Enlivening democracy: Filipinos should demand public DEBATE from their politicians


As I write this, this campaign season’s second Republican Debate held in Cleveland, Ohio is in full swing in the United States. The Philippines may fancy itself a poster child of American-styled “democracy”. But when it comes to putting their politicians under the right sort of scrutiny, Filipinos are nowhere up to par with their American idols.

This is something incumbent President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III should have done early if he wanted his Liberal Party minions to remain in power and press on with their so-called Daang Matuwid (“straight path”) “platform”.


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Consider how such a practice could enliven Philippine politics more — enliven, that is, down the right path rather than down the same brain-dead bobotante path that has long characterised the Philippine National “Debate”. In one go, it serves both purposes — put on a show for the public and force the candidates to cough up their ideas and vision.

The US Republican Party debate (simply known in social media circles as the #GOPdebate) makes a loud mark on US electioneering this year thanks to the huge presence of the party’s leading candidate, property magnate and television celebrity Donald Trump.

This is pure showbiz, with the American public treated to the tribulations of competing candidates hungry for a shot at the presidency. It is the ultimate reality show, which puts the flamboyant Trump clearly within his element. As the man possessing the popularity to to beat down in the race to bag the Republican nomination, Trump will likely have served as every GOP candidate’s practice dummy in their respective efforts to prepare for these debates.

The trouble with facing off with Trump is that he is unencumbered by political correctness. He’s become iconic in this race for his pointed views about sensitive topics like immigration, proposing, among other things, that a wall be built along the US border with Mexico to stem the flow of “violent” criminals crossing it into American soil. More importantly, he remains consistent in character exhibiting the same blunt just business approach to dealing with his challenges and challengers. Famous for his iconic (again) “You’re fired!” line in the hit reality show The Apprentice, one could easily imagine him applying the same no-nonsense approach to governing an entire nation.

Funny enough, Trump’s situation mirrors the plight of the Philippines’ own top-polling but, so-far, undecided presidentiable Senator Grace Poe. Both are weighing the possibility of running as independents — Trump, if he fails to secure a Republican nomination, and Poe, now that she was not considered (after extensive talks with President BS Aquino) for the spot as standard bearer of the Liberal Party (LP).

The GOP and the LP are also both beset by fragmentation and an erosion in the credibility of their core ideologies. In the case of the GOP, Trump has increasingly appealed to party hardliners who had long lamented the decline in the “realness” of party leadership, so Trump’s unabashed in-your-face grabbing of divisive issues by the horns comes across as a return to comfy orthodoxy. The LP is also facing the challenge of ensuring that the “straight path” dogma introduced by BS Aquino gets carried onto the next term where the “reforms” supposedly designed to steer Philippine governance down that path bear fruit.

The bottom line, however, is that a debate styled this way — a-la reality TV — has proven (in America, at least) to be (1) a good way to engage a jaded electorate and (2) forcing candidates to elevate the discourse to an appropriate level where issues and ideas rule. Such debates effectively hit two birds with one stone. It’s an approach long overdue in the Philippines where the political “debate” has long languished in a morass of anti-intellectual and populist drivel.

19 Replies to “Enlivening democracy: Filipinos should demand public DEBATE from their politicians”

  1. Imagine a mentally retarded person like Aquino, could debate in a public forum? Aquino handlers, before the election were hiding him . They instead featured the “heroism” of his father; and the “sainthood” of his mother.

    The Donald is an accomplished person. He made Billions of dollars in his businesses. He talks sense. These attract the American people.Not political correctness; but the Realities, that Americans are living from day to day.

    In the Philippine political arena. Debate is not possible. How can these ShowBiz people, who are barely educated, can debate? Imagine the performance of Erap Estrada, Ramon Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, Lito Lapid, Isko Moreno, etc.. in a public forum debate.

    I believe that Binay , Roxas, Grace Poe, etc…could not perform well in a public forum debate.

    Debate is Thinking on your Feet. And, you must be full of information in your head. You have to explain the issues, concerning the country in a very clear way. And, you have to explain your political position, to the people.

    Politicians in our country HIDE their intentions…HIDE their incompetence…and HIDE their empty brains…

    1. Correct, Toro, but, Trump is just a rich, loud, rude version of Philippines Politicians.Like them, Trump with no vision, no ideas, no policy, no shame and no regard for people.

