The second vice presidential debate organized by network ABS-CBN on Sunday, April 17, went ahead even without Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr (of the Nacionalista Party and running mate of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago) and Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan (of the United Nationalist Alliance Party and running along with Vice President Jejomar Binay).
Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, and Representative Maria Leonora “Leni” Robredo squared off anew, opening the debate with their platforms to be implemented if elected in the second highest seat of power in the country.
Observers though say the debate was lame than the first one, but in case you are still wondering what happened, here are the highlights:
1. Debate not sanctioned
The debate was not sanctioned by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), and the candidates were not required to attend it.
It was organized solely by ABS-CBN and held in its own compound in Quezon City.
2. Marcos not spared
Marcos did not attend the debate due to prior commitments, notably his 23rd wedding anniversary and a campaign scheduled in Batangas. His absence trended on social media.
On the COMELEC-sanctioned debate on April 10, Marcos was crushed by his rivals for his revisionist stand of his late father’s dictatorial rule.
It was Robredo who paved the opportunity for Cayetano to lash again about Marcos. In particular, she asked why the senator attacked Marcos so hard during the first debate, even if they are both from the Nacionalista Party.
Cayetano still lambasted Marcos, saying he ran away from the debate like his family ran away with the Filipinos’ money.
Trillanes, meanwhile, questioned Marcos’ record as a senator, asking what he has done during his six years in the Senate. He also attacked the fellow senator’s educational background.
In February 2015, Rappler.com came up with a report citing that Marcos did not finish his Oxford University and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania degrees despite including them in his curriculum vitae. In April last year, the senator quietly admitted that he did not take a Bachelor of Arts degree and that he did not finish his MBA.
Honasan also did not make it to the debate, citing prior commitments in Mindanao.
3. Escudero, Robredo to put end on contractualization
The four candidates present have had a chance to present their platforms once more. Though they sound the same, they strived to be different in terms of packaging them and implementing such if they would be elected.
Escudero (running mate of Senator Grace Poe) and Robredo (candidate of the administration along with Manuel “Mar” Roxas III) said they would put an end to contractualization, or employment practice of limiting workers to short-term contracts than hiring them permanently and paying them benefits.
“We will push for security of tenure, penalties for employers who violate the law, ensure jobs with stable earnings, so people can have their own homes, eat three meals a day, and live life with dignity,” Robredo said.
4. Expanded services in health, education
Escudero and Robredo echoed again each other with regard to expanded services in health and education sectors.
Escudero said he and Poe would give P1 billion ($21.67 million) to each province, and push for 100% coverage of PhilHealth.
The tandem would also give free state college and university education.
As for Robredo (and Roxas), she said they would expand current government services in the health sector. They would also eliminate consultation fees, plus the distribution of free medicines. They would also want to localize Department of Education (DepEd) programs to the regions or provinces.
5. Cayetano harps on ‘simple program’
Apart from bashing Marcos, Cayetano simplified the country’s problems to a matter of “political will,” and stressed that only he and controversial running mate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte could solve such.
Cayetano said he and Duterte’s program would revolve on federalism, economic reforms, and eradicate crime, drugs, corruption in three to six months.
“The problem is leadership, political will.... There’s no leadership. Let them talk about platform. As for us, we will just do it. We will get it done for you,” Cayetano said.
6. Trillanes pushes for national ID, abolition of K to 12
Trillanes said he would push for a national identification system, along with the abolition of the K to 12 program, which added two years to basic education in the country, saying that senior high school would only be a hardship to parents and teachers.
He also said that to discourage corrupt law enforcers, he would push for increased allowances for policemen and a stronger internal affairs department in the Philippine National Police. – Lynda C. Corpuz