Presidential candidates lock horns in UP Cebu presidential debate


Four of the five presidential candidates—Vice President Jejomar Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, independent candidate Senator Grace Poe, and former Secretary of Interior and Local Government Manuel “Mar” Roxas II—went head to head on pressing issues facing the country.

The fifth presidential candidate, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, was unable to attend the Presidential Debate due to health reasons.

Hosted by the Commission on Elections, and co-hosted by the Philippine Star, TV5 and BusinessWorld, the Presidential debate was held at the University of the Philippines Cebu Performing Arts Hall on March 20, as part of the university’s UP sa Halalan 2016 project.

“The UP Community is pleased to host the Visayas leg of the debates. As a community of scholars and as citizens of our beloved country, we are one with the nation in wanting to know more about the presidential candidates’ positions and platforms on important areas of governance," said UP President Alfredo E. Pascual in his welcome remarks.

"We want to immerse ourselves in the vision that our candidates project into the future. We want to have a sense of what these candidates would like to achieve, not just for our generation, but also for our children’s generation,” he added.

Among the issues covered during the debate were the Freedom of Information bill and the need to balance our international commitment to reduce pollution with our dependence on fossil fuels and coal as an energy source.

Questions, coming from members of the media, were initially directed to particular candidates. These included: corruption cases filed against Binay and his son, former Makati mayor, Jejomar Binay Jr.; differences between Roxas’ and President Benigno Aquino’s Daang Matuwid platforms and strategies; Binay’s tax reform plan, which he promised would exempt workers earning less than P30,000 a month from paying income taxes, and which he would reconcile with his massive infrastructure program.

Roxas’ views on the national government’s slow response to the disaster caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City, especially when compared to the response of the private sector and of local governments were also scrutinized. And so was Duterte’s claim to end crime in the country within the first six months of his term as president, this despite reports of a high crime rate in Davao City. Meanwhile Poe’s apparent close relationship with San Miguel Chairman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco and how this would influence whatever her plans she would have regarding the coco levy assets.

In the midst of the heated exchange, other issues were brought up by the candidates themselves, including: the question of Poe’s citizenship; Roxas’ competence, or lack thereof, as Executive Secretary and leader in light of the Zamboanga conflict, the Super Typhoon Yolanda disaster and the Mamasapano clash; and what Poe’s response would be, as president, if the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China deteriorated into armed conflict.

The answers of the presidential candidates to a few quick questions also revealed that: Duterte and Poe were in favor of restoring the death penalty; Binay and Duterte were in favor of the burial of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani; and that none of them were in favor of legalizing divorce in the country.

The Presidential Debate in UP Cebu represented the Visayas leg of the Comelec-hosted Presidential Debates. According to Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, who spoke in a January 2016 interview with the Philippine Star, these debates were meant to “assist voters in making an informed choice” and encourage candidates to focus on substantive issues and public policy. The last time the Comelec hosted a presidential debate was in 1992.

Students from UP Cebu and other schools also participated in various programs held in the UP Cebu campus as a run-up to the presidential debate. These included: a symposium on the issues of climate change, environmentalism and urbanization; a mock debate with UP Cebu students representing the candidates; and a mock poll wherein Duterte emerged as a clear winner, followed by Defensor-Santiago.

For the full video of the Visayas leg of the PiliPinas Debates 2016 at University of the Philippines Cebu, please view the video below from TV5. TV5 is the official broadcast partner for the 2nd leg of the COMELEC-organized debates.

For the full video of the Visayas leg of the PiliPinas Debates 2016 at University of the Philippines Cebu, please view the video below from TV5. TV5 is the official broadcast partner for the 2nd leg of the COMELEC-organized debates.