#PHVote: Senatorial debate sparks online discussion on barangay health care
MANILA, Philippines – "Is time to arrest or ban traditional birth attendants or hilot?" Valenzuela Representative Sherwin Gatchalian asked former PhilHealth director Risa Hontiveros.
"Has the Aquino government failed when it comes to maternal health?" former Senator Richard Gordon followed up.
The exchange on health issues during Rappler's 2nd senatorial debate on Friday, April 15, resonated with netizens who lamented the current state of their local health centers while bringing to light the inadequacies of national policies on health.
The Philippines and the world have failed to meet the targets for maternal mortality rates in the Millennium Development Goals.
Despite reducing deaths per 100,000 live births to 210, the world still failed to reduce by three quarters the 380 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990. (READ: Less deaths, but world still misses MDG on maternal health)
Many netizens also offered their views on the subject of social inequity and poverty, and took the opportunity to criticize government programs, particularly the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
@rapplerdotcom Reach out to the poorest of poor who has the WILL TO WORK: Farmers & Fishermen— Sad Blackjack (@SkulSurvivor) April 15, 2016
However, some of the students who attended the debate felt the candidates did not adequately tackle other social issues.
"I just wish that there was more time to get in depth with more of the polices that they want to implement," said Carlos Cabaero, an Economics student in UP Diliman.
For some, like Angela Capitling a student from the College of Mass Communication, it would have been better if she could hear more about her advocacy – education.
Several of the candidates, particularly former Akbayan representative Walden Bello and Valenzuela Representative Sherwin Gatchalian, presented plans for free education.
Gatchalian, a proponent of free higher education, said he would make tuition at all state universities and colleges (SUC) free. He placed the figure needed at P15 billion to do this, up by P3 billion from the P12 billion budget he proposed in November 2015. (READ: Gatchalian on why he supports K to 12, free higher education)
Bello, however, countered this, saying it would take P150 billion to make this happen, based on his figures. He then reiterated his call for education to be the first budgetary priority.
"We do need accelerated subsidies for state universities and colleges in order to bring about quality education for all," he added.
Rappler contributors Kevin Mandrilla and JC Punongbayan said they wanted to see more discussion on issues like gay marriage, divorce, and economic planning.
Punongbayan, in a mix of Filipino and English, said after the debate: "I was planning to ask about economic structural transformation, it is the most important thing to talk about. I would have asked whether services or manufacturing was more important, because, both are important, but manufacturing has more weight when it comes to economic development."
The economy was briefly discussed, but in the context of funding social services.
Gatchalian and former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency head Dionisio Santiago advocated for an end to smuggling.
Bello proposed bringing down debt service payments, former justice secretary Leila De Lima wanted a tax transformation law, and Hontiveros called for a progressive taxation system.
Philippine Red Cross chair Richard Gordon, meanwhile, wanted a combination of job growth and lower taxes.
Data on the social media activity showed high interest and engagement among netizens.
The event’s official hashtag, #TheLeaderIWant, trended in the Philippines by 4 pm.
According to Rappler’s data analytics tool, Reach, the hashtag made more than 247 million impressions (the times a user is served a tweet in timeline or search results). The hashtag was also used in 5,142 Tweets (exclusive of retweets), generated by 1,000 users.
The biggest influencers during the debate were both the Rappler and UP sa Halalan Twitter accounts. – with reports from Don Kevin Hapal, Aldrin Brosas, John Paul Laban, Wilhelmina Seda, Violeta Bilbao, Aina Licodine, Keren Anne Bernadas, Glenda Marie Castro/Rappler.com
Aldrin Brosas, John Paul Laban, Wilhelmina Seda, Violeta Bilbao, Aina Licodine, Keren Anne Bernadas, Glenda Marie Castro are Rappler interns.