The Leader I Want: Petilla wins online polls in 1st senatorial debate

Paterno Esmaquel II
The Leader I Want: Petilla wins online polls in 1st senatorial debate
The second placer is Greco Belgica, a former Manila city councilor who calls himself a 'pork buster'

MANILA, Philippines – Former energy secretary Jericho Petilla won all 4 rounds of online polls on Friday, April 8, for #TheLeaderIWant senatorial debate organized by Rappler.

Rappler asked respondents who they think won each round of the debate, held at AMA University in Quezon City and hosted by Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

Petilla got the following percentages of votes during Friday’s debate:

  • Round 1 (opening statement) – 43.48%
  • Round 2 (question from host) – 63.83%
  • Round 3 (question from crowd) – 63.89%
  • Round 4 (closing statement) – 60%

Petilla was grilled on Friday about the Philippines’ high electricity rates. He said Congress needs to amend the country’s laws to address this problem.

Running under the Liberal Party, Petilla said his priorities include health, education, and energy. (READ: The Leader I Want: Jericho Petilla’s to-fix list for 2016)

Based on average scores, the second placer in the online polls is Greco Belgica, a former Manila city councilor who calls himself a “pork buster.”

Belgica received the following percentages:

  • Round 1 (opening statement) – 39.13%
  • Round 2 (question from host) – 17.02%
  • Round 3 (question from crowd) – 8.33%
  • Round 4 (closing statement) – 28.75%

Belgica on Friday pushed for a 10% flat taxation rate, which means scrapping value added tax (VAT) on consumer goods.

He said this will allow Filipinos to spend on their own needs instead of relying on free services from the government. 

Belgica is known for filing petitions before the Supreme Court (SC) against discretionary funds known as pork barrel. The SC ended up declaring congressional pork, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), as unconstitutional. (READ: The Leader I Want: Greco Belgica’s to-fix list for 2016

Votes for Kapunan, Baligod 

Trailing Belgica in Friday’s debate, based on the online polls, is human rights lawyer Lorna Kapunan.

Kapunan got the following breakdown of votes in Rappler’s online polls:

  • Round 1 (opening statement) – 4.35%
  • Round 2 (question from host) – 14.89%
  • Round 3 (question from crowd) – 25%
  • Round 4 (closing statement) – 7.5%

Kapunan on Friday said she wants laws to create more family courts as well as specialized courts that will tackle domestic violence. 

Kapunan is known for high-profile clients such as alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles. A women’s rights advocate as well, she is pushing for free college education and cheaper electricity, among other things. (READ: The Leader I Want: Lorna Kapunan’s to-fix list for 2016

Following Kapunan, the senatorial candidate with the least number of votes on Friday was lawyer Levi Baligod.

Baligod got the following percentages of votes in the online polls:

  • Round 1 (opening statement) – 8.7%
  • Round 2 (question from host) – 4.26%
  • Round 3 (question from crowd) – 2.78%
  • Round 4 (closing statement) – 3.75%

During the debate, Baligod criticized the Aquino administration’s so-called selective prosecution of lawmakers implicated in the PDAF scam. 

He is known as the former lawyer of pork barrel scam whistleblowers.

Baligod said that if elected senator, he wants to continue his fight against corruption. He also promised to modernize agricultural production and reform the Philippines’ education system. (READ: The Leader I Want: Levi Baligod’s to-fix list for 2016

Friday’s event is part of a series of debates organized by Rappler in partnership with groups such as DZRH and PTV4. 

The next two debates in #TheLeaderIWant series will be held on April 15 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman and on April 22 at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at