Do Filipinos understand what debates are really all about?

It seems Nancy Binay has recently become the subject of a few satirical articles. The focus of such satire is her apparent aversion towards participation in any kind of political debate during the election camnancy-binay-tpo-makati-rtcpaign.

Court grants Nancy Binay’s Temporary Protection Order (TPO) petition against debates

Nancy Binay reveals childhood trauma: “Papa forced me to debate him!”

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

It doesn’t seem, though, that Binay’s avoidance of debates is hurting her “popularity” rankings. That is, if the “pre-election survey” recently conducted by Social Weather Station (SWS) is anything to go by. She reportedly now holds third place among the senatorial candidates.

Now, it almost seems as if Filipinos are finally learning their lesson about expecting more from their candidates. Filipinos are now supposedly dead serious about taking to task candidates who do not make their positions very clear on issues of national importance.99noynoy20debate

Then I remembered. This is the same electorate who essentially gave Benigno Simeon Aquino III (BS Aquino) a free pass to Malacañang despite his own aversion to participating in debates.

Filipinos did not evolve from their mediocrity at all after more than half a century, do you expect them to change the way they elect their leaders in three years?

It makes one wonder: Do Filipinos understand what debates are really all about?

For all we know, the average Filipino defines debate as “something you do when you’re alone in a room.”

Let’s define what a debate is, first. Let’s use the following definition:

A debate is, basically, an argument. That is not to say that it is an undisciplined shouting match between parties that passionately believe in a particular point of view. In fact the opposite is true. Debating has strict rules of conduct and quite sophisticated arguing techniques and you will often be in a position where you will have to argue the opposite of what you believe in.

Sophisticated arguing techniques. Big words.

For a debate to be meaningful and productive, there are a few things required of its participants and its audience:

(1) Focus on the issues
(2) Separate the position from the personality
(3) Maintain respect for your opponent and his stance while taking it apart
(4) Do not take things personallyHater-300x198

Hmm, it looks like a tall order for the average Filipino, especially the fourth item.

On the other hand, the average Filipino may find it hard to appreciate debates because of a few cultural traits:

Filipinos aren’t exactly known for thinking – Politicians know very well that the people would rather have their politicos do the thinking for them. The people’s duty, in their minds, ends when they’ve cast their ballot. Plus, they vote on basis of intentions (that the politicos don’t really plan to keep once elected) instead of proven track records.

Let’s not forget to mention that Filipinos have short attention spans; unless there’s a dance or song number, or even a freebie from the candidate, don’t expect to hold their attention for very long.

Filipinos are afraid of losing face – If there’s one thing that Filipinos don’t like it’s mapahiya, to be shamed. When their arguments are proven to be flimsy or flawed, Filipinos cannot bear it and automatically assume the napahiya (embarrassed, shamed) mode.

Filipinos are emotional – Though emotion is a persuasion used not only in debates but in negotiations, Filipinos are not known for logical or critical thinking. They rely almost exclusively on emotions and carry it to extremes, especially when they get angry or carried away. It doesn’t take much thinking to use emotion, right?

Filipinos do not take opposition wellBalat-sibuyas, pwede-na-yan, and an air of feeling superior combine to make a Filipino more fragile than glass.

Filipinos would prefer to discuss “happy” thoughts instead of “serious” issues – Not surprising for a people sorely lacking in substance. They want to feel happy all the time but cannot substantiate what to feel about. When their miserable reality kicks in, they fall apart. Then they convince themselves to be “happy” again. It’s like a drug.

So, if Filipinos aren’t naturally inclined as a society to discuss, much less debate issues, then why do the chattering classes insist on calling for debates during elections?

One pastime popular among Filipinos in the provinces triggered what I think is a most appropriate answer.


Yes, a cockfight. It is not hard to surmise that such a structured format for discussing important issues can be simplifed to a bloodsport between two manoks. Such is how the Filipino psyche works.


Filipinos exhibit a somewhat peculiar behavior when it comes to competition. On one hand, they disdain competition and would prefer to monopolize in a certain area or segment. On the other hand, they like gambling, betting on things and winning. And they especially have a tendency to get carried away and get fired up when the face-off gets more intense. And not surprisingly, they attach themselves to the success of their manok. When that manok wins, they treat it as if they themselves won, and carry it around with pride, as a source of validation that they’re good.

The problem of government candidates generally not wanting to debate cannot be solved by simply calling them out for it. It will take a massive behavioral change for this non-thinking society that we call the Philippines to mature and discuss issues of national consequence. We need to actively participate in the running of our country, and not regard our politicians as gods who can do no wrong.

Where am I going with all this? To put it succinctly:

It is ultimately pointless for Filipinos to insist on debates during election campaigns, yet shy away from, shun, discourage, or outright condemn them outside of it.

And, most importantly:

Reducing and simplifying a debate into a cockfight is cockamamie bullshit.

Next time a politician says that debates are a waste of time, and that nobody listens to them anyway, try not to immediately get mad at him/her. He/she is only displaying how well he knows his/her target market. After all, politicians reflect the very society that they govern.

