It’s not everyday that you get to have dinner with a senator and an even rarer moment to see him join you at the buffet line.
Most of the time, when VIPs or the Guest of Honor arrive at an event, they’d be immediately escorted to a distant corner (or separate room) sit in a separate table surrounded by his bodyguards and have food specially prepared for them.
But Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito was different. As soon as he walked in, he went around the venue to shake hands and thank all of us for accepting his invitation. Once he got to meet everyone, he just casually lined up at the buffet to get his food before joining one of the tables to chat with the other reporters.
Yes. I know. Its campaign season and politicians would probably do anything (complete with sing and dance numbers) to project a good image. So it was either a) all for show, or b) he is really genuinely nice. I do think it’s the second, as I’ve heard nothing but good things from the people who’s worked with him since he began his public service career.
After dinner, they directed him to another table (with better lighting) and we had the chance to ask him anything, as his staff told us he was always game to answer questions.
He was given the name “Victor” because he was born shortly after his father, the former presidend Joseph Estrada won his first term as Mayor of the town of San Juan. He attended Xavier School and completed his degree in Political Science at the De La Salle University.
He recalled his beginnings of how he started out as a businessman and a president of JCI before politics came calling. Thus began his public service career as Mayor of San Juan (which he helped transform from municipality into a city, increasing its revenue from P300 million to P1.2 billion). He served as the City Mayor for three terms until 2010. Thereafter, he represented the city in the House of Representatives for one term – from 2010 to 2013.
He won a senate seat during the May 2013 elections and this year he is running for another term against some of the most popular names in Philippine politics—including his brother Jinggoy Estrada.
Senator JV admits he is facing an uphill battle in his reelection bid since he is not as “flamboyant” and famous as his other rivals choosing instead to be a silent worker and let his records speak for himself.
“I don’t have that flamboyance siguro but I’m a silent worker,” he said in a previous interview, “Panay sikat talaga. Ang daming mas sikat sa atin.” JV is running under the Hugpong ng Pagbabago slate.
Adopting the moniker Mr. Healthcare, for being the author of the “Universal Healthcare Law,” Sen JV hopes voters would look past the popularity and surveys and notice his record and achievements instead.
In his years in the lower house of Congress he focused on labor & employment, local government development and education reform/youth development.
In his first term as Representative of the lone congressional district of San Juan, Sen Ejercito has filed 149 House Bills and 18 House Resolutions. After only 2 and a half years as a legislator, 5 of these initiatives have been approved and transmitted to the Senate for deliberation and approval. These are:
HB 4225: Participatory Governance Through CSOs Empowerment Act of 2011
HB 4541: Mercury Exposure Information Act of 2011
HB 4565: Local Housing Boards Act
HB 5870: Cadastral Survey Act of 2012
HB 6144: Domestic Workers Act of 2012 or Kasambahay Bill
As a lawmaker he has authored 41 ENACTED LAWS; 6 Bills Pending Signature And Approval By The President; 173 BILLS, 17th Congress; 40 RESOLUTIONS during the 17th Congress.
Other Laws that Senator JV has authored/co-authored include; Republic Act No. 10645: An Act Providing for the Mandatory PhilHealth Coverage for All Senior Citizens and
Republic Act No. 11036: The Mental Health Act among many others.
Sen JV is the principal author in the Senate of the law that created the Department of Housing and Urban Development to address the huge housing backlog in the country.
As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, Sen JV’s commitment to improve the health care system has led to the passage of important measures. He is known as the Champion of the Universal Health Care in the Senate and through his efforts, Senate Bill No. 1896 or the Universal Health Care Act has become a Law.
SBN 1896 or the Universal Health Care Act. The measure aims to provide quality, accessible and efficient health services to Filipino among others. To guarantee access to health services, every Filipino will be automatically included into the National Health Insurance Program. This legislation if passed will be a landmark legislation and reform on health.
Last February 20, President Rodrigo R. Duterte of the Philippines officially signed the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act into law, which guarantees equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare services for all Filipinos.
