Cebu presidential debate: Litmus test of character

Voltaire Tupaz
Millennial advocates and experts say the debate was intense, but lacked substance

DELAYED. Behind the scenes during the delay in the second presidential debate in Cebu on March 20, 2016.

MANILA, Philippines – Like the first presidential debate, the second one held in Cebu did not show policy depth and details, but revealed the character of the candidates, according to millennial advocates and experts who observed the exchange. 

“This debate is a litmus test on how our commander-in-chief would look like,” said Nicole Curato, a Filipino sociologist based at the Center for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance in Canberra, Australia.

The debate, which lasted for almost 3 hours, was character-revealing, according to climate ambassador and TV personality Bianca Gonzalez. 


Even at the beginning, advocates and experts were already dismayed at the candidates’ “catfight” over coal and climate change. Other observers said the debate got intense as it proceeded, but lacked substance. 


Leloy Claudio, assistant professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies in Kyoto University, summarized how the presidential bets conducted themselves under these circumstances.


Even the new format, which allowed longer interaction among the candidates, did not facilitate clearer articulation of stances on issues. It did reveal, however, how the presidential bets perform under pressure.


In the previous debate, Mike Labayandoy also criticized the format because “it did not encourage continuity, deepening of positions.” (READ: No sparks: ‘Not a debate, but speed dating’)

But for Evan Tan, a member of the executive committee of the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce, lines were drawn on specific issues close to women and human rights advocates.


(READ: #PHVote: Millennial advocates hit Duterte’s ‘killing spree’)

Meanwhile, though her mistake ended up causing the 90-minute delay in the debate, TV5 news chief and anchor Luchi Cruz Valdes was praised for her efforts to keep the candidates’ exchanges on track.


The Cebu presidential debate is the second in a series organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its media partners. It was supposed to start at 5 pm but began at 6:30 pm. (READ: #PiliPinasDeLate? Delayed Cebu debate stirs confusion on social media)