The five candidates for President in the May 2016 elections came out, sending daggers flying for the most part against each other in the first-ever presidential debate organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental province, in Northern Mindanao on Sunday.
Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd’s attack on Sen. Grace Poe’s lack of experience in government backfired on him when the senator said Roxas, despite serving three administrations, is being haunted by his apparent mismanagement of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), both of which he once headed.
Poe added that she never denied having a short experience in government service but she maintained that she has the skills needed to lead the country.
Roxas, in response to Poe’s statement, said the presidency is not an on-the- job training (OJT) because the future and the lives of more than 100 million Filipino are at stake, and that is why, he added, experience is a very important requirement of the presidency.
Poe, an independent presidential candidate, cited her experience as a teacher and although some candidates are belittling it, she reminded them that they will not be in their current position without the teachers who thought them the difference between right and wrong.
In her opening statement, she vowed to allocate 30 percent of the national budget to Mindanao, which, despite its agricultural richness, remains high on the poverty list.
Poe also vowed to push for free education, food security, better health care services, housing and respect of gender rights.
If elected as President, she will work for a transparent, inclusive and sustainable peace agreement in Mindanao.
According to the senator, a new peace agreement should not only be limited to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but it should also be forged with the Moro National Liberaton Front (MILF) and the indigenous groups.
She maintained that what the country needs is a leader with fresh perspectives to solve decade-old problems.
Roxas was at the receiving end of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s “failure” in handling the problems brought by Typhoon Yolanda to the country.
The typhoon, hit Visayas in central Philippines in November 2013 and displaced tens of thousands of people and left more than 7,000 dead or missing.
“Analysis-paralysis will not happen if I was in [Roxas’ place],” Binay said during Round 1 of the presidential debate.
The LP presidential candidate mentioned that he was unlike those who went by helicopter, “nag-turista [toured],” and then left the Yolanda-devastated areas.
“If [Roxas] was referring to me with that helicopter, that helicopter saw a lot. But he, where was he? After Leyte, he was nowhere to be seen. That is why those in Leyte were so angry at him because of his failure in handling the Yolanda problem,” Binay rebutted.
He said he will lead the country with his experience as a public servant.
Binay, who served Makati City (Metro Manila)–the Philippines’ business district–as mayor for 21 years, said he was able to make the city the richest in the country.
“I will serve the country with my wide experience, correct management and compassion for the nation,” he added.
He also vowed to modernize agriculture and to lift the irrigation fee imposed on farmers.
According to him, the country “should attract more investors so that we would have help with infrastructure requirements.”
He said he and Poe have the same stand on providing government assistance and subsidy to farmers, but added that high-yielding crops other than corn, rice and cocount should be planted.
Binay hit the current leadership for being “indecisive” in the fight against smuggling and illegal drugs.
The problem lies with enforcement of the law.
“What was done? Not [many smugglers and drug lords]were charged, and if someone is charged, nothing happens. Because, one more thing…our leadership is not decisive…I am decisive, we will not allow cases of illegal drug syndicates [to drag],” he said.
Roxas responded by saying there are two Makatis: that of the Ayalas and that of the Binays that remained poor.
“Laganap ang droga sa Makati [Illegal drugs proliferate in Makati,” he said.
Presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte warned during the debate that his presidency would be “bloody” as he would go after criminals.
Duterte did not deny killing criminals.
He, however, was quick to clarify that these killings were not extra-judicial killings because such were always in accordance with the law.
“Extraducial killings? Never happened. But killing [within the bounds of law], yes…,” Duterte said.
“If I become President, it will be bloody because I will order the killing of all criminals,” he added.
“I will use the military and police to go after the criminality that is flooding the country,” the mayor said.
He pushed for federalism to address the supposed budget disparity, depriving the countryside, especially Mindanao.
During the first presidential debate, Duterte criticized the Aquino administration’s concentration of infrastructure projects in Metro Manila.
According to him, 64 percent of infrastructure projects were given to Metro Manila while only 19 percent were given to Davao provinces.
He admitted that he had several girlfriends after he was legally separated from his first wife.
Also during the debate, the mayor denied reports that he was sued for acts of lasciviousness.
Duterte, whose marriage to Elizabeth Zimmerman has been annuled after she found out he was womanizing, also admitted that he currently has three girlfriends.
If elected President, he said, “I would get rid of criminality, drugs and corruption, just give me three to six months and I will do it for you. I will deliver.”
Duterte added that there is no way of realizing economic gains unless corruption is eradicated within the government.
Sen.Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who is still battling lung cancer, said she has all the rights to run for President.
She dismissed the fact that she only attended 12 plenary sessions since 2013 by saying she is not like the President who is surrounded by “halleluia” people.
Duterte debunked the health issue thrown against Santiago, saying she will live for 20 more years.
Santiago, in her introductio, said rich people continue to get richer and that people hear the same problems, and that the main problem is how people should have money in their pockets.
According to the senator, her fellow aspirants have made easy promises without telling the voters where they will get the funding to deliver on them.
She said budgetary priorities should be health, education, rural infrastructure and combined real estate and property taxes.
Santiago noted that political dynasty is illegal in the Constitution and everybody must follow.
She said she is against the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
Once she becomes President, according to Santiago, said she will stand for sovereignty of the Philippines free from control of any foreign nation.
Tye senator saidthe next President must have academic excellence, professional excellence and moral excellence.