Hi-tech, polite, dull and superficial


    IF what we saw and heard in the first presidential debate last Sunday (as hosted by GMA-7 in Cagayan de Oro city), is an indicator of the state of the presidential race, I would have to say that our country is in trouble. We’re not going to have the watershed election in May that we all hope for – watershed being a decisive break from the present morass of ineptitude and a harbinger of change. We won’t see a new president who will offer a transformational vision and program for the nation.

    From what I saw, none of the candidates is really prepared to confront head on the problems of the nation. Neither GMA network nor Inquirer was prepared to ask them the tough questions or to insist on answers.

    Neither wit nor humor
    There was a numbing predictability to the questions, and a dullness to the candidates’ responses.

    Oh, sure, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago was asked about the state of her health.

    Vice president Jejomar Binay was asked about political dynasties.

    Mayor Rody Duterte was asked about his women and kissing sprees.

    Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares was asked about her lack of experience, and told that there’s no on the job training (OJT) in the presidency.

    And former local government secretary Mar Roxas was asked about his performance in crisis like Yolanda.

    The two-hour debate emitted neither wit nor humor throughout, despite the presence of the usually irrepressible Senator Miriam.

    This was because none of the questions and none of the answers dealt with the issue of what each candidate would bring to the table in terms of vision, programs, policies, and solutions, if they are elected president.

    Throughout the debate, I never got the sense that any of the candidates has done a strategic audit of the problems facing the nation, let alone attempted to come up with a policy agenda to deal with them.

    Will this pass for vision?
    Tell me if any of this qualifies for vision in your book.

    Grace Poe declared that her first act in office will be to issue an executive order to pass the freedom of information act, as if passing laws would forthwith become the business of the presidency, and cease to be the duty of Congress.

    Mar Roxas talked candidly about being born to relative comfort, and about his family being secure from want or fear. He said he wants to see all families attain the same level of security, under his leadership.

    Jojo Binay talked about his long experience in solving problems and making decisions, and how in Makati, they successfully addressed the problems of poverty and inadequate social services. He seeks to replicate the local record on the national stage.

    Senator Santiago pledge herself to stamping out corruption, and to completely end the looting of the public treasury by government officials.

    Mayor Duterte declared that within six months of his presidency, he will remove drugs, corruption, and stamp out criminality in the country.

    Only-Filipino policy led to superficiality     
    I don ‘t know if I’m alone in thinking this, but I believe we would have gotten a better sense of the capability, eloquence and depth of the candidates if the organizers did not exile the English language from the conversation.

    The only–Filipino policy produced questions and answers that could not grasp the complexity and severity of the problems the country is facing today.

    The historian Horacio de la Costa once said that whenever we Filipinos have something complex to say, we turn to English. The complexity of problems and solutions was missing throughout the debate because the candidates were locked into facile Filipino formulations of the problems and solutions.

    Consequently, no one showed a serious grasp or understanding of the problems. No one cited the statistics that describe the nation we are today. And no one offered any memorable sound bites for us to take away.

    Technically first-rate, intellectually wanting
    The technical aspects and coverage of the debate were impressive. Patterned after the CNN debates in the US, the debate had three rounds, with each round focusing on a specific issue.

    TV, radio, internet were on hand to cover the event at the Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro. It was broadcast live over GMA-7 and Super Radyo dzBB. It was also live streamed on GMA News Online (www.gmanews.tv) and INQUIRER.net, two big news websites in the country.

    GMA-7 also allowed viewers to make their sentiments known through the Emoji Meter, which allows them to instantly react to what was happening during the debate.

    Internationally, the event was broadcast live in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, USA and Canada, and was aired delayed in the Asia Pacific region.

    These technical niceties aside, the debate was sorely lacking in depth and intellect. The moments of excitement were few and fleeting.

    There was one critical exchange between Roxas and Binay, when Roxas pointedly drew a contrast between the Makati of the Ayalas and the Makati of the Binays, He alleged widespread poverty and drug use in Binay’s side of the city. This jolted Binay momentarily.

    Binay made a comeback of sorts when he lambasted the administration’s policy of underspending as a key reason for underperformance and failures under Aquino.

    There is a little-known WB study that examined the main causes of the country’s underperformance in education, health, and transport. It found that, while spending efficiency is a problem in transport, shortfalls in the size of public spending is the key cause of underperformance in all these sectors.

    Poe made a startling promise, hoping to ingratiate herself with the Mindanao audience. She promised to devote 30 percent of the national budget to Mindanao if she becomes president.

    30 percent? She still has much to learn. She could lose more votes than she will get with this extravagant promise.

    A world-class event?
    At debate’s end, each candidate was given 60 seconds for their closing statements.

    It is a moment ripe for the taking by a prepared sound bite.

    But no one believes enough in his/her candidacy to eloquently plead for a minute why he/she should be vested with the majesty and powers of the presidency.

