The final Philippine Presidential debate was boring. Most of the candidates did not say anything new and significant. Half of the blame should go to the organizers. They should have known not to ask questions that were already asked during the previous debates. The only consolation is that there weren’t a lot of commercials and they did not play an annoying jingle in between breaks.
I’m sure most people who were tuned in were waiting for discussions to turn ugly. They were expecting Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s rivals to hit him hard over his controversial remarks a week ago about the deceased Australian rape victim. Only Senator Grace Poe brought the matter up and it was obvious that she was stumped by his unapologetic stance. What else can one say when the defense is “I’m just being myself”? Stop being himself too much, I suppose. But that would be too much to ask. It’s like asking someone to change. I don’t think that is possible with Duterte.
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The only time things started heating up was when Duterte questioned his rival former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas about the latter’s claim that the current government is already providing PhilHealth coverage to a lot of Filipinos. Duterte disputed Roxas’s claim and said that no one from Davao has received PhilHealth coverage. This was when Roxas lost his cool. Duterte was just trolling him but he didn’t even recognize that was he being trolled in front of national television. Goes to show that Roxas is not very Presidential on account of his inability to read people. Roxas has never been much of a people person.
Roxas’s problem is fantasy vesus reality. His claim that the BS Aquino government is already doing so much for the public’s health needs is not evident.
Roxas spoke with so much confidence that you could be forgiven for giving him a second look. The problem is, once you start considering why he is very unpopular, you will realize it is due mostly to him being a bad judge of character. He seems to have good ideas, and you wonder why these were never implemented in the first place in the last six years. Considering he is close to President Benigno Simeon Aquino and held powerful positions in his government, it is quite baffling that he failed to make a difference.
If we recall, Roxas made a terrible decision in allowing his party mates to push aside his own plans to run for the Presidency in 2010 in order to give way to a more popular candidate whose beloved mother just passed away. He “sacrificed” his own ambition then just so he could please them. I suppose Roxas could not have won over former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada anyway, who came in second during the election, so I guess it wouldn’t have mattered. But, it is the principle. Had he shown conviction then – sticking to his candidacy by running as an independent – the people would have given him more support now.
Another problem with Roxas is that, even after he was benched, betrayed, and kept in the dark on some occasions by BS Aquino himself, he is still sticking by Daang Matuwid. He can’t even recognize that the voters are tired of it. He doesn’t even know when to cut his losses. During the debate, Roxas kept giving the current government high marks despite its incompetence and neglect of duties to the public. That is enough reason for voters not to vote for him. While the other candidates are getting points for highlighting the government’s neglect, Roxas has no choice but to stick to praising it. He is stuck between a rock and a hard place because he was part of the government from the very beginning.
Duterte, on the other hand, proved once again that he can act civilized and diplomatic when he wants to or when the situation calls for it. One thing is for sure; Duterte knows how to troll people. He can push people’s buttons just like he pushed Roxas’s buttons. Roxas’s reaction says a lot about him. He cannot stay cool when provoked. That is not a good character trait for someone aspiring for the Presidency.
Duterte’s simple “How are you?” question was excellent. Without asking Senator Miriam Santiago directly, Duterte managed to get the “iron lady” to talk about her health. He should earn brownie points for that. He also praised Santiago unreservedly, which is also proof that he can be respectful to women and that he recognizes their brilliance.
Santiago appeared to be feisty at times but, just the same, appeared to struggle with her thoughts as evident in her long pauses. She says the new cancer pill she has been taking has eliminated the disease and that any talk of her being not healthy enough to survive the presidency is all rubbish. She looked visibly weak though and Vice President Binay highlighted it by coming to her aid every time she had to sit down and get up during the debate.
Binay was acting strange as usual. He kept walking around on stage like a game show host. He wanted to give his own Binay touch during the debate. He just looked desperate. He talked mostly about how he was going to give a lot of freebies if he gets elected. Binay even told the fisherman who lost his livelihood that he will be removing the income tax on his earnings so he can save his money. Perhaps later on he will realize how silly it is to remove income tax from someone who doesn’t have a job. One wonders where he is going to get the money for the dole outs after he removes that income tax. He wasn’t specific about how he plans to do it.
Binay just had to bring up the issue of Senator Grace Poe’s citizenship. It was lame the way he did it. He wanted to make it look like Poe turned her back on the Philippines when she renounced her citizenship. But considering there are a lot of Filipinos who are overseas who have dual citizenship, his rationale is weak. Besides, Poe’s citizenship issue doesn’t seem to bother the voters, only her rivals.
I don’t know about you but I seem to switch off when Grace Poe is the one speaking. Her voice is starting to sound robotic just like her running mate Chiz Escudero. She seemed so rehearsed and we’ve heard all her promises before. I don’t even know why she ran for President to begin with. Her supporters must have told her she should because her father is popular. But she should have been more honest with herself. She’s only new in the Senate and can’t even criticize BS Aquino directly. She’s also into patronage politics and would have to cater to the people who funded her campaign. One of them is king maker and businessman Danding Cojuangco.
Frankly, the last debate just gave the candidates an opportunity to grandstand. As usual, they didn’t give specific answers to the questions similar to what they did in the last debates. But even if they did, it’s not a guarantee they can implement their lofty promises. They still have to ask Congress to cooperate and help them achieve these. We all know that’s not going to be easy unless they use pork barrel funds to sweeten deals. This practice has since been deemed illegal due to BS Aquino’s excessive use of it during his term. They will then have to rely on their charms, which some of them don’t have.
It is imperative that voters use the election as an opportunity to teach those in power a lesson. The voters should not vote for Liberal Party again.
In life, things are not always what they seem.