There were many flaws in the First Philippine Presidential debate 2016. Most everyone complained that there were too many commercials and the candidates were not given enough time to answer in depth. In fact, the flaws of the debate mirrored the same flaws in the Philippine political system. Beholden to commercial interests, not enough substance, not enough time (think term limits and no reelection), and extremely showbiz. Yet despite these glaring shortcomings, we take what we can get. The debates at least managed to put everybody on the same stage, and even though the format left much to be desired (at the end of “Round 1”, I was half expecting a scantily clad woman to walk across the stage holding a placard announcing the next round), it still managed to reveal quite a lot about each candidate.
Binay – on my scorecard was neutral to negative after the debates. He dodged and danced around a bit, but all along was very low energy. His volume was low key. Instead he kept on jabbing at the same spot–how the current administration was incompetent. He managed to give his side on the anti-dynasty movement (Why deny people who want to serve, as long as they are qualified. Why deny if they are voted in by the people?). However, his counter to Roxas’s jibe about there being two Makatis, the rich one of Ayala, and the drug-infested one of the Binay’s was weak. He seemed too flustered and too busy trying to come off as statesman-like.
Poe – Clearly the most articulate and prepared of the bunch. If Binay was low key, she was practically brimming with energy. Her training for this bout showed in the statistics and facts she pulled out at opportune moments. She parried Roxas’s attack on her being inexperienced i.e. an OJT (on the job trainee) as if she saw it coming a mile away. Her counter attack, that a new perspective was needed to solve the problems that remain unsolved, was very effective. She even managed a dig at Roxas for the MRT mess, albeit an almost gentle smack on the hand. Poe speaks well in three languages: Tagalog, English, and Millenial-speak. She targets and connects with the young audience that will decide this election.
Duterte – The man has his own style, which you either love or hate. Many prissy Manila intellectuals automatically recoil at the gruff, unpolished speech. This is the same manicured, country club set that says Duterte looks like a driver, and cant even wear his barong properly. Duterte however managed to charm, with his rapport and sympathy with the ailing Santiago, even assisting her on the stage. His answer to the charges of womanizing was brilliant — drawing guffaws and applause from the audience, at least that portion of the audience who believe that a public servant’s personal life is his own affair, and that children learn primarily from their parents, not by emulating the sexual mores of the president of their country. But Duterte threw the knockout punch when he said the reason he was there, and wanted to serve, was because he loved this country. From a man who is brutally frank and almost incapable of artifice, this simple statement spoke volumes. You felt it in the gut. Say what you want about Duterte but it would be wrong to doubt his sincerity.
Santiago – The veteran pugilist seemed like the toll of all those years in the ring have made their mark. Many couldn’t get past her bloated appearance and stammering speech; she is after all afflicted with the dreaded cancer. Like the pro, she still managed some zingers but it was all rote and muscle memory. You throw your left, I counter with my right. Her best moment was probably the statement that she did not want to spend her last years in bed but rather continuing to serve her country. One has to admire heart, especially when the body cannot keep up with it anymore.
Roxas – He comes out of his corner swinging wildly. The man throws punches left and right, indiscriminately. Going negative –this is the logical strategy of the underdog with nothing to lose. The problem is Roxas is inherently a weak puncher and his blows are easily parried, as were done by Poe and Duterte. Binay had a harder time but as mentioned previously, he didn’t really bring his game attitude to this bout.
Among the closing statements, Roxas’s was the most memorable–for its sheer awfulness. Given a minute, he used up half the time to talk about how rich and privileged he was, in a painfully obvious wind up to the uppercut– that “I want you to have the same things.” Which begs the question…does he mean he wants all Filipinos to be a wealthy scion of a political dynast family, heir to Araneta money and connections?
I have made this statement before, fight fans. Roxas should fire all his trainers. They are killing him from the inside faster than a punch to the gut that leads to internal haemmorage. With trainers like these who needs political opponents? True enough, his punchthrown at Duterte about being able to buydrugs in Davao has become the latest social media joke (see image).
So what to expect from the 2nd debate? Many are already raising complaints that it will be hosted by ABS-CBN which they claim has always been biased to the administration candidate. Still others are warning the network to tone down the amount of advertising. I am personally going to boycott all companies that buy ad time for the 2nd presidential debate. Let’s scare them sponsors so that we can have an informative, dignified and impartial 2nd Philippine Presidential debate 2016.