    Sensing a less than enthusiastic public verdict , Comelec chairman Andy Bautista tried to review the event himself.

    He declared: “It was a world-class event in substance and form.”

    World class?

    It was a mercy that the spectacle finally ended.



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    1. They should tackle most important things like electricity, the high prices of commodities, contractualization,medical care, education.

    2. The debate was lame because the debaters were lame. This presidential elections features probably the most lacklustre roster of candidates ever. Nobody markedly rises above the rest in terms of oratory and charisma. Substance is sorely lacking in all.

    3. Roxas is the most liar among the 5 aspirants claiming credits and denials to the teeth like his endorser. Vote for anyone except for MAR ROXAS!!

    4. ernie del rosario on

      Ads wasted from 7 to 12 minutes each interspersed among the 3 rounds. Close to 40% of the approx 130 minutes were spent in sickening ads. GMA earned a lot of money from the supposedly purely public interest program. Why did Comelec allow this ?

    5. Kaya kay Allan Carreon na tayo, Ambassador for Intergalactic!! He is the most sane of all the presidential candidates!!!

    6. The debate is a complete comedy nothing to add, Mike & jesica speaks more than the candidates, As far as binay is concern he was given a Golden chance to lambast ROXAS on yolanda but wow he missed it!!!!!

    7. Daniel B. Laurente on

      Those questions thrown at the Presidential aspirants are not all interesting at all because they are all redundant same with the responses. They were already uttered long time ago by them. It was not a world class debate. Barberos and clients debate are more exciting.

    8. Isn’t it the height of intellectual depravity to call such zarzuela a “debate”? Indeed, there was no presentation from each “candidate” of their respective prognosis of the country’s health so that they have their alternative solution – whether it will be the Western medical solution or the traditional (eg. acupuncture, organic, etc) approach. While I was expecting some sense from Jojo or even Miriam, their lackadaisical discussion of themselves nor their approaches to present problems leaves much to be desired from someone wanting to become the leader of this nation. I was hoping that all of them may have done some homework like hiring personality projection specialists or public speaking gurus so that they can become better speakers. Anyway, the basic question still remains: HOW WILL THEY RAISE THE REVENUES TO FUND THEIR PROMISES.

    9. Parang Battle of the Brainless with matching buzzer pa ! The candidates presented their solutions on the just concluded “debates” within 2 minutes every problems our country and people is facing, kung ganun bat pinatagal pa nila at kelangan pa maging presidente, in 2 mins alam pala nila solution?

    10. It was pathetic…. but more pathetic is a high govt official in the person of Comelec charman Bautista saying it is world-class.

    11. hope the next leg of debates will employ well-known political analysts to provide balance and depth to the discussion,together with the usual news anchors. otherwise, we will keep getting leading questions from the news anchors intended to spark angry exchanges between specific candidates. unfortunately, the format of the discussion was organized along the lines of a showbiz talk show.

    12. My criteria for choosing the next president….. exemplary academic excellence, wide knowledge of current events, solid background/concrete work experiences in government administration, well adopted to community service, incorruptible sense of decisiveness in coming up with decisions, strong leadership, COMPETENCE and doing his job RIGHT, completely hates NEPOTISM and CRONYISM and strictly adheres to the separation of powers of the, executive, legislative and judicial branches of government….. anyone who is lacking don’t deserve to be our president……ALL OR NOTHING….

    13. The debate was as exciting as watching an outdoor haircut…with the public’s interest clipped to boredom. All promises, no solutions , no substance. Dissapointing

    14. Sir,
      hopefully next time, more time will be alloted to all presidential/disable candidates.
      The pride of mindanao Mayor Digong Duterte as least make good diagnosed of our sickening and degenerating society.
      what we really wanted to see is like separating chicks to chickenhawks ay ganun din pala yun.
      Kidding aside, what we wanted to see and hear is not like courting voters but a firm conviction why we vote for him on the basis of what he believe are best for our fellow countrymen.
      Where he stand interest of the few or interest of the Filipino people?
      piecemeal presentation like sector by sector of addressing concerns led only to infirmities,misleading and incompetency.
      Why not explore our Constitution and let them wrest.

    15. Leodegardo Pruna on

      True! Not much really came out of the debate except the pabonggas of the candidates. Where oh where is the Philippines going? God save the Philippines. God bless the Philippines.

    16. Eduardo valdez on

      Next time I hope it won’t be at GMA where commercials are the regular show interrupted by shortt programs.

    17. Filipino voters are not interested in national issues nor presidential debates. The voters wanted to be entertained.They have no sense of national issues except those who are on the high income bracket. In the US, televised debates are broadcast at 9:00 PM. No one gets home in Manila by that hour. They are still waiting for the next LRT or MRT to arrive. Those who drive are still held up in traffic.The less educated and uninformed are swayed by their friends and the media who they will support.