VP bets renew rivalries in TV debate

Posted at 03/22/10 3:10 AM

Online chatter lights up social networks late Sunday night, hash tag #harapan 6th highest trending topic on Twitter worldwide at height of debate

MANILA, Philippines - Six candidates for the vice-presidency traded barbs and renewed old rivalries during a nationally televised debate at La Consolacion College in Manila Sunday evening.

Sunday's event, the first of its kind on ABS-CBN, was a far cry from previous debates as the six contenders pulled no punches against their rivals while hundreds of their supporters cheered.

A total of 6 candidates -- Jejomar Binay of the PDP-Laban, Bayani Fernando of Bagumbayan-Volunteers for a New Philippines, Loren Legarda of the Nationalist People's Coalition, Manuel 'Mar' Roxas III of the Liberal Party, Jay Sonza of Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, and Perfecto Yasay of Bangon Pilipinas - participated in the Harapan: The Vice-Presidential Debate, which was broadcast live on ABS-CBN Channel 2 and ABS-CBN News Channel.

Two candidates, Dominador 'Jun' Chipeco of Ang Kapatiran party and Lakas Kampi-CMD vice-presidential bet Edu Manzano, were not in the debate. (The first posting of this report said that Manzano was the only candidate who did not join the debate. Our apologies to Mr. Chipeco and Ang Kapatiran. -- Eds.) 

Manzano's absence drew scores of comments on social networks Facebook and Twitter as well as the Harapan online chatroom on http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/harapan.

A tweet on the Halalan live chat later said Manzano was in Pangasinan campaigning with Lakas-Kampi senatorial bet Raul Lambino.

Chipeco was not invited to the event organized by ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs.

The event was the first to use a Wireless Audience Response System (WARS), which allows audience members to decide if they believe the candidate's answers or not. WARS is a device wherein the audience members can press 2 buttons: one button means they believe the candidate gave a truthful answer; the other means they believe the candidate did not give a truthful answer.

Forty-five randomly selected citizens from Metro Manila, Cebu, Naga City and Davao were given access to the WARS devices.

Loren, Mar trade barbs

In one round of the debate, the top 2 vice-presidential candidates - Roxas and Legarda - were allowed to ask the other one question. (Read: Roxas, Legarda 'face off' on pro-poor stance)

Legarda chided Roxas for his history of shifting allegiances, noting that the LP senator worked as a trade secretary under the Estrada and Arroyo administrations before turning on President Arroyo while seeking the blessing of former president Joseph Estrada for his vice-presidential run.

In turn, Roxas said he never asked Estrada to resign even at the height of the president's impeachment trial in late 2000.

"Hindi ako nag-iiyak-iyakan sa Senado nung hindi natuloy yung impeachment ni Pangulong Erap. Hindi ko pinag-resign si Erap. Maayos kaming naghiwalay ng landas. Usapang lalaki, nagkaunawaan kami," he said.

He said he broke away from the Arroyo administration since he was convinced that President Arroyo was guilty of wrongdoing after the 2005 "Hello, Garci" wiretapping scandal. He added, however, that he remains proud of his accomplishments in the Department of Trade and Industry especially his success in passing the Cheaper Medicines Act.

For his part, Roxas asked Legarda why she chose to focus on climate change as a campaign platform when other, more pressing problems needed more attention. In response, Legarda said climate change remains a gut issue especially since the Philippines remains one of the top 10 countries in the world most at risk from it.

She added that the current El Niño phenomenon has also caused more than P8.8 billion damage in agriculture in the country.

Binay, BF renew rivalry

Binay and Fernando, meanwhile, seemed to renew old rivalries as the former Metro Manila Development Authority chairman asked the Makati mayor about the squatters in his city. (Read: Binay, BF clash over MMDA ‘human rights violations’)

Fernando said Binay failed to remove squatters in Makati City despite his family being in power in the country's financial district for more than 20 years.

In response, the Makati mayor said the former MMDA chairman should call the squatters the more politically correct term "informal settlers."

He said that as mayor, he had largely eliminated malnutrition in Makati while addressing the informal settler problem through relocation sites in Laguna and San Francisco del Monte.

He also took exception to Fernando's claim that many people in Makati were getting sick because of the city's government's failure to clean up its esteros. Fernando said he himself had to clean up Makati's esteros when he was still MMDA chief.

At one point, Binay turned to his crowd of supporters and asked: "Taga Makati, maniniwala ba kayo sa sinasabi ni Bayani (People of Makati, do you believe in what Bayani is saying)?" The question was answered with a resounding "No!"

