News Commentary

5 takeaways from the VP debate

Jovan Cerda - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — On Sunday, the six candidates vying for the presidency locked horns in a rich debate full of substance as well as mudslinging. Who stood out? Who excelled under pressure? Was the debate better than the presidential face-offs? Here are our five takeaways:

1. Cayetano leads candidates in repeated assaults against Marcos

The debate proper hasn't even started yet, but Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. was already interrupted in his introduction by hecklers as a prelude to a series of attacks directed to him throughout the debate. 

A group of students were escorted outside the University of Santo Tomas Quadricentennial Pavilion after shouting "Never Again!," a reference to the martial law era during the two-decade rule of Bongbong's father, the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

Anti-Marcos protesters escorted outside the debate hall

"Kaming mga kabataan hindi kami papayag na makaupo ulit, makabalik lalo na sa pagiging bise presidente (si Bongbong Marcos) dahil kaunting-kaunti na lang malapit na siya sa pagiging presidente." #BilangPilipinoVideo by Philstar.com/Efigenio For LIVE coverage visit: http://bilangpilipino.philstar.com/debate

Posted by philstar.com on Sunday, April 10, 2016

Being in the same political party (Nacionalista Party) didn't stop Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano from leading the slew of assaults against Bongbong, who said that in his 27 years in government, he was never tainted by corruption. Boos and jeers were heard from the crowd.

Cayetano said the Marcos family stole $10 billion from the Filipino people during the Marcos regime. Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo chimed in, adding that the Marcos family should return the ill-gotten wealth amassed during the late dictator's rule. Bongbong said he cannot give what he doesn't have.

Cayetano also raised that Marcos Jr. was implicated in the pork barrel scam, allegedly channeling up to P205 million of his Priority Assistance Development Fund or "pork barrel" to fake non-government organizations. He said Bongbong could steal up to $100 billion if he ends up with the vice presidency. 

Bongbong retorted by saying that it was alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles who cleared his name from the scandal, but Cayetano said that Napoles only did that because she was friends with Bongbong.

Cayetano added that during the important Senate-initiated corruption investigations, Bongbong did not attend a single hearing. The vice presidential candidate from Ilocos Norte said he did not attend Senate hearings on corruption because it was obvious to him that they were only venues for politicking.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, for his part, accused Bongbong's campaign of promising supporters P5,000 if they vote for Marcos Jr.

Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Escudero, whose late father Salvador was a Marcos crony, implied that even if Bongbong offers an apology, the people's trust has already been broken, likening it to a broken plate.

In response to the barrage of accusations, Bongbong said he can only apologize for himself, and no one else. 

Cayetano's acerbic demeanor dominated the debate—he was consistent in attacking Bongbong with every opportunity. At the same time, he also launched attacks against Escudero allegedly protecting business interests and Robredo being in a party that fails to deliver services to the people.

2. Cayetano, Escudero and Robredo promote their presidential bets

Among the six vice presidential candidates, Cayetano, Escudero and Robredo were the ones most vocal about their presidential teammates.

Central to Cayetano's statements is his affirmation of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte's advocacy to promote federalism in the country, to free up the accumulation of resources in Metro Manila and to bring peace in Mindanao. Moreover, he has referenced his partner's political will in carrying out an ambitious plan to stamp out criminality in the country in just three to six months. He was rightfully pressed by Trillanes on the specifics of their plan, but Cayetano only said they have a strategic plan which includes the purchase of equipment such as closed-circuit television, among others.

In his introduction, Escudero said that along with Sen. Grace Poe, he belongs in a party that prioritizes fair and equal services to the people, devoid of partisanship or political colors.

Robredo, for her part, said she and Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas II are going to work on following through with the reforms of the Aquino administration to bring services to the people.  

On the other hand, Honasan defended his partner, Vice President Jejomar Binay, amid Trillanes's attacks on the vice president. Honasan said corrupt members of the media have rendered the justice system in the country irrelevant, making individuals accused of corrupt activities subject to a trial by publicity.

