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Miriam Santiago's debate performance: 'Not as good as expected'

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who had held campaign activities only once since her proclamation in Ilocos Norte, showed up for the first presidential debate of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Sunday, February 21, but did not meet expectations.

Political analyst Prospero de Vera Jr told Rappler that he found Santiago's performance lackluster, considering how great a debater she is. The presidential bet, he said, "did not perform as good as expected." 

He, however, commended Santiago for holding up during the event despite her well-known health concerns.

The debate was the first of a series conducted by the Comelec with media partners. Sunday's event was co-organized by GMA-7 and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

"When they launched their candidacy in Ilocos [Norte] with Bongbong Marcos, she was visibly having a problem in terms of speaking publicly," De Vera said. "At least in this debate, she was able to withstand the two-hour debate."

"I always said that the debates is the best opening for her to distinguish herself because she's always [been] very articulate, she's very opinionated and very knowledgeable about a wide range of issues," De Vera stressed.

Based on Rappler’s poll for readers and netizens, the senator fared well in the debate. She was the second most preferred candidate, second to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in 2 out of 4 poll rounds. (Duterte consistently topped all rounds.)

Santiago got 280 votes during the first round. Vice President Jejomar Binay overtook in the second round, beating her with 185 votes compared to her 146. This went on until the 3rd round, with Binay’s 133 versus Santiago’s 100. The senator bounced back to second spot with 272 – 9 points above the Vice President’s 263. 

She was also the second placer in the rating conducted by the Movement for Good Governance based on 3 leadership criteria: effective, ethical and empowering. Santiago got a total score of 8, next to Senator Grace Poe, who got a 10. 

Who won in the #PiliPinasDebates2016? Here's the summary of results of the different Rappler surveys. #PHVote pic.twitter.com/O9Sly106fv — Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) February 21, 2016

 

'Less politicized'

He could have done better, according to political analysts.

Public Administration professor Edna Co of the University of the Philippines (UP) said that Santiago's "expertise as a constitutionalist" surfaced in the debates, which made her answers "less politicized." Co was referring to Santiago's responses to the issues of the political dynasty and the military deal with the United States.

However, she said, the senator "didn’t seem to be responsive to a couple of questions such as on poverty and development." 

Santiago's camp earlier hyped the candidate's participation in the forum, saying she would be coming in her "best fighting form." Debates, public speaking and knowledge on issues have been the strongest suits of the senator. Even netizens were excited for her appearance in the public discussion.

Can't wait for the presidential debate and see the other candidates eaten alive by Miriam Santiago. — ⓜⓐⓐⓝ (@itsmaeangeli) October 16, 2015 

Hindi ko ma imagine kung paano kakatayin ni miriam santiago ang mga kalaban niya sa presidential debate! #Miriam2016 — THE QUEENLY (@jessydyorli123) October 13, 2015

 

Fault the format? 

One factor De Vera sees as to why Santiago was unable to perform as expected was the very format of the debate and the questions asked. 

He said that the structure and time limit did not provide enough leeway for the candidates to express their position and distinguish themselves from their contenders. 

"They paired the candidates, but their question changes as they moved from one pair to another. You don't really get to compare the position of candidates on a common issue," he added. 

He also criticized the generic questions that were asked of the candidates when these could have been developed further to "probe deeper into what the candidates would have to say."  Rappler.com

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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.

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