Second Presidential Debate By Alyssa Encarnacion | March 25, 2016
During the Second Presidential Debate held last March 20, 2016 at the University of the Philippines, Cebu, there were heated discussions among the candidates over questions and answers regarding policies, credibility, competency, and much more. Various issues were tackled during the event, leading to a wide array of responses that leave much for the public to use as election period comes near. Here’s a summary of everything that transpired during the debate:
In this round, the candidates were each asked a question by a panelist, and after stating their answer, their other candidates were allowed to state their reactions. Each candidate was asked two questions in this round.
The first question, addressed to Senator Grace Poe, focused on the Freedom of Information Bill. She was asked why it wasn’t passed, and who among her fellow candidates would oppose the bill. She explained that the bill was important to provide transparency regarding government activity. This would allow the masses to see whether their officials are being corrupt or not. Unfortunately, even though senators such as Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile fought for the bill in senate, the Congress did not approve of it despite them saying it was a priority. However, she refused to mention whom she believed would oppose the bill. It was only after Binay expressed support for her answer that she questioned his genuine intention and capability to pass the bill assuming he won the elections, alluding to his cases of corruption. Former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, on the other hand, agreed with Poe’s point on the need for freedom of information.
Next up was Vice President Jejomar Binay. He was asked the following: Assuming his son, JunJun, gets charged for corruption, and assuming he wins the presidency, what would he do? Binay answered that he would follow the rule of law and punish his son if necessary. All that matters is that the course made a final decision, and that the punishment is not based on mere accusations. When Poe responded by implicitly bringing back his lack of cooperation on the rules of the debate, Binay accused her of being a fake Filipino who’s ashamed of her country. Poe rebutted this by saying that it is better to have worked diligently and honestly abroad, than to have stayed in the country only to steal money from the people. Referring to RA 9225, Poe defended the OFWs and defended her loyalty to the Philippines, while Binay continuously attacked her by quoting the oath she took when she swore herself into American citizenship.
After this was Mayor Duterte. He was asked how the government could maintain its commitment to the United Nations to lessen pollution by 2030 while maintaining coal plants for energy security. He admitted that, since the Philippines is a developing nation, it is not possible for this commitment to be upheld. Because of this, the UN should either pay or supply the country with alternate sources of energy, because the Philippines, being one of the smallest contributors of greenhouse gases in the world, should not have to shoulder the consequences when first world nations like China get to do so without sanctions. As a follow up, Roxas explained that, in order to achieve this goal, he would give incentives to providers of natural gas, geo[thermal], and hydro[electric] energy to lessen the energy mix, which is currently at 50% oil and coal. He would also bring back discussions on the EPIRA law, which aimed to provide affordable and reliable electric power. Poe also explained her initiatives towards drought-resistant crops, providing safety to the thirteen million residents in high-risk zones, and other plans to counteract climate change.
Due to Duterte’s lack of specific data in this segment, refer to this source for the carbon emissions of the Philippines and other countries.
The fourth question was addressed to former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas. He was asked to explain how his leadership, assuming he wins the presidency, would differ from that of current President Ninoy Aquino’s administration. As a response, he emphasized his plan to improve education, jobs, and spreading of funds to help even the barangays farthest from the capital. Although Poe questioned the effectiveness of the policy providing a menu of ways to spend the funds for the barangay members to choose from, Roxas argued that it was perfectly legitimate to do so to avoid improper spending. As a follow up, he said that he’d allow the members to add options should they see the need, as long as it goes through due process.
After this, the candidates were asked a second question; this was still part of the debate’s first round. Going back to Binay, he was asked how he would embark on massive infrastructure and public spending projects for the country given that one of his plans is to exempt citizens who earn Php 30,000 a month from paying taxes. To answer this, he explained that compensatory measures would still be in place, such as greater amount of spending due to reduced tax, and the three trillion pesos worth of savings due to government underspending. Duterte supported this by saying proper implementation in fighting corruption was necessary. As a follow-up, Poe accused officials of being biased when trying corrupt politicians in court, stating that important members such as Jun Abaya receive projects while lower members get tried. To close the segment, Roxas claimed that the Philippines has gone far in fighting corruption, according to international bodies like the World Economic Forum and the World Bank; although the process is imperfect, it is still successful more or less.
