MANILA, Philippines – With the national elections just days away, the 5 presidential candidates will head to Dagupan City, Pangasinan, on Sunday, April 24, to woo voters and solidify their supporter base in the final leg of the presidential debates organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The town hall debate, hosted by ABS-CBN and Manila Bulletin, is the third in a series that first brought presidential candidates to Cagayan de Oro, and then to Cebu.
In the final leg, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe, former interior chief Manuel Roxas II, and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago will discuss their policies and positions on peace in Mindanao, traffic and transportation, basic health care, jobs and labor, overseas Filipino workers, and the maritime dispute with China, among others.
Binay: All set
Binay’s policy adviser, lawyer Jay Layug, told Rappler that the Vice President is ready for the last presidential debate.
“‘5Ps: pagdasal, pag-aral, pag-iikot, pagsisipag at pagpahinga.‘ (Pray, study, campaign, work hard, and rest) All set!” said Layug, taking off from the Vice President’s “5Ps” joke when discussing his plans to expand the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
In the last debate in Cebu City, Binay declined to ask his rival Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte a question during the one-on-one round among the candidates.
The Vice President has since attacked the tough-talking mayor for his plans to suppress crime in 3 to 6 months as well as his controversial remarks on the rape-slay of Australian lay missionary Jacqueline Hamill.
Will Binay be more aggressive against Duterte this time around?
“Depende kung ano ang magiging preceding incidents….Tingnan na lang natin (It depends on the preceding incidents….We’ll see),” Binay told reporters in Pangasinan on Saturday, April 23.
Duterte: Not much preps
Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte did not elaborate on his preparations for the Sunday presidential debate. “Not so much,” he told Rappler when asked on Friday, April 22, how he was getting ready for the debate.
But the current presidential race front-runner said he expects his recent controversial remarks, such as those on rape and foreign relations, to be brought up by his rival candidates.
“End game na tayo. Alam nila leading na ako, ganoon talaga ‘yan. (We’re at the end game. They know I am leading, that’s the way politics is),” he said.
Duterte packed in some more events the day before the debate, holding a motorcade and rally in Novaliches, Quezon City.
Poe: No mudslinging, please
Meanwhile, Poe was asked in an interview in Iligan City if she would bring up the issue during the debate, and defend women following Duterte’s rape comments.
“Sa debate na ito, hindi ako papayag na apihin rin ang mga kababaihan. Kailangan ay ipakita natin kung ano ang lakas ng isang babae, katulad rin ng mga lalaki. Wala naman ‘yan sa kasarian e, nasa paninindigan, nasa tao ‘yan,” she said.
(In this debate, I won’t allow women to be victimized. We need to show that the strength of a man and a woman is equal. It’s not based on gender, it’s the conviction of a person.)
The senator also urged her rivals to focus on issues, not on mudslinging.
“Kung maiiwasan ang mga personal na bangayan, mas magandang halimbawa ang dapat ipakita natin sa ating mga kababayan (If we can avoid personal attacks, it would be a good example to show our countrymen),” she said.
Poe, who had no campaign sorties on Friday and Saturday, met with her key advisers to discuss issues for the debate.
According to her adviser, Tony La Viña, they discussed women’s issues, education, health, peace in Mindanao, human rights, crime, corruption, terrorism, agriculture, fisheries, jobs, hunger, children’s rights, climate change and environment, and China, among others.
Roxas: Ear for public needs
For his part, administration standard bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II said that as preparation for the debate, he has been continuing to listen to the needs of the public.
“Patuloy na nakikinig sa ating mga kababayan, patuloy na tatalasan ‘yung ating mga programa para talagang nakatuon ito sa mga pangangailangan,” he said in a chance interview in Leyte on Wednesday, April 20.
(We continue to listen to our fellow citizens, we continue to improve our programs so that they will be better oriented for their needs.)
Asked whether or not he would raise the issue of Duterte’s controversial rape comment in the last debate – as suggested by his running-mate Leni Robredo – Roxas merely said that Duterte’s flip-flopping stance on his supposed apology showed the kind of leadership of the Davao City mayor.
Duterte’s campaign team earlier issued a press release apologizing for his remarks, but Duterte himself has disowned this apology.
“Ito ba ang pamunuan na nais natin para sa ating bansa? Ito ba ‘yung uri ng pamunuan na maghahatid tayo sa kaginhawaan? Na may plano, na may konkretong paroroon? O para lang ba tayong ping-pong na kahit anong ihip ng panahon, kung ano lang ang pagbangon ni Mayor Duterte sa ano mang bahagi ng kanyang kama ay bumangon siya, yun lang ang kanyang gagawin. Hindi ‘to karapat-dapat sa pangulo,” Roxas said of Duterte in an interview in Jaen, Nueva Ecija on Thursday, April 21.
(Is this the kind of leadership we want for our country? Will this lead us to a comfortable life, with plans and a concrete aim? Or are we just like ping-pong balls subject to the whim of Mayor Duterte? That is not fitting for a president.)
Santiago: Stock knowledge
Meanwhile, in an ambush interview in Davao, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said that she would rely on stock knowledge for the final debate.
Her media officer said that Santiago was reviewing for the Sunday event, but added that the legal expert did not need to do much because she is a “champion debater.”
The senator skipped the second debate in Cebu to undergo a clinical trial for an anti-cancer pill. But Santiago, who claims to have beaten cancer and has dismissed the disease as a hurdle to her presidential bid, has been noticeably livelier in the past few weeks of the campaign, able to speak well and clearly after taking medication.
Final chance for scrutiny
Malacañang said the Sunday debate will be the final opportunity for voters to hear the views and plans of candidates on important issues in one venue.
“Ito na ang pangatlo at huling oportunidad para kilatisin natin lahat ng mga nagpre-presenta na maging susunod na pangulo ng ating bansa,” Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, said in an interview on radio dzRB.
(This will be the 3rd and last opportunity to scrutinize all of those offering themselves as the next president of our country.) – with reports from Mara Cepeda, Bea Cupin, Camille Elemia, Patty Pasion, and Pia Ranada/Rappler.com
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