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‘Presidentiables’ face off

Barbs exchanged in 1st round of debates

By ISABEL C. DE LEON, BEN R. ROSARIO, HANNAH L. TORREGOZA, JONATHAN SANTES, and ANNA LIZA VILLAS-ALAVAREN

 

With poverty at the center of all their campaigns, the five presidential candidates faced off yesterday afternoon in Cagayan de Oro City, in a debate that was alternately funny and heated.

The first presidential debate, under the Commission on Elections (Comelec) “PiliPinas” campaign, sponsored by GMA-7 and the Philippine Daily Inquirer in Cagayan de Oro City, saw on stage for the first time the five contenders for the presidency in the May 9, 2016 national elections – Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares, and former Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas III.

ROUND 1 — All five presidential candidates (from left in screen grab) Vice Mayor Jejomar C. Binay, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares, and former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas  are watched by Filipino televiewers as they face off in the first of three Comelec-sponsored presidential debates in Cagayan de Oro City, yesterday. (Richard Viñas, Ali Vicoy, and Manny Llanes)

ROUND 1 — All five presidential candidates (from left in screen grab) Vice Mayor Jejomar C. Binay, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares, and former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas are watched by Filipino televiewers as they face off in the first of three Comelec-sponsored presidential debates in Cagayan de Oro City, yesterday. (Richard Viñas, Ali Vicoy, and Manny Llanes)

The debate, moderated by TV anchors Mike Enriquez and Jessica Soho, started off with opening statements from the five candidates – most of which focused on the problem of poverty in the country, except for Roxas’ who clearly offered himself as a better alternative to the four other contenders.12123

Binay said: “Poverty remains our biggest problem,” and describing himself as man raised and born to poverty, he vowed to focus his leadership on poverty alleviation.

Santiago described the country as “rich in natural resources, people resources, but year after year, we remain as one of the poorest countries. Why are we so poor? Because everybody wants the money of the government in his pocket. There should be a sense of shared destiny.”

Duterte, for his part, blamed criminality, the flooding of illegal drugs into the country, and corruption as the reasons why lifting people out of poverty remains unattainable. “There is so much corruption in government. Give me three to six months and I will get rid of criminality, drugs and corruption and deliver economic growth.”

Poe devoted her opening statement to espousing development for Mindanao, promising 30 percent of the national budget to development efforts in the region.

Poe lamented that after all the years, the previous administrations have failed to address Mindanao’s needs.

“Pinopropose namin, 30% ng aming budget at mapupunta dito sa Mindanao para sa agarang solusyon ng development,” she said.121234

Binay’s estate

During the first round of the debate, Binay was asked about his real estate acquisitions, to which he replied that most of these he inherited both from his mother and father and bought by himself and his children.

Santiago, asked to rebut this, called Binay “vice mayor” and said all government officials should bare his/her assets.

“I have never said that all my properties were inherited. Some of those, I bought, we are capable of also buying them,” as he explained how he amassed his wealth.

The UNA standard-bearer also denied owning lots of properties, some of them were from his mother and father.

“I have practiced law while my wife is a doctor,” he said.

Binay noted that he even bought some of his properties before being a public servant in 1986.

Miriam’s health

Asked about her medical condition and her absence in the Senate from the year 2013 when she filed for a medical leave for chronic fatigue syndrome, Santiago replied: “Ang sakit tumataas, bumaba. There is no constitutional provision that prohibits anyone who is sick not to run for office. Hindi nga ako pinatay ng guardian angel ko eh.” (Sickness comes and goes. My guardian angel did not even see it fit for me to die.)

She added that she wants to serve out the rest of her life in public service rather than in a sickbed. “I feel sorry for my country because corruption has become endemic.”

Duterte, provided comic relief when he said: “I do not see Sen. Santiago passing away in the next 20 years.”

Duterte had referred to himself and Santiago as the “two most qualified to run this country as president.” Both Duterte and Santiago are lawyers.

Santiago seemed to return the favor when she said that many leaders have been outspoken in fighting corruption but it seemed only Duterte who has a record of combating it.

