#PiliPinasDebates2016 outcome: Mar Roxas the clear loser in the 2016 Philippine presidential debate

It was a first of its kind face-off amongst the Philippines’ presidential candidates which was organised by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and sponsored by TV network GMA-7. But because the 2016 Presidential Debate (dubbed #PiliPinasDebates2016 on Twitter), was held in Cagayan de Oro City in the southern island of Mindanao, most of the topics fielded by hosts Mike Enriquez and Jessica Soho were focused on that region.

As such, Mindanao’s poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and corruption, dominated the debate topics fielded. To be fair, they were important issues. Mindanao is the Philippines’ second biggest land mass and regarded as the nation’s “breadbasket” accounting for 40% of national economic output in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. The region, overall, accounts for about 15% of national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Mindanao is often described as being “home to the Philippines’ poorest people” but most fail to mention that much of this poverty is concentrated in provinces dominated by Islamic people where terrorists, bandits, and other criminals reign with impunity.


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Hands down, Senator Grace Poe stood out as the most articulate and fresh-faced candidate, perhaps owing to her youth and telegenic showbiz looks, general superior breeding, and confident demeanour. In comparison, the other candidates came across as out of their element and, quite frankly, old-fartish. Perhaps, being traditional politicians, they were unaccustomed to the confonting and real-time pace of a live televised debate (there hasn’t been any such of consequence for a long time).

For his part, Rodrigo Duterte hinged most of his arguments on the promise to deliver fast results across the most difficult of issues to tackle, staking his word and honour on a commitment to solve much of the country’s peace-and-order and corruption issues within a 3- to 6-month timeframe. The audacity of this promise notwithstanding, it is only Duterte who exhibits a boldness that could resonate with a largely cynical electorate. Whilst all the other candidates, in comparison, waffle out motherhood statements on how to address crime and corruption, the key takeaway from Duterte’s position is clear and starkly stands out as points the Filipino public can categorically hold his administration to.

Indeed, this lack of specifics amongst most candidates is the cornerstone of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s arguments. Her challenge is simple: specific actions and plans should be backed by a proposed budget and funding approach. She admonishes the candidates with what is pretty much a no-brainer perspective — that promises are easy to make during election campaigns and requires no particular skill or qualification to issue. It was quite evident, however, that Santiago was struggling during the event. Her voice was quivering and she exhibited none of the fire, coherence, and clarity of thought she contributes in Senate plenary sessions.

Jejomar Binay, perhaps being the most experienced administrator of the lot, showed calm and deliberateness in the manner with which he delivered his arguments. However, he spent much of his airtime deflecting and sidestepping questions about his alleged “ill-gotten wealth”.

Quite unfortunate, however, that Liberal Party candidate Mar Roxas drew much of his arguments from the tired old Daang Matuwid (“straight path”) party mantra. This doctrine has, for some time, been suffering a crushing crisis of credibility thanks to the failure of the administration of President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III to deliver much around upgrading the country’s decrepit infrastructure and addressing the rampant criminality sweeping the nation. The administration has also failed to convincingly stamp out the criminal practice of pork barrel politics between Malacanang and Congress, mounting mere token gestures across a number of media circuses in a lame effort to be perceived to be “reforming” governance. Various high-profile infrastructure failures, notably in the country’s transport facilities also occurred under Roxas’s watch.

Suffice to say, most people’s eyes likely simply glazed over everytime Roxas parrotted the LP script he likely keeps in his back pocket most days. It probably didn’t help that barkadas across the nation played a bullshit bingo drinking game whenever Roxas’s turn to speak came up.


Filipinos will likely be awaiting the next instalment in this long-overdue COMELEC franchise. This one was criticised by some quarters as a bit tame and as coming across more as a question-and-answer forum than a true debate. Hopefully, there will be a bit more latitude provided in the debate structure next time to allow the candidates to engage in more pointed exchanges of ideas and points of view. An important outcome will have been more clarity around how the platforms and visions of each candidate differ from one another. Sadly, this episode fell short of that ideal outcome. The exercise was a step in the right direction, nonetheless. Kudos to the COMELEC for a job well done!

[Source of economic data: NCR GRDP Press Release 2014]

18 Replies to “#PiliPinasDebates2016 outcome: Mar Roxas the clear loser in the 2016 Philippine presidential debate”

  1. It was really a Q&A with a chance of mudslinging/cross-examination of answers.

    I was really surprised by Grace Poe though, the most articulate of the 5.

    Miriam struggled in Rd 2… Duterte should have hammered Roxas more for his claims that Daan Matuwid is doing great for Mindanao.

  2. The social illnesses we painstakingly face each day will be the death of us! We need a leader who is aware of these social illnesses. A leader who knows which problems to prioritize and someone who has tangible ideas when it comes to formulating concrete action plans. Yung hindi lang puro salita, may laman yung sinasabi, at hindi lang may sinasabi para lang may masabi and to appear na may alam. Iyan si Sen. Grace Poe, whether you like it or not, you cannot deny the fact that she is capable to operate in public office.

    1. true, except on her issues on nationality & residence in our country, that one is a huge question mark on her leadership if she’ll become our country’s next president.

  3. Putting my fairness cap, the clear loser isn’t Mar Roxas. The only candidate well informed enough and presented a better plan than the current admin in terms of infra budgeting for Mindanao was Grace Poe, a promise of 30% of the budget. The current dpwh budget is roughly around 29% for Mindanao. While Duterte thinking that federalism is a net gain financially for Mindanao is for a clear shock. If we are going to do a give Mindanao paraphrasing Duterte “their fair share”, in terms of GDP % contribution the infra budget would halved compared to today. If we base it on BIr revenues it would 1/5 of the current admins budget for Mindanao.

