Fireworks in 2nd debate

Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

Candidates come out swinging in Cebu

MANILA, Philippines – This time around, the candidates yesterday pulled no punches as they resorted to name-calling and dragging family members in the fray as they tore at their rivals in a heated televised debate.

The second leg of the PiliPinas Debates 2016 debate in Cebu City was delayed for more than an hour reportedly over the insistence of Vice President Jejomar Binay to bring documents to the event, which was strongly opposed by administration candidate Manuel Roxas II.

Roxas and the other candidates, Sen. Grace Poe and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, remained standing at the podium for over an hour waiting for the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on whether to allow Binay to bring his documents to the stage.

The debate, held at the University of the Philippines campus in Cebu City, resumed after a lengthy clarification was made disallowing Binay to bring any document to the podium.

Before the debates began, Binay explained to the audience that he wanted to present a waiver on his bank accounts that he signed to prove he was for transparency, challenging Duterte to sign the same document.

Duterte was about to sign the waiver but they were stopped by debate moderator Luchie Cruz-Valdes of TV5.

First salvo

Poe fired the first salvo against Binay on the issue of the failure of the administration to pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill, a campaign promise of President Aquino.

“With all due respect Mr. Vice President, there’re many questions that you did not answer in the Senate. How can you make us believe that you’ll support the true FOI Bill?” Poe asked Binay, referring to the corruption allegations against the Vice President that was investigated by the Senate.

Poe also took potshots at Roxas, saying the administration was not really supporting the FOI bill.

The debates heated up when Binay raised the issue of Poe’s citizenship, citing the recent Supreme Court ruling on her citizenship issue.

“Are you a true Filipino? You’re ashamed to be a Filipino!” Binay asked Poe and went on to read the oath of allegiance for new US citizens.

“The oath of allegiance says ‘I abjure’– that means I’m ashamed of where I come from. I’m ashamed of being a Filipino,” he said.

Poe shot back saying Binay was insulting overseas Filipino workers and referred again to the corruption allegations against him.

“Did I say that you pocketed funds? All I said was it’s better to leave and work honorably rather than to rely on your parents or steal,” Poe blurted out.

The candidates were so bent in demolishing their rivals that they veered away from the issues at hand.

Binay ended up being pounded by his rivals on the allegations of corruption.

Roxas, on the other hand, was pummeled for his supposed failures and corruption while he was secretary of the Departments of the Interior and Local Government and Transportation and Communications.

While discussing energy security, Binay scoffed at Roxas’ plan to ensure stable power supply, saying the administration candidate was incapable of being decisive.

“Mr. Roxas was guilty of paralysis by analysis. He can never make a decision,” Binay said and went on to accuse his rival of stealing in connection with an MRT contract.

“You really are a disciple of Goebbels,” Binay said, referring to Josef Goebbels, the propaganda minister of Adolf Hitler.

Roxas shot back and defended his “clear, effective and accomplished track record that helped our countrymen.”

“I don’t really move when it comes to stealing,” Roxas said.

Duterte steered the issue back to energy, saying “nothing can be achieved by just talking here.”

At one point, Duterte kidded Roxas, who made a lengthy presentation of his program, for plagiarizing his platform.

Roxas also hit Binay for his “convoluted thinking” on the latter’s proposal to exempt individuals earning P30,000 a month from income tax.

Poe also hit the administration for persecuting its political opponents while rewarding its allies, particularly those with the ruling Liberal Party.

Roxas, however, pointed out that many LP members have been charged.

Roxas also chided Duterte for mouthing his anti-crime stance when Davao City has a high crime rate, particularly drug cases.

“Those crime statistics are malicious, listing all violations of law…urinating in public goes into those statistics,” Duterte replied, adding Roxas should be blamed for the rising criminality in the country during his stint as DILG chief.

“You’re a fraud, even claiming that you graduated from Wharton when you did not…the problem is you’re afraid to die and kill. If you can’t do that, look for another job,” Duterte told Roxas.

Roxas countered that Wharton School in the US issued a certification that he had indeed graduated from there.

Haunted by issues

All the four presidential candidates were haunted by the controversies linked to them during the fireworks-filled debate.

Candidates veered away from the issues raised by panelists to take a jab at their rivals during the intense nearly three-hour debate organized by The STAR, TV5, BusinessWorld and Bloomberg Philippines under the Comelec.

The mudslinging started after Binay said he would follow the rule of law in the event that his son, former Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, is convicted for corruption.

“Whatever will be the decision, we will follow. We must be a government with a rule of law,” Binay said.

Poe, however, pointed out that someone seeking the presidency should also follow the rules of the debate, alluding to the earlier discussions on Binay’s insistence on bringing documents.

“It would be a good signal from those who are for rule of law if they respect the rules of the debate,” Poe said, adding that Binay should have attended the Senate hearings on the corruption charges against him.

Poe’s statement did not sit well with Binay, who hit back at the senator by bringing up the controversy surrounding the senator’s citizenship. - With Christina Mendez, Helen Flores, Robertzon Ramirez


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