Marcos Jr. was noticeably silent about his partner, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Trillanes, who is running alone, have earlier expressed his support for Poe, but has not talked about her during the debate.

3. Duterte at the center of heated exchange between Cayetano and Marcos

Amid a series of blistering attacks from Cayetano, Bongbong found an opening and talked about how Duterte said that if he would be unable to deliver on his anti-crime advocacy as president, he would step down in favor of Marcos Jr. succeeding him.

Bongbong hits back at Cayetano

Bongbong Marcos to Alan Peter Cayetano "Sabi ni Mayor Rody Duterte kapag hindi nalutas ang krimen in 3-6 months ibibigay raw niya ang pagkapangulo sa'kin... kasalanan ko ba na mas gusto nila sa akin kaysa sa'yo?" #BilangPilipinoFor more vice presidential debate updates: http://bilangpilipino.philstar.com/debate

Posted by philstar.com on Sunday, April 10, 2016


Cayetano said Duterte's remarks were only said in jest, and that the presidential candidate has repeatedly implored the electorate to vote for Cayetano during sorties. Cayetano, in turn, said Bongbong has shifting allegiances, supporting Binay and Duterte whenever convenient for him.

Although it was the vice presidential debate, Cayetano's repeated references to the Davao City mayor and this exchange between him and Marcos Jr. gave Duterte airtime outside the presidential debates and campaign advertisements. Compared to other presidential candidates, Duterte's campaign effortlessly seeped into the debate.

4. Candidates share plans if elected

In the debate, the issue of the vice president being a spare tire opened the discussion on what the candidates will focus on when they get elected.

Among the six, Trillanes, Marcos Jr. and Robredo came up with specific areas they want to focus on.

Trillanes said he wants to focus on peace and order by being at the helm of the Department of the Interior and Local Government. Trillanes's answer could be largely based on the senator's experience as a soldier. He is also the chair of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security.

Marcos Jr. said he wants to be the Labor secretary, focusing on job creation and training for Filipinos.

Robredo, meanwhile, said she wants to be the administration's anti-poverty czar, streamlining the social services across agencies to ensure that people are not burdened when asking for assistance from the government.

Cayetano said he will ensure that the government's platforms are being carried out, Honasan said the vice president should be as capable as the president, while Escudero said he would have to ask his partner, Sen. Poe on what Cabinet position suits him best.

5. More substantive than the presidential debate

Compared to the previous presidential debate where the candidates ignored some questions and went out of their way to attack other aspirants, the vice presidential debate was characterized by attacks rooted on substantiated claims, taking off from questions relevant to the issue. For example, even if Cayetano was aggressive in attacking Bongbong, he was merely exploiting an opportunity when the question specifically called for a discussion on corruption.

It can be remembered that in the second presidential debate, the candidates for the highest post in government deliberately went off-course to attack their rivals. For Binay, it was opening up the issue of Poe's lack of loyalty to the country on the issue on the Freedom of Information Bill.

Yes or No: VP bets weigh on various national issues

See who among the vice presidential candidates are in favor of death penalty, same sex marriage, lowering income tax and have plans to run for presidency in 2022. #BilangPilipino http://bilangpilipino.philstar.com/debate

Posted by philstar.com on Sunday, April 10, 2016


For Poe, it was raising the issue of Binay's alleged involvement with remittance agency Philrem on the topic of the Coco Levy Trust Fund Bill.

For Duterte, it was insisting that Roxas's degree from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is fake when they were having an exchange on how to best tackle the problem of drugs and criminality in the country.

In an interview with philstar.com, University of the Philippines political science professor Jan Robert Go said that in contrast, during the vice presidential debate, "Sen. Honasan was very composed and interestingly made a lot of sense. Rep.Robredo did not engage in mudslinging and gave very clear responses. Sen. Trillanes was good in demanding clearer answers from Sen. Cayetano who was doing much of the mudslinging. Sen. Marcos was obviously trying to work his way out on controversial issues like corruption and human rights violations.” 

The vice presidential bets can be commended for their effort to stick to the issue and be as substantive as possible, both in explaining their platforms and hurling accusations to other bets.

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