Duterte and women

He again gave witty replies when asked about his penchant for cursing and the alleged acts of lasciviousness that he committed. “Most of it are not true. Criminals, I will go after them. When I become president, it will be bloody.” On his reported girlfriends, Duterte said: ‘Hiwalay ka sa asawa, ano gagawin mo? It’s biology.” (I am separated from my wife so what do I do?)

Poe praised Duterte for being respectful to his mother and batted for respect for people of all genders.

Poe for respect

Poe vowed that under her administration, the government will respect and fight for the rights of women, men and even members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Poe said this in response to Duterte, who was asked about his being a womanizer but defended his actions saying he is a single person and having been separated from his wife.

The tough talking mayor also defended his tendencies to cuss, making him a bad example for the youth. Duterte said it all boils down to “biology.”

“The mayor has a strong appeal, he is irresistible to most women. But I know he loves his mother, so I can only ask him to restrain his acts a little bit,” Poe said. “Because as the saying goes, a child believes something is right if it is being done by an adult,” she said.

“Both of us are not perfect, but I will always push for respect whether you are a woman, a man or a member of the LGBT. All of us should have a little respect for each of us,” Poe said.

Roxas bites

Roxas and Poe engaged in a heated exchange of veiled accusations on the question that Poe, being the newbie, has the least experience in governance.

“I don’t deny it. I am the newbie but there is no truth to the yarn that the longer you are in government, that makes you a better leader,” Poe said, and mentioned Roxas’ stints in the Transportation and Interior and Local Government departments as not enough to address the problems plaguing the country’s public transportation system.

Roxas, however, was undeterred and took a jibe at Poe by saying: “Ang pagiging pangulo ay hindi OJT (on the job training). It’s not a joke. There’s a right time for everything. Experience is still the best teacher.”

Poe was quick to react: “Alam ko naman kung binobola ako o hindi.” (I know when I am being taken for a ride.)

She reiterated her belief a long public service portfolio should not be the requisite for running for president but the quality of ones service in government.

Poe also rejected attempts by her rival to downplay her anti-poverty programs saying she believes there is hope for the country to address the needs of about 2.5 million Filipinos who go hungry.

Poe said the country needs a leader who has fresh perspectives to cure hunger prevalent among the poorest sectors of society.

  • Danny Bliss

    Proud of how Senator Grace Poe is rising above it all! This is just the beginning, and you can expect that your supporters will be with you through it all! You’re an inspiration to millions of Filipinos all over the world, Senator Grace Poe! #tuloyanglabanGP

  • Joan Serrano

    ganito ang tama talaga, madami ang makikinabang at aasenso. galing mo mayor Duterte at sen alan! bilib talaga ako sayo.

  • Joan Serrano

    ganito ang tama talaga, madami ang makikinabang at aasenso. galing mo mayor Duterte at sen alan! bilib talaga ako sayo.

  • Joan Serrano

    ganito ang tama talaga, madami ang makikinabang at aasenso. galing mo mayor Duterte at sen alan! bilib talaga ako sayo.

  • Joan Serrano

    ganito ang tama talaga, madami ang makikinabang at aasenso. galing mo mayor Duterte at sen alan! bilib talaga ako sayo.

  • Joan Serrano

    ganito ang tama talaga, madami ang makikinabang at aasenso. galing mo mayor Duterte at sen alan! bilib talaga ako sayo.

  • Joan Serrano

    ganito ang tama talaga, madami ang makikinabang at aasenso. galing mo mayor Duterte at sen alan! bilib talaga ako sayo.

    • Naldo

      Patay na Joan Serran

  • Joan Serrano

    ganito ang tama talaga, madami ang makikinabang at aasenso. galing mo mayor Duterte at sen alan! bilib talaga ako sayo.

  • Camille Reyes

    dahil dito mas aangat ang kalidad ng pamumuhay ng mga mamamayan dito sa bansa. ayos talaga kayo kuya alan at mayor duterte