How Grace Poe prepared for the first presidential debate

Camille Elemia
How Grace Poe prepared for the first presidential debate

Alecs Ongcal

The neophyte senator, a former debater, admits getting nervous for the first-ever presidential debate

MANILA, Philippines – How does a former debater prepare for the biggest debate of her life?

Presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe admitted feeling nervous for the first-ever presidential debate on Sunday, February 21, in Cagayan De Oro City.

“Siyempre lahat naman tayong nakikilahok, siguro hindi naman normal na hindi ka kabahan maski na papano. Sapagkat pwede ngang handa, pwedeng sa araw bago ka pumunta, sa araw na ‘yun ay handing-handa ka pero hindi mo naman talaga alam kung ano ang ang mangyayari sa araw na ‘yun mismo,” she said.

(Of course, for all of us joining the debate, I think it’s not normal if we don’t get nervous even just a bit. Because you can be ready a day before but you still don’t know what’s going to happen on the day itself.)

But Poe said she is counting on hard work and prayers to answer questions. (READ: The Once and Future King)

“Basta trabaho, dasal, at higit sa lahat ay tignan kung ano talaga ang pwede nating gawin at makatotohanang sagot sa mga katanungan (As long as there’s hard work, prayers, and most importantly, we should really see what we can do to help and truthful answers to questions),” she said. 

Asked by reporters how she’s getting ready, Poe said she has been going around the country to see for herself the situation of the people and not merely relying on books and statistics. (READ: The Leader I Want: Grace Poe’s to-fix list for 2016)

“Maghahanda sa debate, hindi pupwedeng gawin ng isa o dalawang araw lang o isang linggo. Ang paghahanda para diyan ay kasamang paghahanda sa plataporma, pag-iikot sa buong bansa para malaman kung ano ba talaga ang kailangan ng ating mga kababayan. Sapagkat, hindi lamang sa libro, hindi lamang sa datos natin nakukuha ang mga kasagutan sa ating mga suliranin,” Poe said.

(Preparing for a debate cannot be done in just a day or two or a week. Preparation includes preparation for platforms, going around the country to know what our fellowmen really need. Because the answers to our problems cannot be just obtained from books or data.)

Of all the presidential candidates, Poe has the least experience in government service. But the neophyte senator had repeatedly said this is an advantage, as she has no experience in graft and corruption.

“Sa tingin ko, ang pinakaimportante ay maglahad ng kung ano ang nais mong sabihin sa pinakamakatotohanang paraan. At magbigay ng galang sa lahat ng tumatakbo,” she added.

(I think, the most important this is to relay what you want to say in the most truthful way and give respect to all other candidates.)

Poe said it was the people she met in her campaign sorties who informed her on what they lack and what the government can do. (READ: Grace Poe’s campaign: Mixed messaging, disqualification woes)

“Mismong mga nakakadaumpalad nating kababayan ang magsasabi sa ‘yo kung ano ang kulang sa kanila, anong pwedeng gawin ng gobyerno, at papaano natin magagawang magtulungan para magawa ito agaran,” she said.

(The people we meet are the ones who tell me what they are lacking, what the government can do, and how the government can help them immediately.)

Partido Galing at Puso’s campaign manager Ace Durano, meanwhile, revealed that Poe regularly meets with her policy team to discuss programs and issues.

“Before the campaign started, Senator Grace and Senator Chiz (Escudero), with the invaluable support of our policy group, put into a single document their vision and proposed programs for the country. Senator Grace regularly sits down with the policy group to discuss such programs and current policy issues even before the campaign started,” Durano told Rappler in a text message.

In October, Poe challenged her opponents to a televised debate, saying campaigns should be “caravans of intellectual discourse” and not a “circus.” –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.