The next question was addressed to Roxas. He was asked why the government was acting very slowly on the Yolanda rehabilitation, given that the private sector has been acting voluntarily to provide for the victims. Roxas said that, by the end of 2015, Php 90 billion pesos was allocated for the rehab fund, and a portion of it, which was passed through DILG, has been sent to various areas to help them recover. When Binay mentioned the Php 7 billion pesos which has not yet been liquidated by DILG, Roxas accused him of using false data and asserted that 93% of the funds had been liquidated already by the end of 2015, using the COA as his source.
For more details regarding Yolanda rehab spending, refer to this link.
Afterwards, Duterte was asked to explain how he would eradicate crime in the Philippines within three to six months, given that during his two-decade term as mayor in Davao, Davao City had the highest crime record in 2010 and 2012. As a response, he simply said that he would do so by making the citizens do as he says; if not, “you’re dead.” A heated exchange between Roxas and Duterte followed, with Duterte accusing Roxas of being a useless politician because the police (which are under the DILG) have been ineffective at eradicating drugs, and with Roxas accusing Duterte of simply following what he thinks is correct, even if it may be wrong (i.e. “Duterte brand of justice). Roxas further asserted his ability to fight off criminality by stating that he helped in confiscating Php 700 billion worth of drugs during his term.
The next to be asked was Grace Poe. Given her involvement with private individuals (e.g. Danding Cojuangco), she was asked whether she was in favor of the government withdrawing Coco Levy assets, and if so, how would she balance the interest of 3.5 million coconut farmers and the private sector? She explained that the money was no longer with Cojuangco, but even so, her first responsibility is to her voters, and she would do her best to represent the farmers because they need representation. When Binay questioned where the money was now, she said it was the Supreme Court that decided what to do with the Php 70 billion meant for the Coco Levy fund; assuming it’s no longer, she said she’d use the underspent government savings to compensate for the loss. Duterte gave his thoughts by saying that, if there’s money to be returned, then it should simply be returned to the farmers who are still waiting for it.
That marked the end of the first round. In the second round, two candidates were pitted against each other, with one being allowed to ask a question to the other.
For the first exchange, it was Binay against Duterte. Binay did not ask any question and, instead, complimented Duterte for his competency. Duterte responded by saying that Binay is more qualified than he to be president of the country.
For the second exchange, it was Duterte against Poe. Duterte asked Poe how she would immediately react should there be news in the future of attacks on Philippine coast guards by Chinese ships. She said she’d resort to contacting the head of the AFP quickly, while resorting to the Visiting Forces Agreement because she believes that it’s necessary to use the support from other nations. She also asserted the importance of raising the budget for the AFP, and working with other ASEAN countries like Vietnam and Malaysia to constructively engage China in the arbitration case.
For the third exchange, Poe questioned Roxas’ credibility, using his shortcomings in the Yolanda rehabilitation and Zamboanga siege to explain why another suspended official, not he, was tasked to investigate the Mamasapano probe. Roxas defended himself by saying that the probe was kept secret from him, and also by asserting that due to his involvement in the rescue operations in Zamboanga, the casualties were kept at a minimum.
For the last exchange, Roxas asked Binay to give the truth regarding his corruption cases with the Ombudsman, Senate, and COA. He furthered this by saying that, for hospitals in Makati, Binay spent Php 1.5 million on sterilizers which cost only Php 16,000, and Php 8 million on ultrasound machines which only cost Php 1.3 million. When asked where the money went, Binay simply said he was willing to show his SALN, income tax returns, and other documents to prove he wasn’t corrupt.
Included in the debate was a segment called “Taas-Kamay,” wherein the candidates were asked a question, and they had to raise their hands if they agreed with the policy being proposed. For the first question, when asked whether they would support the legalization of divorce in the Philippines, no candidate raised their hand. Next, when asked whether they would legalize the death penalty in the Philippines, Poe and Duterte said they would, for heinous crimes and drugs respectively. Lastly, when asked whether they’d be willing to let former President Ferdinand Marcos be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Binay and Duterte said they were. No explanations were allowed to be given by the candidates.
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