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#PHVote: Debate fiasco, Marcos-Robredo ‘war’

DEBATE BEFORE THE DEBATE. Behind the scenes before the March 20 presidential debate in Cebu City. Photo by Rappler

DEBATE BEFORE THE DEBATE. Behind the scenes before the March 20 presidential debate in Cebu City.

Photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay brought documents after assurances he would be allowed to do so. A pre-debate among rivals ensued. The public waited for 90 long minutes. And once again, a presidential debate ostensibly organized by a public institution was held hostage to private media’s rules and lapses. 

Filipinos were looking forward to the second Commission on Elections (Comelec) presidential debate held in Cebu on Sunday, March 20, following promises that the bets would be given more time to talk, and TV5, which mounted the event, would air fewer commercials

The event that was scheduled to start at 5 pm encountered delays for reasons that had already been fiercely discussed on social media. It took Comelec and TV5 one and a half hours to persuade the candidates to finally agree to start the debate.

To some sectors raring for entertainment, the wait was probably worth it. The 4 presidential bets (Miriam Santiago skipped the debate for health reasons) came out punching, attacking each other’s character, affiliations, policies. (READ: #AnimatED: Comelec 2, A for entertainment)

Comelec suffers blow

The bigger blow, however, was suffered by the Comelec early last week. In a final verdict, the Supreme Court denied the poll body’s appeal for it to no longer issue voting receipts on election day, May 9.  The decision was loud and swift: released only 30 minutes after the justices heard oral arguments from both sides, and unanimous: 13-0 against the Comelec. 

Robredo in Marcos country

STRONG ADVOCACY. Administration candidate Leni Robredo is the most vocal among the vice presidential candidates on the issue of martial law. File photo from Leni Robredo's Twitter account

STRONG ADVOCACY. Administration candidate Leni Robredo is the most vocal among the vice presidential candidates on the issue of martial law.

File photo from Leni Robredo's Twitter account

In the hustings, last week’s biggest campaign moment was Leni Robredo’s sortie in the heart of Marcos country, where she talked about martial law and Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s not-so-minor role in the last years of his father’s regime. 

At a school forum in Laoag City, the administration’s vice presidential bet was asked: Why are you proud to be anti-Marcos? Robredo replied: Why not? The least that her rival can do, she said, is to at least acknowledge that “something wrong” happened under his father’s two-decade rule.

Robredo is running 3rd in the latest survey on preferred vice presidential bets, behind Marcos and Senator Francis Escudero. But the gap is narrow, and her campaign team hopes to convert more votes as she campaigns solo in key provinces.

The administration party is doing solo campaigns for Roxas, Robredo, and President Benigno Aquino III in hopes of reaching out to more voters. 

Tough sell that’s Mar Roxas 

SUPPORT. Liberal Party (LP) chairman President Benigno S. Aquino III delivers his speech during the Meeting with Local Leaders at the San Fernando City Pampangga Thursday, March 16, 2016. (Photo by Benhur Arcayan /Malacanang Photo Bureau)

SUPPORT. Liberal Party (LP) chairman President Benigno S. Aquino III delivers his speech during the Meeting with Local Leaders at the San Fernando City Pampangga Thursday, March 16, 2016.

(Photo by Benhur Arcayan /Malacanang Photo Bureau)

Whatever the campaign strategy is, the administration enters the last part of March burdened with the fact that, so far, its standard-bearer can only count Visayas as its source of bulk votes on May 9. 

The region is the only one keeping him afloat, but with only 10.3 million voters there, this isn’t enough to make a president. (READ: The Scrum: Visayas voters keeping Roxas campaign afloat)

Not only that. Former Liberal Party allies in the Visayas have cast their lot with Grace Poe, such as key politicians in Negros Occidental and Cebu. 

It's no sheer coincidence then that the administration is now aggressively courting Luzon, to the extent of embracing longtime allies of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In Pampanga, the Roxas-Robredo tandem is getting support from a controversial clan: the Pinedas, who are linked to the illegal numbers game jueteng and are rabid Arroyo fans. Ex-Batangas Representative Eduardo Ermita, Arroyo's former executive secretary, is also backing the administration coalition.

Forget pork barrel scam? Revillas go for Poe 

REVILLAS FOR POE. File photo of detained Senator Ramon u0022Bongu0022 Revilla Jr. Photo by Rappler

REVILLAS FOR POE. File photo of detained Senator Ramon u0022Bongu0022 Revilla Jr.

Photo by Rappler

As host to 1.8 million voters, Cavite remains a coveted province to presidential candidates. The province’s ruling clan, the Remullas, is supporting Binay. But Poe knows she needs to make a dent there, too.

Last week, the family of Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, who’s detained over the pork barrel scam, declared they were backing the Poe-Escudero tandem. On bended knees, Revilla’s son asked Caviteños to vote for the pair.

Holy Week break

This week's campaign sorties will be more subdued as candidates and their campaign teams take a break from their provincial trips. 

It will also be a much-needed time to take stock of how they've done so far and to tweak whatever needs to be tweaked in their endgame strategy. – Rappler.com

 

Read other election weekly wrap stories:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glenda M. Gloria

Glenda Gloria is the managing editor of Rappler and one of its co-founders. A journalist for three decades now, Glenda has been a reporter for newspapers, magazines, and wire agencies, and has run print, online, and TV newsrooms. She is a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, Class 2018 .

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