Candidates more ‘satisfied’ with 2nd election debate

Patty Pasion
Candidates more ‘satisfied’ with 2nd election debate
Comelec chair Andres Bautista says the Cebu leg of the PiliPinas Debates was a success, but admits that it is still far from perfect

CEBU CITY, Philippines – The camps of the presidential candidates said they were all satisfied with how the second PiliPinas 2016 presidential debate turned out – even though there was an issue over debate rules.

The Visayas leg of the 3-part presidential debate series, which was held at the University of the Philippines Cebu College and organized by TV5 and The Philippine Star, turned out to be more engaging and “satisfying” for the 4 presidential candidates who participated.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago skipped Sunday’s (March 20) event due to health reasons. (READ: Miriam Santiago ‘joins’ Cebu debate despite absence)

Unlike the debate in Cagayan de Oro City last February 20, the Cebu debate had a panel format and allotted a longer time for the candidates’ answers and rebuttals, which allowed them to express themselves more effectively. (WATCH: More fireworks in 2nd presidential debate despite delay)

“It was good. It was a forum where at least the [people of the] Republic of the Philippines would listen to,” said Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte during an interview after the event.

Poll frontrunner Grace Poe, who was on fire with her strong rebuttals, said that they were able to explain their positions and plans better because they were given ample time.

Administration standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II’s camp, on the other hand, were also “very happy” with the outcome, especially with their bet’s performance.

“We think he was able to come across as a person who knew his stuff the format allowed him to go into his platforms, to go into details,” his spokesperson Ibarra Gutierrez told Rappler.

The camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay was also “very, very, very satisfied” with how the debate turned out for him despite the earlier issue after he brought “notes” to the debate stage.

“[It was] much more than we expected. He was able to answer all the issues. he was able to show that he was the most qualified,” said United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) President Toby Tiangco in a phone interview with Rappler.

Debate over rules

Binay’s camp was cited for the delay of the start of the debate, after an issue over whether he will be allowed to bring notes to the debate stage. Administration standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II questioned Binay’s supposed cheat sheet as Comelec rules say no “notes” are allowed in the event proper. (READ: Cebu presidential debate delay: Can candidates bring notes?)

The vice president camp defended that these are not notes, but rather documents countering the allegations thrown at him and proving his accusations against his fellow candidates.

TV5 News and Public Affairs Head Luchi Cruz Valdes admitted that she gave the vice president’s camp the go signal for Binay to bring notes, saying she was not informed of the Comelec regulation beforehand. She has also apologized for the miscommunication.

Asked about the vice president’s supposed violation of the Comelec rules, presidential contenders have mixed reactions.

Comelec ito eh. Magmula pa sa Cagayan de Oro, walang notes para makikita ng sambayanan, ano ba ang iniisip, ano ba ang metholodogy ng pag-iisip,” Roxas told reporters. (This is the Comelec. Even before in Cagayan de Oro, the rule was no notes so that the public can see how this candidate thinks.)

Duterte said that he wanted to let it be. He noted, however, “The problem is if he begins to introduce documents tapos hindi (that are not) authenticated – so we are confronted and we cannot respond.”

Meanwhile Poe, during the discussion of the candidates before the start of the debate, said she is okay with Binay having notes, and said the public can decide if it is relevant or not.

Still far from perfect

Despite the major misunderstanding between the debate organizers and the Binay camp, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the event was a success.

Maganda na parang isang totoong debate na parang nagkaroon ng sagutan, meron pagpapalitan ng kuro-kuro,” he said. (It’s good that it was like a real debate, and they were exchanging opinions.)

He admitted, however, that it is still far from perfect.

Although kailangan natin pag-aralan anong magagandang portions… Gusto kong malaman dun ang magiging reaksyon ng taumbayan [kung] ano ang magaganda sa tingin nila,” he also said. (We need to study what portions were good. I also want to know the reaction of the public on what they think was good about the debate.)

There are two more Comelec debates, both scheduled in April. The only vice presidential debate, hosted by CNN Philippines and BusinessMirror, will be on April 10. The last leg of the 3-party presidential debate will be on April 20, which will be organized by ABS-CBN and Manila Bulletin. – with a report from Mara Cepeda /

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Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.