The second of the three presidential debates organized by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and various media outlets dubbed
#PiliPinasDebates2016 took place yesterday, March 20. It took place in the University of the Philippines – Cebu.
Following the practice of American media outlets like Vox and The Washington Post, The Filipino Scribe is listing below the winners and losers of Sunday night’s debate.
1) Grace Poe – March is turning out to be a very good night for the Senator. She has solidified her status as the front runner in opinion polls over Vice President Jejomar Binay. More importantly, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of her on the two disqualification cases filed against her. A strong debate performance last Sunday gave her another bright spot this month.
Poe began the night by aggressively attacking Binay over the corruption issues hounding him during the discussion on the Freedom of Information bill. Later in the debate, she attacked former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and the Aquino administration over what she described as its selective anti-corruption drive. The Senator was able to unleash her aggressive style without really shedding her sweet image.
To be sure, it was not a perfect night for Poe. Her insinuation that President Benigno Aquino III did not trust Roxas enough just because he had to personally go to Zamboanga during the armed siege last 2013 boomeranged. Nevertheless, there is no denying that she is now more energetic than before.
2) Mar Roxas – It is easy to understand the challenges Roxas’ faced during the debate, which actually mirrors his situation for this entire season. As the administration standard-bearer, he will be held accountable for the shortcomings of the administration, both real and perceived.
At different points during Sunday’s debate, Binay, Duterte, and Poe all trained their guns on Roxas – from the issue of tax reform to the government’s response to the devastation of super typhoon Yolanda. Nevertheless, Roxas arguably did well in the debate by being far more knowledgeable about the projects initiated by the Aquino administration as well as by being armed with statistics to back up his claims.
For example, when Poe implied that Aquino’s lack of trust on Roxas prompted him to personally go to Zamboanga at the height of the armed siege there back in 2013, Roxas deflected the attack by saying that if he’s elected president, he will also do it.
3) Colonel Ariel Querubin – It is very rare for candidates to talk about future political appointments in the middle of the campaign season. Hence, many observers were surprised to hear Poe mention Colonel Ariel Querubin as her choice for anti-crime czar if she is elected president not once, but twice (to quote her mother)! It tells a lot about how much confidence she has on Querubin, who entered the national spotlight in 2006 after the standoff at the Philippine Marines headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.
The Filipino Scribe was able to speak to him briefly during Poe’s announcement of candidacy last September 2015. According to him, supporting Poe is the right thing to do for him because of his firm belief that her father was cheated of victory during the 2004 presidential elections.
4) TV5 – Presidential debates are always expected to bring high ratings, but TV5 had two more things going for them last Sunday – additional buzz and more commercial load. The drama surrounding the 90-minute delay in the debate undoubtedly made more people watch it.
Because of the longer airtime, TV5 was able to squeeze in more advertisements. How else can you explain the network’s decision to allot 15 minutes to air what happened before the actual debate started, including the candidates’ bantering?
1) Jejomar Binay – The Vice President needed to deliver a solid debate performance last Sunday to make up for his lackluster showing last month. The outcome couldn’t have been worse for him.
In the first place, his desire to bring documents with him at the debate podium is the reason for the delay in the debate. Although it is not entirely his fault (Luchi Cruz-Valdez allowed him to do so, contrary to COMELEC rules), the media narrative became overwhelmingly against him. The feedback from the public is even worse, with many saying that Binay is someone who thinks that rules can be bent in his favor.
During the debate proper, he was also repeatedly hammered by Poe and Roxas for the various corruption allegations against him from his time as Mayor of Makati City. As someone who has been dealing with it for two years already, he should have a ready response for it by now.
2) Luchi Cruz-Valdez – As discussed in another blog post, the TV5 executive and veteran broadcast journalist single-handedly brought chaos to the debate when she mistakenly allowed Binay to bring various documents with him at the debate podium. But that’s not her only fault that night.
In the first half of the debate, the candidates seemingly disregarded Cruz-Valdez’ role as a moderator. In the opening round, she was helpless as Poe and Binay went over their time limits and began talking over each other. Until the end, she had a hard time forcing the candidates to avoid veering away from the topic on hand.
Without a doubt, things would have been better if she had a co-moderator. It was earlier announced that she will be facilitating the debate with Erwin Tulfo, but he got suspended by TV5 for an unrelated matter days before the debate. The network could have tapped Attorney Mel Sta. Maria for that role instead of relegating him to the pre-debate program.
3) Joseph Goebbels – Binay repeatedly denounced his opponents, particularly Poe and Roxas, for supposedly spreading unfounded corruption allegations against him. He likened them to Goebbels, who was the chief propagandist of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party for much of the 1930s until he was defeated in 1945. No doubt many history buffs were thrilled by this, though many certainly scratched their heads and asked “Sino yun?”