Debate organizers vow: Interesting exchanges
AJ de la Torre (The Freeman) - March 19, 2016 - 10:00am

CEBU, Philippines - “It’s going to be a debate.”

This was the promise of organizers of the much-awaited Visayas leg of the presidential debate today at the University of the Philippines Cebu.

Patrick Paez, TV5 News production head and host, said the public can expect a “real” debate.

“Meaning to say, it’s not going to be a presidential open forum with  candidates  engaging in an answer-rebuttal-reaction,” said Paez.

He explained that the first round will include panelists while the second round will be candidate versus candidate. However, Paez said that in both rounds, all presidentiables are allowed to join in the discussion. 

The second presidential debate is organized by TV5, the Commission on Election and the Philippine Star Group of Publications.

In an earlier statement, UP Cebu Dean Liza Corrosaid more topics will be discussed during the Visayas leg debate, including climate change, education, health, and disaster preparedness.

With more sectors involved, Paez said that the audience in the debate hall today, which will be in UP Cebu’s Performing Arts Hall, will have a number of sectors well-represented.

Only 300 audience members are allowed inside the hall and apart from the sector representatives, those invited includejournalists, Comelec officials, and 15 supporters for each candidate.

While Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has announced that she will not be able to attend the debate, Paez said the senator asked her supporters still be allowed to attend.

The 3-hour debate will start at 5 p.m. with one 15-minute break, but pre-debate activities will start as early as 10 a.m.

Paez also said to prevent causing more traffic with supporters waiting along the road, supporters of the candidates will be accommodated in the football field.

Regionalized topics

ComelecChairman Andres Bautista said the topics discussed in each leg of the presidential debate are partly in line with the concerns in each region.

Bautista said for the Mindanao leg, for example, they had to choose peace and order and the Bangsamoro Basic Law as among the topics to be discussed given its relation to the current concerns of some parts of Mindanao.

For the Visayas leg, Bautista said they decided to include disaster preparedness or climate change due to the recent catastrophes that struck the region, most particularly super typhoon Yolanda.

But apart from the issues concerning the region, he explained that they also had to include and divide equally some other topics. Four main topics for the debate today are disaster preparedness, health, education and corruption.

Bautista hopes that debates among candidates will be a “staple” activity during elections to help voters decide whom to vote.

Regarding the first leg of the presidential debates, Bautista said it was a good start and a learning curve for today’s debate. For this leg, he said the big difference is the time given to candidates to answer questions.

He also said that they have discouraged, as much as possible, political advertisementsduring commercial breaks.

Bautista said when they started planning the debates, there were a few “non-negotiables” like the debate should be hosted by a school, the format should change from time to time, and it should be done outside Metro Manila.

For the Visayas leg, he said they chose Cebu as it is the province with the most number of voters at 2.7 million.

Festive air in up

The UP Cebu campus has been draped in festive colors for the presidential debates.

Sinceonly a limited number of people can be accommodated at the UP Performing Arts Hall, bleachers have been built on the college campus football field. Other supporters may also stay at the UP High School football field across the street from the main campus.

The 1,500 seats for the bleachers, however, are not open for the public but for invited guests from other schools, political parties, non-government organizations, among others sectors.Huge LED screens and a stage have also been mounted at the grounds outside the performing arts building.

Since yesterday afternoon, television cameras have already been installed inside the debate hall.

Except for Santiago, all presidential candidates have started to arrive.Vice PresidentBinay and Senator Grace Poe made the rounds around Cebu towns Friday while Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Mar Roxasare expected to arrive tomorrow morning.

Most candidates will hold caravans and other sorties in the morning prior to taking part in the debates in the afternoon.

Heavy traffic

The initial plan of having no road closures for today’s presidential debate will remain and heavy traffic is expected, according to the Cebu City Transportation Office.

CCTO operations head Jonathan Tumulak said this is because Gorordo Avenue is the only wide access road from the mountain barangays of the Cebu City to the downtown area and many residents will be affected.

After the debate, Duterte will also have a motorcade from UP Cebu and will tour around the downtown area of the city before having a concert at the Cebu Coliseum.  At the same time, they were also informed that the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug will also have a graduation activity and expect2,000 guests and 450 vehicles.

With this, he said motorists should expect heavy traffic on Sunday from JY Square, Gorordo Avenue up to General Maxilom Avenue.Also there will be heavy traffic from Gorordo Avenue to Escario Street. Archbishop Reyes Avenue up to corner Juan Luna Street to Salinas Drive will also be affected. — with Dale G. Israel, Ma. Fatima R. Secuya, Mylen P. Manto and Bryner L. Diaz/BRP (FREEMAN)


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