Entertainment value of debate improves

- Federico D. Pascual Jr. - The Philippine Star

TRULY Pinoy, the second chapter of the PiliPinas Debates 2016 of the presidential candidates opened last Sunday 1-1/2 hours late, but compensated for the delay with its enhanced entertainment value.

Almost as soon as they were unleashed, the four participants – Jojo Binay, Digong Duterte, Grace Poe and Mar Roxas (in alphabetical order) – started firing at each other every chance they got. As they could not claw at their pet peeves, some of them resorted to name calling.

That, for better or for worse, made that debate staged in Cebu City more entertaining to a sizeable sector of the Filipino crowd longing to see again high-caliber candidates hurling “bomba” rather than spouting lies and platitudes.

Who won the bruising fight? Too early to say. The national jury will not be back till May 9.

But this juror/voter would have awarded top points to Digong Duterte had he not blurted out while addressing Mar Roxas (who had control over the national police as interior secretary) that if one is not ready to kill he cannot be president of this unruly country.

Even if that be true, an honorable candidate does not say that in a nationally broadcast debate meant to define the persons who presume to offer themselves as president of a nation in search of a peaceful and prosperous tomorrow.

(Related to this, in future debates no one should address a fellow participant directly or by name, but always refer to him/her in the third person. This would help prevent personal affront that only generates heat but not compensatory light.)

Back to the question of who won. This is all very subjective, but this fearful corner would rank the participants thus: (1) Duterte, (2) Roxas, (3) Binay and (4) Poe.

Roxas had the most substance aside from volume, and Duterte registered the most impact. (But the acid-tongued Davao mayor should not have told the administration-Liberal Party bet to his face: “You are just a fraud, you’re pretentious!”

Binay toting documents looked ill at ease, possibly distracted by (he knows) perceptions of corruption.

Poe in her trade-mark white getup looked like a saling-pusa among brawling tomcats. She exposed her vulnerability when she offered her time to Binay or Duterte to answer a question thrown at her by Roxas.

The “daang matuwid” candidate Roxas climbed the stage weighed down by the baggage of his patron President Noynoy Aquino, but he gallantly carried it. That may explain why he was mostly defensive. No choice, nandiyan na po yan.

The anointed had to defend himself/his patron on a variety of issues beyond his control: the widespread joblessness and poverty, the lack of competent leadership to head off such disasters as Mamasapano, the scourge of drugs, the non-inclusive benefits of the vaunted economic growth, selective persecution, and other negatives.

Roxas started to expound on his reformist platform of government, but Duterte cut him short saying that it was easy to compose a program but that the true test of its efficacy is leadership, which he implied Roxas does not have or has not shown during his stint in government.

Duterte has a point. A presidential election is not a contest of who submits the best platform of government. Drawing up a program is nothing but an essay-writing chore, a detail that a well-financed candidate can assign to expensive experts.

• How candidates fared as debaters

THE FOUR debaters gave this voter the impression that: Binay should talk faster, Duterte should talk more, Poe should talk with more substance, and Roxas should talk selectively.

With his seemingly calculated discourse, the lawyer Binay gives the impression he has to think first of the legal implications before speaking. That slows down his delivery. Or the “piece of string” he had picked up in the Makati marketplace may be hounding him. Or he may have an incipient speech problem?

Duterte chooses his time and place of ambush before he stabs in with short swift remarks with telling effect. With such tactics, he usually finds no need to explain details, while his curt comments are readily picked up by most mass listeners.

But when he was challenged to explain how he would stop crime and corruption in six months, as promised, he faltered. He resorted to turning the tables on Roxas, who was the former DILG secretary, about the latter’s failure of leadership in such crises as the Mamasapano massacre.

Roxas was also defensive about his performance, or lack of it, as former secretary of transportation and communication tasked with resolving such high-profile problems in the national capital as the Metro Rail Transit.

These gripes aside, until this late date Duterte still has to tell the nation his action plan for wiping out criminality, especially the drugs problem that has spread to barangay level, in the first six months of his term if elected president.

Actually the candidates did not say anything new during the debate. There would have been new ground broken if Binay were allowed to take out his “document” – reportedly a sort of covenant wherein the candidates agree to waive the secrecy of their bank deposits.

Binay already signed it and Duterte was about to do so also, but the moderator ruled it out as not covered by the pre-debate agreement that provided among other things that nobody was to bring documents.

There could be another formal occasion where all candidates, including those running for vice president and senator, sign an undertaking allowing public scrutiny of their bank accounts. Add to that the suggestion that they disclose the personal income taxes they had paid for the past 10 years.

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ADVISORY: To access Postscript archives, go to www.manilamail.com (if necessary, copy/paste the url on your browser). Follow us via Twitter.com/@FDPascual. Email feedback to [email protected]


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