      BenignOs debate suggest is GREAT, but it will reveal more weakness than strength in the candidates.We can learn from clueless Politicians

      I prefer tyo hear new opinions and ideas from smart people like the student on Square Off.

  2. At least Trump is serious becoming the president. Grace’s still “pakipot” of whatever position she wants. She’s too indecisive, a quality not becoming of a good leader.

      1. Very unfortunate that some of our folks are lured to cheap talking candidates than those who really have a clear and feasible platform for the country.

        1. Yes its called pandering,and it occurs here in the u.s.also…Although the Donald stirs up peoples emotions,speaks his mind and is beholden to no one,he really choked in the “debate”according to many who watched,he offered no definitive solutions.Although many don’t support him,I for one am at least grateful for his presence,for stirring things up,bringing more attention to the political theatre,for clearly the polical establishment here in the states needs to turned upside down…the status quo can no longer be tolerated….

  3. WOW, benignO, I think you’re really on the RIGHT TRACK!!!! As an old American, I remember the first US Presidential Debate between Kennedy/Nixon.It set the standard, but over time it’s devolved into a reality show with weaker candidates, positions and blah, blah, blah.

    Philippines has something very unique that I wish we had in the US.

    “Square Off” on ANC brings seriously talented young teams together to debate complex issues, requiring a significant amount of research in preparation and articulate delivery of position.

    A format Defending Current Policy with Opposing Side Presenting New Policy Concepts to replace the status quo could be more enlightening than listening to the same old politicians promote the same old schemes and scams.

    This may be a good way to showcase and identify our future leaders, and bring policy formation into the public arena, not cooked up behind closed doors.

    1. Indeed, the feudal mentality applied to democracy should be replaced with an intellectual mentality that’s focused on creating a competition of ideas instead of the competition of hollow-headed intrigue we see today.

      The next generation of politicians need to be raised with this mindset. Unfortunately, the thinking of the scions of today’s oligarchs and warlords seem to have still been ingrained with the old birthright mindset and accompanying sense of entitlement that infect the minds of their parents and ancestors. Tragic…

      1. Thanks for the reply, benignO. I agree, conventional wisdom is tragic, but Oligarchs and Warlords are resisting the irresistible and demographics will eventually make them irrelevant.

        Like JFK said; “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich”

        The internet has opened new frontiers for some really bright young Filipinos. When enough of them arrive at the same “WTF” point, they’ll write the history of the future. No doubts, no worries, no fears.

  4. I imagine if Donald Trump & Rody Duterte will become the next US & Philippine presidents respectively on 2016. Yes, they’re both smart, flamboyant & quite controversial but surely their leadership will change the political image of these 2 countries forever, if they’ll be the next president.

    1. Hi, mrericx. You’re correct. If Trump and Duterte are elected Presidents, both countries will be dramatically changed, but will be on opposites courses.

      Trump is intelligent, but he is the product of privilege, a tireless self promoter and has deep contempt for everyone, even in his own class.
      As President, he and the Republicans would eliminate rights and freedoms of 99% of Americans Privatize everything.

      Duterte, in my opinion, would Govern Ruthlessly in fighting corruption, but he seems to have a sense of fairness and compassion for the poor. A Duterte Presidency would provide the “Shock Therapy” the Philippines needs to free itself from the Dynasties and Oligarchs.

      The US would be in a death spiral, and Philippines would become a progressive country.

      1. Well if that’s the case then probably there’ll be a great blessing for our country & a greater change in the modern world. If Donald Trump will become the next US president and US economy got slump especially on military budgets, then he could give all of submarines, aircraft, tanks, warships, etc., etc. into our country & boost our national defense as a gift to Duterte. And that’ll be enough to scare China from messing our territory in the WPS (not South China Sea) and Philippines will become a new superpower nation in the world. Hopefully this will happen after 2016, our national wet dream will come true.

        1. Almost mrericx. The truth is, US Republican are the Party of War (Bush I and II). If Trump wins, Budgets for weapons will increase then they will USE them ($$$) in Syria, Iran, Iraq, etc NOT share with Philippines or anyone else.

          Democrats (Hillary) will maintain or reduce the Military Budget, but will spend more funds on jobs technology, research and the Middle Class, sharing technologies with Emerging Nations, including Philippines.

          The things that Philippines needs, US cannot help with. Up to us to get a strong Leader like Duterte or Santiago to clean up corruption and develop Middle Class here.