The law intends to automatically enroll every Filipino in the National Health Insurance Program,
and expand PhilHealth coverage to include free medical consultations and laboratory tests.
Aside from the automatic enrollment of all Filipinos to PhilHealth, other significant reforms that will be implemented will also include: designating PhilHealth as the national purchaser for health goods and services for individuals, such as medicines; improvement of health facilities especially in underserved areas; responding to the gap in health workers throughout the country; strategic engagement of the private sector; and creating and expanding new functions in the Department of Health (DOH) to improve the delivery of health services.
Membership in the program can either be direct, meaning by paying health premiums, or indirect, such as those who are sponsored like senior citizens and indigents.
With the law’s passage, government health care services must now transition to fit the UHC system.
And this is why Senator JV is motivated to secure another term in the Senate. “Now that UHC Act has become a Law I want to make sure that it is implemented properly and this is my motivation for running once again. Sen JV says this is just the first step, the more important thing is how to make the law benefit every Filipino and he says there is still a lot more that needs to be done.
Senator JV also recently filed two Senate bills, seeking the appointment of at least one barangay health worker (BHW) in every barangay nationwide. Senate Bills (SB) 1380 and 1406, mandating the Department of Health (DOH) to provide at least one health worker to each barangay nationwide and to increase the salaries and benefits of the BHWs.
“Despite the recorded number of health workers of the DOH, there are still barangays in the country which do not have a barangay health worker or barangay health center to attend to the health needs of the people.” he noted.
RIDING IN CONTROVERSY
We asked Sen JV what he does during his free time and he confides spending it most with his two sons. He says he is trying to make the most of their time as they are already growing up too fast.
Another thing he says he loves doing is to ride his Big Bike, which he says reminds him of his carefree days as a young kid when he would just bike around their neighborhood in the afternoon.
But lately this hobby has become a source of controversy for the senator. He calls himself as the most unpopular biker in the country after he placed his signature on the law sponsored by Sen. Dick Gordon requiring all motorcycles to have large plate numbers front and back.
Bikers had expected JV Ejercito to violently oppose or object to the law knowing fully well that there is no provision for plates in front of the motorcycle and installing large metal license plates could affect the aerodynamics, stability, and fuel consumption of motorcycles or worse even cause death. In the event of a collision and the front metal plate tears off, it could turn into a deadly flying object that could kill someone.
“Yung Republic Act na ipinasa po nakalagay lang number plates, ibig sabihin puwede rubber, decal, sticker, or vinyl (the Republic Act that was passed requires number plates, meaning, it can be (made of) rubber, decal, sticker or vinyl)” he explained.
Sen JV Ejercito quickly clarified that he is full aware of the danger and that he signed for two reasons. Visible plates, he believes, will reduce the harassment and discrimination against motorcycle riders particularly at police checkpoints. JV says riders have to go down their bikes take everything off, open everything and show paperwork which can take several long minutes. He said he opposes metal plates but that there are alternatives like installing decals (stickers) or RFIDs.
Sen JV says he supported Sen Gordon in order to keep the door open for constructive engagement instead of destructive confrontation on the Senate floor. He assures that as a fellow biker he will put the safety of the riders as the top priority when government implements the Republic Act 11235 (Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act ) or known as ‘Doble Plaka Law’.
He has already apologized to his fellow riders and vowed to make the IRR as rider friends as possible.
ACHIEVEMENTS NOT ADS
Recent poll survey results showed the re-electionist senator dropping out of the magic 12 while his half-brother, former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, is ranked within the top ten of the senatorial race. He was previously ranked 12th in a Social Weather Stations senatorial survey conducted released in January.
Sen JV acknowledges his lack of money to bankroll television ads made this election much harder than for him than in 2013, adding that he only managed to place TV ads recently because the costs were “very prohibitive.”
So he is really hoping that voters would look past these surveys and ads and check each candidates achievements instead before making the decision.
“I have always been proud of my achievements in serving the Filipino people. I think I have done everything possible, I worked hard for the passage of two anti-poverty bills that became laws. I am not afraid of debates because I have nothing to hide. Sana i-consider ng taumbayan yun,” the senator added.