Two weeks before the elections, the five presidential candidates squared off one last time at the final leg of the PiliPinas debates at the University of Pangasinan on Sunday, April 24.
The town hall format of the debate, organized by ABS-CBN News and The Manila Bulletin,and sanctioned by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), pushed Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte, Senator Grace Poe, former Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago to showcase their platforms and veer away from witty one-liners.
1. No heated face-offs this time
A departure from the previous debates, the candidates focused more on the “how’s” of their platforms this time, presenting specifics on how to solve the major issues hounding the country.
Each issue discussed was introduced with a story of “an ordinary Filipino,” allowing people from the audience to ask questions to the presidential candidates.
For the first part, all of them presented their vision for the Philippines by 2022, if elected into office. Echoing their campaign messages for so long, Binay promised poverty reduction; Duterte vowed to battle drugs; Poe for a government with a heart; Santiago for a government with “excellence;" and Roxas for “a decent administration.”
The engagement among them only ensued at the face-offs segment, which saw each asking a fellow candidate on an issue.
2. “Contractualization must end.”
One issue the candidates all agreed upon is for the eradication of contractualization or “end-of-contract” practice of companies, forcing employees to look for a new job multiple times in a year.
Binay promised to remove income tax; while Duterte said he will pass a law that will end the contractualization practice. For Santiago, having more infrastructure projects can create more jobs for Filipinos. Meanwhile, Roxas vowed to eradicate the practice in three months contracted employment and promised 10 million jobs by 2020, while Poe suggested to lower corporate taxes.
3. Binay dodges corruption allegations, Duterte clears stance on women’s rights
For the face-off segment, Roxas asked Binay to address the corruption issues hounding him, the same questions “he failed to answer in the Ssenate.” However, the Vice President refused to answer and went on to discuss his platforms instead, with the defense “these are all baseless allegations.”
For the Poe versus Duterte face-off, the former asked the Davao Mayor on what would women’s role in his administration be, if ever elected, after previous encounters that irked women’s rights groups especially his rape joke recently.
The leading candidate at the recent Social Weather Stations’ polls chose to showcase some of Davao’s practices on protection of women instead, including being the first city in the country to have women’s code and total ban of wearing of bikinis in its beaches.
4. Santiago assures public on her health condition, Poe says husband renounced US citizenship
One of the biggest, if not the only issue hounding Santiago’s presidential campaign is her battle with cancer, to which she only answered with: “I’m back to normal.”
The senator said she has been taking an “anti-cancer pill” which has helped her get better in recent months. However, Santiago struggled during the debate multiple times, opting to sit down for some parts of the debates, and stammered when speaking.
Poe, meanwhile, has cleared that her husband has already renounced his US citizenship amid criticisms on her citizenship. The Supreme Court ruled the senator may run for presidency after several camps called for her disqualification.
5. Duterte, Roxas debate winners, said online polls
Duterte emerged as the debate winner in a poll conducted by Inquirer.net on its Facebook page, with 61% out 81,155 votes. Meanwhile, Roxas got 55.97% out of 14,043 votes on the survey conducted by the publication on its official website. – Elyssa Christine Lopez