Vice presidential bets square off in heated UST debate

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Vice presidential bets square off in heated UST debate
The 6 candidates engage in heated verbal tussles in the lone vice presidential leg of PiliPinas Debates 2016

MANILA, Philippines – All 6 vice presidential candidates for the May polls go head-to-head in the only Commission on Elections-organized debate, Sunday, April 10.

Audience members cheer as their bets face off on issues of corruption, poverty, political dynasties, human rights, Internet connectivity, traffic, peace in Mindanao, foreign policy, and the VP supposedly being a “spare tire.”

Mara Cepeda reports. –

It’s the only vice presidential leg in the PiliPinas Debates 2016 series, and all 6 VP candidates arrive in fighting form.

Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Gringo Honasan, Bongbong Marcos, and Antonio Trillanes, and Camarines Sur 3rd District Representative Leni Robredo give their supporters a show as they engage in heated verbal tussles.

Asked how he plans to address corruption when he is implicated in the pork barrel scam, Honasan replies:

GRINGO HONASAN, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If it reaches the court I’ll face it. But I will fight trial by publicity.

But Trillanes, a staunch critic of Honasan’s standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay, says he could not accept his opponent’s answer.

ANTONIO TRILLANES, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With all due respect, I would have to disagree because that’s the Vice President’s line. In my case, I did investigations. I am an investigator. I’ve reviewed the documents and I believe Vice President Binay is corrupt. 

Cayetano also comes in swinging as he accuses the family of Marcos of amassing at least $10 billion in ill-gotten wealth during martial law.

He also criticizes Marcos for his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam

ALAN PETER CAYETANO, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I’m lying, I’m daring you to fact check. If what I said is wrong, I will withdraw my candidacy. If you’re wrong, withdraw and return the money.

Marcos says he is puzzled where Cayetano is getting his figures. 

BONGBONG MARCOS, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’ve already answered allegations regarding the PDAF scam. And even if there’s evidence against me, it will be used by this government because you must remember, I am a Marcos, and the president is an Aquino.

Robredo then joins the fray as she calls out Marcos for his refusal to apologize for the human rights violations during the late strongman’s rule. 

LENI ROBREDO, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Apologies are voluntarily given. We can’t force him to give it. There were a lot of mistakes in the past and that includes the hidden wealth that we haven’t recovered. That money was stolen from the people. 

But Marcos remains unmoved. 

BONGBONG MARCOS, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They keep on telling me to return this or that. I cannot give what I do not have. I do not have any knowledge of any this. 

Candidates also talk about their plans to address peace in Mindanao, foreign policy, the slow Internet connection in the Philippines, and Metro Manila’s traffic problem.

CHIZ ESCUDERO, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whatever solution to resolve traffic must start with the leadership of DOTC. Like what Senator Grace Poe said, Secretary Abaya must be fired. He mustn’t remain as DOTC secretary.

At the end of the debate, some candidates even share what government roles they want to have should they win as vice president: Trillanes as interior secretary, Marcos as labor secretary, Honasan as crime and security czar, Cayetano as agenda-setter to ensure the Duterte-Cayetano platform will be fulfilled, and Robredo the lead to streamline anti-poverty programs. 

All 6 VP hopefuls may differ in their stance on key issues faced by the country today, but most believe that the vice president is not just a spare tire.

If they win, they all vow to become the best partner for the future president of the Philippines.

Mara Cepeda, Rappler, Manila.

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