All presidential bets commit to attend last debate

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - All five presidential candidates have committed to attend the third and last presidential debate at the University of Pangasinan Phinma in Dagupan City on Sunday.

“This is the final opportunity for voters to know and gauge the candidates. This is also a good chance for candidates to explain their platforms and solutions to the country’s problems,” said Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista.

The PiliPinas Debates 2016 is initiated by the Comelec and hosted by television network ABS-CBN and Manila Bulletin. It will be conducted in a town hall format, which would allow the public to ask questions.   

Candidates will also have an opportunity to challenge each other during the face-off segment of the debate.

During the second debate in Cebu City that was organized by TV5, The STAR and BusinessWorld, presidential aspirant Miriam Defensor-Santiago failed to show up because of a treatment schedule for her cancer.

The topics of the debate on Sunday include foreign policy, health, job security, concerns of overseas Filipino workers, peace in Mindanao conflict areas, metro traffic and public transport and education.  

Security preparations have been finalized as Supt. Christopher Abrahano, city police chief, said during a Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) forum yesterday that about 700 policemen and soldiers would ensure public safety.

Some roads, he added, will be closed to traffic while others will only be for pedestrian use.

Abrahano encouraged people to watch the debate in the comfort of their homes as access to the actual debate area will be limited.

Michael Sarmiento, a Comelec-Pangasinan officer, said in the same forum that they expect heated discussions as candidates make their final statements about platforms.

Show fiscal plans

Meanwhile, civil society groups yesterday urged presidential candidates to reveal their plans on how to fund their campaign commitments.

Headed by Social Watch Philippines (SWP), they also dared candidates to show their fiscal policies, plans on revenue generation and stands on taxation and debt payments.

SWP convenor Leonor Briones said voters have the right to know these because they are the ones who stand to bear the burden if the promises are undelivered.

She noted that the candidates are promising tax cuts and expansion of social services but did not explain how these are going to be done.

“(These plans) are not realistic because (the candidates) detailed programs on expenditures (but failed to provide) details for programs on funding,” Briones said.

She added that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Jejomar Binay said they would reduce taxes of lower income groups while Senators Grace Poe and Miriam Defensor-Santiago said they would reduce corporate taxes and the income taxes of higher income groups.

Administration standard-bearer Mar Roxas is hesitant on tax cuts as he argued that it could slash government services, Briones also said.

“No one is looking at government corporations that are supposed to remit 50 percent of their income to the national government; streamlining the brackets for high-earning tax payers; reform or rationalize excise taxes, investment incentives; and reforms in tax administration and efficient tax collection,” Briones said.

The SWP also noted that both Santiago and Duterte have clear stands on the total abolishment of the lump sum and savings in government budget, Roxas is batting for less reliance on foreign borrowing while Santiago is in favor of domestic borrowing.  – With Eva Visperas, Romina Cabrera, Cesar Ramirez

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