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Jejomar Binay's Glaringly Unpresidential Performance Before the 2nd Debate

Jejomar Binay with the notes and documents he brought to the debate
as Rodrigo Duterte looks on. STAR / KJ Rosales, pool

n 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 that effect.

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.

Sadly, Binay's actions, and those of his campaign, exemplify everything that is wrong with the Philippines today ... and why Binay should not become president.

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. Published 3/25/2016

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