#PHVote: Which issues weren’t tackled in the first debate?

Bea Orante

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#PHVote: Which issues weren’t tackled in the first debate?
LGBT rights, urban development, and climate change are some of the issues that observers want addressed

MANILA, Philippines – Did your presidential bet cover the issue you care most about? 

Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe, former interior secretary Manuel Roxas II, and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago took the stage on Sunday, February 21, for the first-ever presidential debate since 1992, hoping to capture the hearts and minds of voters.

The debate – the first in a series being mounted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its media partners – was organized by GMA-7 and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Although the candidates covered a wide range of topics – crime, poverty alleviation, national security, and Mindanao issues, to name a few – some concerned groups and individuals noted that several key issues were left out. 

These include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) issues, urban development, and climate change.

1. LGBT issues

Recent comments from boxing champ and lawmaker Manny Pacquiao about people in same-sex unions stirred up a storm in the days leading up to the debate. After calling them “mas masahol pa sa hayop” (worse than animals), Pacquiao divided opinion, both of the general public and of other candidates. 

During the debate, however, LGBT issues were a blip on the radar.


LGBT rights were only briefly mentioned when Poe said she believed that people of any gender should be respected.

The candidates had previously expressed their views on the matter.

Immediately after Pacquiao’s controversial comments, Binay defended the senatorial candidate, saying that he is known to be very God-fearing.

Duterte said he has “nothing against gays,” and “God does not discriminate against people regardless of color, religion, social class, or gender, and sexual preferences.”

Poe shared Duterte’s opinion, and added that she believes in giving gays equal rights. She said in Filipino: “I believe that all couples should be allowed to get married and have benefits. We should respect religion but we should also respect the rights of all couples to have benefits for their loved ones.”

While Roxas said he respects the LGBT community and same-sex couples, he added he did not think same-sex marriage should be a matter of public policy.

Santiago filed an anti-discrimination bill in the past, but also submitted bills against recognizing transgender marriages.

Prior to the start of the campaign season, the LGBT Chamber of Commerce had asked that their concerns be addressed, particularly the Anti-Discrimination Bill and a solution to the rapid spread of HIV.

2. Urban development

Although poverty alleviation was tackled, geographer and urban planner David Garcia noticed that urban development did not factor much into the conversation.

Roxas briefly mentioned urban poverty when rebutting Binay’s claims about Makati’s development. He said there “two Makatis” – the prosperous business district, and the less developed areas like Pembo, Rembo, and Comembo.

‘Di ba dalawa ang Makati? Ang Makati na ipinaunlad ng mga Ayala, at ang Makati … na marami pa ring droga,” Roxas said.

(There are two Makatis, right? The Makati that the Ayala family developed, and the Makati… where there is plenty of drugs.)

Duterte, making the case for federalism, railed against the development in Metro Manila at the expense of provinces like those in Mindanao.

He added in a mix of Filipino and English: “65% of the infrastructure projects are here in Manila. Mindanao only receives 19%. Of course, that is the disparity and that is why the Mindanaoans are very angry. We are not given our share of the taxes.”

Next time, they should show how to systematically develop urban and rural areas together,” wrote Garcia.

3.  Climate change

Some also pointed out that climate change, another crucial issue for the disaster-prone Philippines, was not highlighted in the debate. 

Before the debate, each of the candidates had said they were concerned about the effects of climate change.

Like the Philippines’ climate negotiators in Paris, Roxas noted the imbalances in the effects of climate change vis-à-vis pollution contributions.

Poe linked climate change to the worsening of poverty in the country. Citing an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, she noted the country has lost at least $24 billion because of climate change. She then expressed her support for cooperation in mitigating its effects on Filipinos.

The World Bank cited Binay’s efforts on climate change in Makati in 2008. In the Vice President’s to-fix list for 2016, he expressed his support for renewable energy.

Duterte also included anti-pollution measures in his to-fix list for 2016.

Santiago is one of the co-authors of Senate Bill 2789 or the Youth Participation in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2014.

Climate change and disaster preparedness are topics for the next debate to be held on March 20.

Are there any other issues that you feel should be taking center stage? Share your thoughts on X– Rappler.com

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