Jejomar Binay with the notes
and documents he brought to the debate
as Rodrigo Duterte looks on. STAR / KJ Rosales, pool
March 20, 2016 four Philippine presidential contenders had their second
debate in University of the Philippines' Cebu campus. The debate, which
should have started promptly at 5pm was delayed for well over an hour
because one of the contenders, Vice President Jejomar Binay insisted
that he be allowed to bring notes and documents with him to the podium.
When Binay finally
walked onstage, his campaign spokesperson, Cavite Governor Jonvic
Remulla explained to the audience that several days prior to the debate,
Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco reached out to debate moderator
Luchi Valdes to ask her if Binay could bring notes with him to the
debate. Without bothering to confirm with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC),
under whose auspices all 2016 presidential debates are run, Valdes told
Tiangco that yes, Binay could have notes and documents with him at the
debate. Remulla further stated that they also had emails from Valdes to
Binay than argued with
fellow candidate Mar Roxas who insisted that the rules set by COMELEC be
followed. According to Binay the debate was not under the auspices of
the COMELEC alone but was instead a joint undertaking with TV5—so Valdes
and TV5 should also have a say regarding the rules of the debate.
actions, and those of his campaign, exemplify everything that is wrong
with the Philippines today ... and why Binay should not become
First of all, the "no
notes" rule was a longstanding rule of the COMELEC and already in place
before even the first debate in Cagayan de Oro where Binay had no
problem abiding by it then.
Secondly, why reach
out to the debate moderator for a rule change or a rule clarification?
Shouldn't the Binay camp have gone directly to the COMELEC for that? The
fact that the Binay camp completely skipped the COMELEC and only asked
Valdes actually hints at a more devious motive for doing so. Maybe the Binay campaign had figured out that Valdes was not aware of that
particular rule and decided to capitalize that naïveté to obtain an
unfair advantage over the other debaters who had practiced and had shown
up for the debate without notes.
Thirdly, if the debate
was indeed, as Binay protested, a joint undertaking between COMELEC and
TV5, why only ask Valdes of TV5? A "joint undertaking" means you should
ask both parties to that undertaking.
Sadly, some Filipinos
have difficulty following rules. Even simple rules like the one we are
now discussing. People like Binay and his campaign team seem to be those
who look for ways to gain an unfair advantage over others. And in this
case they seem to have operated in an underhanded way. If Binay really
wanted to be allowed to bring notes and documents with him to the
debate, why did he not argue for it in public? Depending on the
persuasiveness and strength of his arguments, Binay could have gotten
the rule changed. The point is he and his team didn't go that route.
Instead, they simply looked for someone who wasn't authorized, to assent
to their request; and then vehemently insisted that they were given the
go-ahead to do what they wanted.
This stunt that Binay
and his campaign tried to pull does not bode for a Philippines that
might someday be ruled by people like them. It seems a bit too sly and a
bit too wily for someone who might end up in Malacañang. Of course there
are those who will argue that Malacañang has had far worse tenants in
the past. And we say "maybe so but that was then." Let's make sure that
going forward, the Philippine presidency is looked up to and respected.