[Nancy Binay photo courtesy:]
[Noynoy Aquino photo courtesy: PinoyExchange]
[Hater photo courtesy: NOM blog]
[Sabong photo courtesy: Pinoy Sabungero]

16 Replies to “Do Filipinos understand what debates are really all about?”

  1. The Filipino always astounds me with what they reward, Noynoy was rewarded three years ago with avoiding debates . It’s happening again. If people want special onion skin treatment before being elected . What more after? And we wonder why there is no level playing field. Another E Pass lane in the straight and narrow path . She may not be part of Noynoy ‘s party but they are like minded.

  2. ‘A coffee machine has no appreciation of satire, and an ironing board cannot craft laws’. – old neanderthal proverb

    – modern interpretation/version – ‘ nancy binay WTF!’
    ‘Wake up and smell the coffee’

    Nancy binay is reverse engineering political evolution.

    And as stated is following the ‘done nothing, say nothing’ aquino strategy.

    She will challenge lito lapid for the ‘sounds of silence’ award.

  3. “A good leader, (or politician),can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the
    end both sides must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.”
    Nelson Mandela

    “It is better to debate a question without settling it, than to settle a question without debating it.”
    ― Joseph Joubert

  4. Yeah… what’s the point of political debates in the Philippines by their politicians? Politics in the Philippines is mostly personality-based and not ideology-based. When talking about policies everybody merely goes to motherhood statements that focus on anti-poverty and anti-corruption. They’re all pretty much the same guys at the end of the day. Election period debates in the Philippines are nothing more than entertainment for Pinoys. It’s not as if debates would change the Pinoy’s vote anyway as they have an over-fixation on a candidate’s “winnability”. So might as well just sing and dance… or hire entertainers to sing and dance for them. Time and again this has proven to be more effective in courting the Pinoy vote instead of trying to sell to the electorate their ideas and competence.

  5. At the end of the day, the best debate we’ve had so far are between the candidates that are below the top 12.

    The most entertaining debates are between Erap and Fred Lim. Someone should teach those two to freestyle and we have a hit album: LimErap – A rap battle album of pure nonsense.

  6. The nancy binay interview – if she had ever done one

    ? – what are your views on education

    Nb – i believe everyone should be educated

    ? – could you be more specific

    Nb – what has the pacific got to do with it.

    ? – what do you think would help the economy

    Nb – electing daddy in 2016, and making everywhere like makati – my husband is in construction and real estate, and he says ‘ build baby, build’

    ? – what will you do with your pork barrel

    Nb – invest in construction

    ? – what about jobs

    Nb – we will need more construction workers

    ? – construction seems to be a recurring theme. Do you have any other concrete programmes or advocacies

    Nb – good point. We need more concrete for construction of binay city.

    ? – you are part of a dynasty. What are your thoughts on that issue

    Nb – the binays are not a dynasty, they are destiny.

    Rv – nice plagiarism

    Nb – don’t call me an ‘ism, when i don’t know what it means.

    ? – how about tourism

    Nb – i just said no -ism’s

    ? – i thought that was your degree.

    Nb – oh, you mean learning to be a coffee maker – now that i can do. I’ve done it for mummy and daddy for 15 years and it is very well paid. And my husband calls me ‘coffee’

    ? – why is that

    Nb – coz i grind so fine.

    ? – ‘ grind baby, grind’ should be your slogan

    Nb – i prefer – ‘once you go black, you don’t go back’

    ? – your father compared you to the iron lady. He must hold you in high regard.

    Nb – thats better than my husband – he just says ‘ iron baby, iron’

    ? – any final comment

    Nb – rome wasn’t built in a day, but the binay construction group will build a new philippines and help with the sodomy.

    ? – a malpropism, i think you mean the economy

    Nb – there you go again with your -ism’s. A binayism for you –
    “I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but
    because we have thumbs so we can make coffee.”
    Flash Rosenberg

    ? – thank you. On that note, could you now make yourself useful and get me a coffee. I like it:
    ‘Black as the devil,
    Hot as hell,
    Pure as an angel,
    Sweet as love’

    Nb – F#@& off!

  7. How can we not have that psyche when we were taught to never answer back to authority and never contradict or question or even engage our parents in debate? Anybody who knows to speak their mind is deemed “mayabang”, and winning an argument is more dependent on perceived authority by virtue of age, seniority, position, or even affluence than by logic and understanding.

    1. The funny thing is that those who are below the top 12 or most likely no hope, slim chance of winning are the most logical and sensible when answering serious straight to the point questions in senatorial debates. And yet the top on the surveys have difficulties and discomfort in answering the questions and give answers too far to the point layered with concentrated bullshit nonsense.

      1. It’s a sad testament of the preference majority of Filipinos – wrapper over the content, book’s cover instead of it’s content.

  8. UH, whats a debate?

    UH, what is a binay?

    does it resemble a donkey? u kno, that animal that has no brain and is useless and is often times referred to as a “JACKASS”?

  9. Nancy Binay is going to be elected. by hook-or-by-crook,and no one can do anything about this fact. SHE WILL BE ELECTED!

    This no talent, bird brained, extremely SLOW looking(as in DUH!) ‘Daddy’s li’l Girl’ is a disgrace to any elected body of government EXCEPT ONE, the Philippine Senate.

  10. These candidates for senate should be mandated to debate. After all, the legislative branch is a place where debate is the means to defend ones idea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.