “It speeds up everything” he added, “the present system takes weeks, and then, when you have your winner, the legitimacy will still be questioned.”

Commenting on the possibility of Charter Change Gomez said, “(My) choice would be a constitutional convention because you have to give the people the right to choose their commissioners.”

On the issue of family planning, Gomez believes that there is a need for the Filipinos to realize that there is indeed a population explosion. “I am for family planning provided that the people should always be given choices.” He even gave a comment on the use of the term. “The term should not even be family planning” he added, “it should be family health education.”

Connecting the issue of population explosion to the issues surrounding education, Gomez said he promises to add more classrooms to public schools “because of a population explosion of students in elementary and high school.” He also said that he is a staunch supporter of teacher’s rights. He promised to “fight for the increase of teacher’s salaries” because he believes that “a reasonable wage increase will keep our teachers from looking for employment abroad.” He added that they “should remain in our country as educators.”

Gomez exclaimed that he is also an advocate of peace and order. “I am really for peace and order. It is a very important element for improving the economy and also to invite foreign investors.” On this, he also added his views on the occurrence of extra-judicial killings. “The term extra-judicial killing is already pin-pointing, putting the blame on just one department of the government,” added Gomez “it’s not solely the military, it could be that the leftists are killing themselves.”

Gomez, who lived with his grandmother as a child, also spoke of the values needed to be able o serve the public well. “Moral values and honesty” he said, “You have to be a straight forward person and you have to say what you feel, that’s what my lola always tells me.”
On the issue of his tax evasion case, Gomez remained mainly mum. He merely said that he wished to clarify that the issue was already resolved. In earlier reports about the case, he was quoted with saying “The administration is harassing me, being part of the opposition.” Gomez was charged with four counts of tax evasion due to his failure to file income tax returns from the year 2000 to 2003.

At present, Gomez is on a campaign trail in the northern Luzon area with Isabela as his most recent stop.—Mark Dantes

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