Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
The first of three scheduled presidential debates took place in Cagayan de Oro City on Sunday and it was heartening to see all of the five presidential aspirants present and participating in their first chance to face each other since the campaign officially started to defend their records, bare their thoughts and clarify their platforms for the benefit of the Filipino public.
This leg of the PiliPinas 2016 Debates, the first ever presidential debate held in Mindanao, is organized by media outlets GMA 7, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and the Commission on Elections. Similar debates will be held in Luzon and the Visayas over the course of the 90-day campaign period.
According to Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, the debate was patterned after the CNN Republican debate. The 2-hour debate began with 60-second opening statements from the five candidates followed by three rounds of questions focusing on a specific issue where candidates were given 90 seconds to answer one question from the moderator and a designated candidate gets 60 seconds react. The first candidate was then given 30 seconds for a counter rebuttal.
Aside from all the presidential candidates thankfully being present at the debate, they faced most of the questions squarely and complied with the rules. Pundits have come up with varying opinions on which candidate gained the most from the debate but the clear winner that Sunday evening was the Filipino people who got to see how their candidates fared on the hot seat instead of the usual dumbed-down campaign fare of prepared speeches and song and dance routines.
The full participation of all the candidates got the presidential debates off to a great start. We hope that with constant pressure on them from social media and traditional media, the succeeding debates will be as well-attended and successful. Discerning Filipino voters would also appreciate it more if the candidates could be given more time to express themselves instead of the organizers allocating so much time on commercial breaks, and if the moderators could draw the attention to the candidates and the issues at hand, instead of their showbiz careers.
It is high time the voting public demanded more from candidates of national and local positions. Kudos goes to the Comelec and the media for organizing the PiliPinas 2016 Debates and we hope that this becomes a regular and constantly improving election fixture in this country.*