          No worries about China, they don’t need Spratly Islands and neither does Philippines. They’re just rocks in the water.

          Pres Xi took the Islands only to prove a point to Aquino and the Chinese People. China doesn’t need or want Philippines.

        2. I agree with GoRICO. i just saw the first few minutes of his speech. and i thought to myself this guy will spark another war in the middle east. this guy is crazy + his monopolistic + capitalistic idealism.

        3. Ironic that under Democrat administrations America and the world experienced the biggest conflicts in world history during the 20th century.

          Still a lot of people seem to forget that republicans like Nixon ended the war in Vietnam and more importantly Calvin Coolidge cut military spending to a large degree and only maintained a sizable force strictly for national defense.




          And pinoys could learn form this:

          A “Roaring” Economy

          Coolidge put his actions behind his rhetoric. He followed his principles as President and was remarkably successful in achieving his policy goals. Harding and Coolidge inherited one of the worst economic disasters in American history. In 1921, the unemployment rate was 11.7 percent. The national debt had shot up from $1.5 billion in 1916 to $24 billion in 1919. Gross national product decreased from $91.5 billion in 1920 to $69.6 billion in 1921.

          In response, Harding and Coolidge did not blame their predecessor, Woodrow Wilson, for the disaster they inherited. They went about putting their principles into practice and turning the economy around, and they were extremely effective in doing so. They employed a three-step plan.

          Cut spending dramatically.
          Lower taxes.
          Reduce the burden of regulation.

          Due to the passage of the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, Coolidge had a newfound power to propose an annual budget, giving him some influence over spending issues. Coolidge used this power, in his words, in an “intensive campaign” that he “waged unrelentingly” against federal spending.[24] Coolidge won his war on federal spending: From 1921 to 1924, federal expenditures were reduced from $5.1 billion to $2.9 billion—a spending reduction of 43 percent.

          At the same time, Coolidge worked with Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon to pass three successive income tax reduction plans. The purpose of reducing spending, he noted, was to protect the property rights of citizens. “A government which lays taxes on the people not required by urgent necessity…is not a protector of liberty, but an instrument of tyranny. It condemns the citizen to servitude.”[25]

          Freeing the citizen from burdensome taxes was Coolidge’s top priority, and under the Revenue Acts of 1921, 1924, and 1926, the highest income tax rate fell from 73 percent in 1921 to 24 percent in 1929. By reducing spending, Coolidge was able to lower taxes and retire much of the government’s debt, which was reduced from $24 billion to $16.9 billion.

          Combined with his program of regulatory relief, Coolidge’s economic policies produced a period of incredible prosperity. The “Roaring Twenties” saw one of the most dynamic periods of economic growth in the nation’s history, and Coolidge left office having achieved great personal popularity and, more important, having shown that the principles of the Founding were still the best way to achieve freedom and prosperity.

  5. ugh.. I remember the debate hosted by a tv station before the 2010 elections. the host asked the most mundane questions, and didn’t really steer the debate into more pressing concerns of the nation.

    one good thing about it though was the debate against Binay and Bayani Fernando. Of Binay’s ignorant and bordering on stupid initiation, Bayani came out an organized and informed leader.

    I thought sure that debate ensured Bayani’s victory, but as fate would have it, a lot of stupid voters still went for Binay.

    So, it kinda gives me doubt a real debate will do much difference. The injection of information into the minds of the bobotantes has to happen long before that. Educate them on the issues, and what should be done to solve them. Then they can look for those solution in what comes out of the candidates’ mouths. Hell, Gordon was dishing out solutions every single interview he got! Did the bobotantes understand a word he was saying? Apparently not…

    1. you could say that, Bienb but on the upcoming 2016 election, who need a debate if Binay will give his giveaways (cellphone, rosary, candies, tshirts, etc.) with a “B” emblem on it to the bobotantes. He should be executed immediately by the DDS for the sake of our country!

  6. Debates such as the ones taking place in the USA are meaningless and even worse:USELESS. A mechanism for keeping politicans that tell people what they want to hear in order to get elected should be in place for these bul-shit artists to either do as they say theare going to do or they are removed from office.
    Anyone that thinks that the latest comedy show in the USA, starring a thrice bankrupted businessman with a questionable hairline, is any type of ethical way to thresh out the acts possibly forthcoming from an as of yet elected bullshit artist is to delude oneself into thinking that they are watching anything but a really awful comedy show.

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