Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will be the center of attention as the five presidential candidates meet for their third and final debate this Sunday evening. The debate is organized by the Commission on Elections in partnership with broadcast network ABS-CBN and the newspaper Manila Bulletin. It will be held at the PHINMA-University of Pangasinan, with journalists Karen Davila and Tony Velasquez as moderators.
The tough-talking mayor has surpassed erstwhile front runner Senator Grace Poe in most pre-election surveys taken this April. However, that status is now in jeopardy after a video of him making a rape joke at the expense of a slain Australian missionary surfaced over the Internet last week triggered a deluge of criticism against him both locally and in the international press.
His rivals also seized the opportunity to attack him, with Vice President Jejomar Binay branding him as a crazy maniac and Poe releasing an ad focusing on the abuses faced by Filipino women.
Based on the batch of surveys released last week, it appears that the race is now just between Duterte and Poe, with Binay, administration standard-bearer Mar Roxas, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago far behind. Consider the figures below:
Pulse Asia, conducted April 5 to 10
Duterte (32%), Poe (25%), Binay (20%), Roxas (18%), Santiago (1%)
SWS, conducted April 13
Poe (34%), Duterte (33%), Roxas (16%), Binay (15%), Santiago (1%)
DZRH, conducted March
Duterte (36%), Poe (28%), Binay (15.3%), Roxas (15.2%), Santiago (3.5%)
During the debates, Duterte’s opponents are expected to slam him again over it. The Mayor can defuse the criticisms and put the issue to rest once and for all if he gives a definitive apology. His four rivals, for their part, must not only try their best to keep the issue alive. They should also use it as a springboard to persuade voters who are leaning in Duterte’s direction to choose them instead. If they fail to do so, Duterte will most likely become the 16th President of the Philippines.
Below are issues that should be discussed during today’s #PilipinasDebates2016:
1) The tragedy in Kidapawan and the issue of assistance for farmers
2) Threat of terrorism posed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abu Sayyaf, and the
Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters
3) Implementation of K plus 12 curriculum and other issues in education sector
4) Reproductive health issues (RH law implementation, HIV/AIDS epidemic, etc.)
5) Increase in minimum wage
6) Constitutional reform (Foreign ownership of businesses, shift to federalism, etc.)