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Grace Poe 'well-practiced' for the 1st presidential debate

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential bet Senator Grace Poe’s performance in the first presidential debate on Sunday, February 21, received mostly good feedback from social media and several political analysts and figures.

Poe, a former debater, said the debate was not difficult for her because she really prepared for it. The challenge for her, she said, was the time constraint.

“There’s really no tough questions because I prepared for it. Ang mahirap lang ay kakulangan ng oras kasi kailangan mo sabihin sa napakaikling panahon. Ok na rin 'yun, disiplina na rin masabi lahat,” Poe said in a chance interview after the debate. 

(What was difficult was the lack of time because you had to say your answers in such a short period of time. But it's okay, that's discipline, to say everything [within time limits].)

Asked what grade she would give herself, Poe initially wanted to answer but eventually restrained herself. “I think… never mind just ask people to grade me,” Poe said.

The senator, who was criticized on air by rival Mar Roxas over her inexperience, said the debates are “very important,” as it forces candidates to thoroughly study issues.

“Very important because it forces the candidate to really study the issue with a particular discipline and not just winging it when you’re going around. You really look at the numbers, you really make sure our proposals are relevant to the particular region and area,” Poe said.

In the 3 rounds of the Sunday debate, Rappler editors rated which candidates stood out, and gave 2 rounds to Poe. Read here why:

Well-practiced

But while this is the case, political analyst Aries Arugay of the University of the Philippines said the neophyte senator only gave “manufactured answers.”

“She was well-practiced and gave manufactured but nothing new answers,” Arugay said.

Poe discussed issues relating to poverty and development of farmers and fishermen, among others, and cited specific solutions to them such as the setting up of agro-industrial zones.

On the issue of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between Washington and Manila, Poe said the country's situation seemed to be better when it was still hosting US bases since it received payments for that.

Arugay, however, said Poe’s answers failed to show the big picture of her proposed policies.

He, however, was quick to point out it was not just Poe who seemingly failed in this aspect.

“An overall framework [is lacking]. What’s the big picture of all of these policies? No one really performed well in terms of an absolute standard. So we just end up comparing them from one another,” Poe said.

Arugay said the debate hardly lifted the political discourse, as no presidential bet mentioned details on their political party, their respective running mates, and the organizations that support them.

Asked if the debate format could be a factor to this, Arugay said the structure was indeed “constraining.”

“Did the debate lift the political discourse? Not by an inch. Yeah, format was constraining. No real exchange of policy positions. It was (more of a) graded recitation than a debate,” he said.

The debate was the first of a series organized by the Commission on Elections with various media partners. The Sunday event was co-organized by GMA-7 and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Two more sets of presidential debates will be held – one in March and another in April – in Cebu and Pangasinan, respectively. One debate between vice presidential candidates is also being organized. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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