    Without grace poes promise, there wouldn’t be a better than admins current budgeting. Meaning if we criticize everything about the admins infra dedication in Mindanao, but certain candidates promise less than the current admin, didn’t promise a better alternative or worse don’t know what they are saying, Mindanao would be far worse managed than the current admin. Clearly, for grace poe, it pays to know the issues and data.

  4. I sat down yesterday afternoon and got exactly what I expected, namely questions that were soaked in verbal fabric softener.

    A dilettante display of trying so very, very hard to be grown up and world class, but utterly failing and showing once more what a fucking kindergarten we live in.

    And what was that juvenile, moronic jingle they played all about? Holy shit!

    A lame circus that had NOTHING to do with enlightening the electorate, but more with selling shit via commercials. 2 hours became one hour. The candidates were rushed into packaging their statements into 1 ½ minutes.

    Hurry up, so we can show the next commercial. A foul and typically rotten display of corporate greed. Could those GMA ass-heads not for once in their useless lives suspend their idiotic commercials so the viewer will get a real idea what the candidates have to say?


    What a total waste of my time. Fuck you GMA you avaricious amateurs!

    Grace Po stood out and was prepared, articulate and seemed competent. My problem with her is that she might be smart and full of good intentions, but that does not make a good President. She is weak and won’t get respect. Being nice and smiley faced won’t get you anywhere. We need an ass kicker. Someone who is respected and feared.

    Duterte came across as relaxed and fearless. He said little, but what he said resonated.

    1. Greedy indeed! First 14 minutes, only 5 minutes were alloted for the candidates. The 9 minutes were irrelevant string of commercials and attention grabbing full volume yakety of the hosts. We could have listened more to what the candidates have to say but no, the network was more concerned lining their pockets.

  5. Simplistic and motherhood statements from the American citizen. Everything is easier said than done. The Local Government Code has actually empowered LGUs to the point that the national government cannot readily meddle in local issues. To get Federalism, we have to amend the Constitution. Metro Manila, Region 3 and Region 4 will leave other regions behind if these regions do not subsidize the poorer regions.

  6. I think the problem here in mindanao is not so much about infrastructure as peace and order is. A no brainer? In Maguindanao, finishing up a bridge is contested between our armed forces vs biff. And there were bridges and towers and other infra brought down with bombs before. So before increasing allotment for Mindanao, peace and order situation must be stabilized first. Let farmers do their tasks without fear of being taxed or butchered by lawless elements. On that note, only Duterte holds a promise with Federalism. Roxas and his BBL is dead. Poe would not really know where to put her 30% budget for mindanao, Mirriam is still to study the matter, and Binay’s decisiveness is unclear.

  7. Question, why does noone outcry about the amount of commercials during the debate as they did over same sex marriage. Is the future president of the Philippines not important enough to each get five minutes of time to answer a question? The topics are not worth 10 minutes debate time, really?

  8. What struck me the most was Roxas, “the rich kid”, with his closing statement, rubbing on the common poor filipino’s face the fact that he’s one of the few elites that have the luxury of not having the need to worry about what ought to be basic needs like jobs, food and basically a good and decent life. As if him running for president would change all that. I mean, he had his chance to prove that he can deliver, instead, he went on and did nothing but excuse himself in his term, much like what he did on the debate (“but I was there during Yolanda”, as if him “being there” or not made any difference to the coutnless souls who needed help). Sorry but I just hate that trapo excuse of a man…

    1. To me, it cane out like, “may balato kayo sa akin pag nanalo ako”. Maybe be thinks that he knows the filipinos that much that he assumes that they will fall for that kind of flattery. I really hope people will prove him wrong…

  9. Thank you, for the debate. It should be held in every Region in the country. To inform people about the true issues. And, to see how knowledgeable these candidates are to tackle these issues. I request that the Vice Presidential candidates will also debate. Even the Senatorial candidates…let us see how Pacqioa and Alma Moreno will perform in these debates…

    The BBL issues; the Pork Barrel bribery issues; the issue on how to make Aquino and Abad accountable for their plunder of the national treasury.

    The issue of Land Reform Program to take use out of Feudalism; the Hacienda Luisita and all other Haciendas issue; the issue of Squatters; the issue of rice importation, how can they solve it; the OFW issue. The energy issue; how the Philippines become energy independent; the runaway inflation issue; the
    political dynasty and the feudal oligarchy issue; etc…

    There are too many that these Presidential candidate can debate…

    Again, I thank you for this Debate. Thanks to the moderators. Thanks for the TV host,GMA-7 that sponsored this debate. It is the step in the right direction…

  10. Link is a MUST READ

    Candidate Roxas’ mining cronies

    I don’t know why there is no anger coming from the public. Have we all become so goddamn blind and stupid?

    Liberal Party is sucking the blood of this nation. I want these people put into some firing squad at some park.

    People, wake up naman kayo, parang awa nyo na sa mga sarili nyo.. In the next debate, pls bring eggs, tomato, malansang isda, etc. It would be nice to see these things smacked in the face of Roxas.

  11. we will not have a true debate unless we have 2 party system.
    meron tayong 5 candidates tapos may mga topics where candidates both agree with. tangina asan debate dyan? I agree with Senator Miriam, we need to institutionalize the party system. left and right lang. then we can have a true debate. 1 vs 1.

  12. The truth is that the Failipino politicians self-deceptive lies range from seemingly tiny untruths to massive life-altering falsehoods about reality.

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