Vice presidential candidates: Cayetano, Escudero, Honasan,
Marcos, Robredo, Trillanes. Photo: collection of screen-grabs from the
The CNN vice
presidential debate held at the University of Santo Tomas campus in
Manila on April 10, gave Filipino voters the chance to see and hear the
top six contenders side be side, answering questions and interacting
with one another for well over an hour. Like the millions of Filipinos
who watched the debate on television or streamed it from the internet,
we were able to form our own fairly distinct opinions about each
Senator Alan Peter
By far Cayetano was the most articulate. His responses were usually
sharp and to-the-point. His readiness to call out all who have wronged
the country, like Vice President Jejomar Binay, the Marcoses, former
President Gloria Arroyo, Janet Napoles, even the president, shows the
firmness of his convictions. Cayetano in our opinion would certainly
make a good vice president ... maybe even president.
His party's push for
the establishment of a federal form of government however creates a lot
of questions and complexities that will most likely hobble a
Duterte-Cayetano administration, should they win. Fighting crime,
eliminating corruption, and stimulating the economy are already huge
tasks by themselves. Things will get significantly more complicated when
you throw in a constitutional convention to revise the country's
constitution to allow for the creation of a federalist form of
government. Six years seems way too short a span of time to accomplish
all those goals.
Escudero talks in a strange, funny way. He reminds us a bit of GMA-TV
news anchor Mike Enriquez who speaks in a contrived unnatural accent,
similar to the way American announcers spoke in the old newsreels
created during the first half of the twentieth century. Escudero may
fancy himself as a modern-day Balagtas. Unfortunately, we sometimes
couldn't get past the accent and found ourselves paying little attention
to what he was actually saying.
What we found telling
however was Escudero's answer to the question by CNN International
correspondent Kristie Lu Stout as to how the Philippine-American
alliance should evolve. Escudero immediately launched into accusations
that Filipinos are looked down upon as "little brown brothers" by
Americans. According to him they belittle the Philippines simply because
America is a bigger and richer country. At best, Escudero exhibits signs
of an inferiority complex that could hobble Philippine-American
relations should he be elected vice president.
Honasan appears to be the closest thing to former Alaska Governor Sarah
Palin in Philippine politics. Like Palin, he speaks in short disjointed
sentences that a listener has to first deconstruct in order to get what
he is trying to say. Honasan's long career in politics is his primary
selling point in his bid for the vice presidency.
For Honasan, the
pinnacle of his popularity was the minor role he played during the EDSA
revolution. Everything else has been downhill since then.
One thing we can give Marcos is that he does not rattle easily. Despite
a group of hecklers in the audience chanting "Never again to Martial
Law," not to mention ceaseless attacks from his co-debaters, Marcos
managed to keep his composure and even dish-out a few attacks of his
What is extremely
troubling in our view is the seeming "separate reality" that Marcos
lives in. Despite the mountain of evidence that details the crimes, the
abuses and the plunder that went on during his father's martial law
regime, Marcos steadfastly refuses to apologize or even acknowledge any
wrongdoing by his family. Put in a position of power, it is almost a
certainty that Marcos will move Heaven and Earth to exonerate the crimes
of his parents. We are reminded of the saying: "fool me once, shame on
you. Fool me twice, shame on me. As far as we're concerned only an
indescribably idiotic electorate would elect an unrepentant Marcos to an
office that is a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Like Cayetano, Robredo was also one of our favorites. She was articulate
and despite being a neophyte legislator, she appeared to have an good
grasp of the various issues facing the country. When asked by CNN's Ivan
Watson how her future administration would deal with China and the
competing claims to the Spratlys? Robredo's answer was spot-on. She
agreed with taking the matter to the United Nations for arbitration.
While waiting for tribunal's decision she would modernize the military
to be able to better stand up to China. She wanted the Philippines to
take a leadership role by forming strategic alliances with neighbors
like Indonesia and Vietnam, against China. Last but not least, Robredo
would deal with China only in multi-lateral negotiations; never
Robredo also showed
she had no problem going head-to-head with her more boisterous male
rivals despite her somewhat soft-spoken nature.
while this debate was far better than the last presidential debate
moderated by Luchi Cruz-Valdez, this debate's moderators Pia Hontiveros
and Pinky Webb still left much to be desired. We thought Hontiveros'
side comments were mostly shallow and unprofessional. She would have
done much better if she kept those comments to herself. Also, the
questioning of candidates appeared sloppy and not well thought out. For
example, Ivan Watson's very important foreign policy question regarding
China and the Spratlys was only directed at Robredo and Trillanes. What
about the others? We would have wanted to hear what Cayetano, Escudero,
Marcos, and Honasan also had to say on this very vital subject. Poor
planning and mediocre moderators sadly, destroyed it for us. Is this the
best "PILIPINAS DEBATES" can do? Surely, we can do better.
We thought Trillanes had a good debate as well. For us Trillanes came in
third behind Cayetano and Robredo. He's honest, trustworthy, straight as
an arrow, very tough on corruption ... and appears to hate Binay with a
passion. Unfortunately, running as an independent without a running-mate
or party apparatus Trillanes has little chance of winning the vice
presidency. He's relying on the Magdalo group to bolster his chances of
winning. Trillanes' term as senator ends in 2019 so win or loose, he
remains a high-ranking public servant for the next three years.