Editorial & Opinion

A night of jousting

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What can we learn from the vice-presidential debate? The way it fared, we saw a well-managed Commission on Elections willing to learn and change. That was a far better debate, skillfully managed by two young ladies, Pia Hontiveros and Pinky Webb, who were prepared to be tough, in the politest way.

On logistics, the stadium was a vast improvement. The thousand or so that were there had enough space. The sometimes very vocal crowd added to the color of the debate. The one, small heckler group was quietly led out. There were, it seemed, to be an awful lot of Marcos supporters - or were they just the noisiest? I can only speculate on what brought them to show support for a family that brought their country to its knees, in a barbarous fashion at that.

The format of the debate was better. The opportunity to make a rebuttal, within one, strictly controlled minute, given to a candidate alluded to led to some very lively exchanges - like the ones between Alan Cayetano (who was the clear winner of the evening) and Bongbong Marcos (who was uncomfortable and discombobulated from the attacks). All candidates fitted their talks into the allotted time, toward the end of which a “warning” signal would be flashed; otherwise the moderators would step in.

The major issue of the day was corruption and I sensed the crowd entirely agreed. But I wonder if the politicians will ever get the message. It certainly explains much of the appeal of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Grace Poe.

With the selected questions, the crowd liked the YES or NO “challenge” in the debate. But in the next debate, the questions may need to be more carefully thought out so as not to induce “motherhood” answers. After all the questions were supposed to be strictly limited to just one word - either YES or NO.

Question: “As Vice President will you fight for the lowering of income tax?” What politician would say no? But I particularly liked that part when the candidates were asked “Were you engaged in any corrupt activities?” and Bongbong first answered with a YES and then reversed. Was it his conscience initially at work?

On a couple of occasions, Marcos hesitated, looking first at the answers of the others before flashing his. For example, to the question, “Do you agree with same sex marriage?” all immediately answered NO; only after seeing the answer of the others (or is he a slow thinker) did Marcos give a NO.

Not one of them plans to run for president. Can you believe that? We need questions where there’s likely to be divided answers. Last week I suggested some. For the third presidential debate, a more thoughtful choice of questions would help.

It was good that two-and-a-half hours was given for the debate; the third presidential debate should be just as long - better still, longer. It will be our last chance to get to know the candidates; there almost can’t be enough time for that. The debate should be at least three hours long, even four.

I suggest that the Comelec ask all TV stations and radio stations nationwide to air the third debate at the same time on the same day. Give the people no AlDub alternative. Without a law, this can’t be mandated (and I’m not too sure I’d want such a law).  But media should agree to this proposition out of some sense of civic duty: to better inform voters and enable them to make a wiser choice (hope springs eternal!).

The chairs provided for the candidates were a welcome amenity; the candidates deserve the courtesy of being offered the choice to sit or not during breaks (mercifully shorter this time), but bar stools would have been better so that they could still be seen even when sitting.

Bottles of water for possibly the next vice president of the Republic of the Philippines? Surely we can afford quality drinking glasses. I know, this is nitpicking, but…

Leni Robredo’s answer to the question, “Why should Filipinos vote for you” stole the show. She ended with “May the best woman win!” The men were flummoxed.

* * *

In talks with numerous people, the overriding topic is who should be, who will be the next president. It’s the only topic of conversation these days, it seems.

Another equally overriding concern is how could the people’s wish be granted - meaning, how could cheating be stopped? No one I talked to believed it won’t occur; they believe it very definitely will. The question is to what degree?

The presidentiables trailing in the polls say that the only real poll is the election result. And they’re correct - but only up to a point. SWS and Pulse surveys are professionally done and fairly closely reflect what people want. So if a “trailer” wins, one must question the legitimacy of that win, particularly if the polls show a gap of over

5 percent. Below that, it could be an honest win; above that, it would be highly suspicious.

I know it’s absurd to suggest this, but if the presidentiables are serious about wanting to serve their people, and are not just power-mad, they may want to consider letting the people truly decide—meaning, completely refrain from cheating.

I wish then the National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting all the best in their efforts to stop cheating in the elections. I also wish Comelec Chair Andy Bautista all the power necessary to ensure that the computerized voting system really does work and proves itself impervious to hacking.

I’m told that the poll results don’t go directly to a central accumulation platform, that there’s an interim step where human intervention could occur. I’d like an assurance from the Comelec that this is not so.

I want the winner to be who the people want. I hope that the five candidates for president agree with me. Sadly, I doubt they do. Inquirer.net

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