Clearly nettled, Binay added: "Wow, Bayani, paki-dilat dilat mo ang mata mo. Puntahan mo kaya ang lugar namin. Anong estero ang pinagmamalaki mo? Wow, kami ang nagtrabaho diyan, Bayani. Pera namin ang ginastos namin. Naaawa naman ako sa iyo. Inggit na inggit ka sa aming kayamanan. Pero ang kayamanan namin ginagamit namin sa bayan."

On the other hand, Binay asked Fernando if he would support an investigation on President Arroyo on the various corruption scandals hounding her administration especially if he (Fernando) was elected vice-president.

Fernando said that if he is elected, he would not influence the investigation in any way but would leave it up to lawyers to see if Mrs. Arroyo was guilty of corruption.

"Ako ay hindi makikialam, pagkampi o paglaban, sapagkat meron naman tayong hustisya. Meron pamamaraan na kinakailangang daanan yan," he said, which was booed by some people.

Fernando, who is a known supporter of Mrs. Arroyo, said a president and vice-president cannot use their office to influence the judiciary. He also criticized Binay for failing to use his skills as a lawyer to prove that Arroyo was guilty of any wrongdoing.

"Hindi mo pa ba nagagawa yun? Antagal na niyan eh. Ikaw ay isang abogado. Tumayo ka na sa lahat ng entablado para banatan si presidente. E bakit hindi niyo pa nagawa lahat yan ngayon?" he asked.

Sonza, Yasay cordial

Sonza and Yasay, meanwhile, refused to back down from their more popular rivals, saying that they were just as equipped to lead the people as vice-president. (Read: Neophyte VP bets show they’re no pushovers)

Yasay, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission chairman under Estrada, downplayed pre-election survey results which showed him and Sonza ranking at the bottom of the vice-presidential race. He said he and his running mate, Bangon Pilipinas standard bearer Eddie Villanueva, would work for 6 years of corruption-free governance if they win the May 10 elections.

He also said he would focus on giving help to farmers to maximize their productivity.

For his part, Sonza said he decided to run even without a running mate since he could not stomach any hint of scandal from the previous KBL presidential candidate, Vetellano Acosta. The Commission on Elections earlier disqualified Acosta for being a nuisance candidate.

Asked if he would be willing to support any of the current presidential candidates, he said he would back a candidate who had "creative management skills" to handle the complex problems of the country.

"Dapat may Christian values, yung isinasabuhay...Kailangan natin ng brilliance ng leader kaya kailangan kilatisin natin silang lahat," he said.

Harapan lights up Twitter

While hundreds of people watched the debate live in Manila, thousands more were participating in the Harapan online chatroom as well as social networks such as Facebook, Multiply and Twitter even as the debate stretched up to dawn of Monday. (Read: #Harapan is 6th trending topic on Twitter)

At least 2,229 posts were put up by 897 confirmed guests on the Facebook Halalan event page while another 8,870 tweets using the hashtag #harapan were recorded during the event.

At the height of the debate, #harapan became the 6th highest trending topic on Twitter worldwide at 11 p.m., March 21.

The Halalan Multiply site was also viewed 326 times by 199 people while 63 comments were posted.

The Halalan chatroom drew a total of 4,373 readers who sent a total of 9,311 comments during the event. Of that number, 2,326 comments were published on the Halalan chat page.

Majority of readers on the chat page, meanwhile, voted Roxas as the most credible candidate in the debate, garnering 54% of the vote. He was  followed by Binay (13%), Fernando (13%), Yasay (11%), Legarda (4%) and Sonza (4%).

All 6 candidates were represented by official bloggers during the chat event. They were Jennifer Franco for Binay, Ramonchito Nocon for Fernando, Joy Belmonte for Rocas, Rex Gatchalian for Legarda, Marvin Marcelo for Sonza and Andrea Trinidad for Yasay.

After the event, many of the chatters expressed their thanks for the lively and entertaining debate.

One reader, besanti, posted on Twitter: "It's really good that we have debates now! Mabuting mamulat ang tao."

Reader pinoyfunds said: "Now I have new options for the VP post. Aside from Roxas, Yasay is IN. I included him as per tonight performance."

Ala_mariano at RT @iamsuperbianca said: "Both informative and funny! :p Congratulations to the whole #harapan team! :)"

Reader ed_uy at RT @dbusdriver said the Harapan debate "was action-packed. Loved Mar's schooling of Loren, street slugfest between Bayani and Binay, and substance from Sonza Yasay."

Paulpcortes, meanwhile, quipped: "We should have more of this. Stop voting on the basis of name recall but issues and integrity! Nice show ABS-CBN!"