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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Highlights from the CNN Philippines’s 2022 Vice-Presidential Debate

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Saturday night’s vice-presidential debate organized by CNN Philippines and held at the University of Santo Tomas featured fiery moments between the candidates as they dug up on their past records and statements. Absent the frontrunner, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, and Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s running mate, Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza, the two-hour debate nearly descended into an ugly melee among the seven gentlemen had the microphones not been turned off.

Here are consequential highlights from the debates that revealed the character, understanding of the issues and competence of the candidates.

Platforms of the Least Recognizable

Vice presidential candidate Rizalito David. (Screenshot)

The CNN Philippines vice-presidential debate offered the least-recognizable candidates a major platform to lay down their vision for the country.

Rizalito David of the Democratic Party of the Philippines lamented the public’s lack of morality and its cynicism towards institutions, opting to head a moral renewal and cultural commission to restore the Filipinos’ appreciation to government and culture. Morality has been at the core of David’s platforms, telling in an interview with The Manila Times, “We need to address the immorality in society, the normative behavior, the guide to normative behavior is gone. We have to restore it and that is my reason for running.”

Manny SD. Lopez, the lone vice-presidential candidate without a running mate, who is an economist and management professional, his comprehensive three-pronged economic agenda would be the key to recover from the ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic, which includes a new omnibus investment code and a legal framework to assist micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

And Carlos Serapio, the running mate of Faisal Mangondato, touted his transitional government that would unshackle the country from the consequences of an “incompetent” system. “Kung ano mang subsystem or sectoral reform ang gawin, di po maaayos yan. Ang pinakasagot talaga rito ay total system change po. Kinakailangang tumawid tayo from the old political system to a new one,” he said.

Willie Ong’s Lectures

Vice presidential candidate Dr. Willie Ong. (Screenshot)

On two occasions, cardiologist Dr. Willie Ong, the running mate of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno whose tandem was dipped in controversy last week, tied medical terminologies to major social issues.

On the issue of drug war, Ong said a public health approach must be utilized over criminal justice to address addiction problems, which can already be treated nowadays.

“Ang addiction po kasi, may problema po sa pre-frontal cortex – dito sa harap [ng utak] natin – naaadik talaga ‘yung tao. Kung ‘di siya naaadik sa shabu, mag-nubain siya o mag-cup syrup siya. So, mga 98% ang users, 2% ang pushers. So, kailangan fofocus natin science based. Kailangan bawasan ang stigma sa mga gumagamit. Paparamihin natin ang libreng gamot – may gamot na kasi pang-solve o pang-cure sa mga nagiging drug addict eh. Di pwede ‘yung ikukuong tas pagbalik magiging adik ulit,” he said.

And on the issue of education, he vowed to address malnourishment and mental health issues pervading students nowadays as the resumption of face-to-face classes has yet to be resumed at a wide-scale level.

“Nakakalungkot talaga po ‘yung mga datos na mga bata natin 33% malnourished o stunted – maliit ‘yung height. Dati, ang data, 50% may bulate sa tiyan. Paano mag-aaral kung anemic? 10,000 na bata namamatay bawat taon sa diarrhea o maruming tubig, walang pang-ospital,” he said.

“Mental health, linya ko po ‘yan. Talagang tututukan ko ‘yan kasi walang libre dito sa Pilipinas. Mahal pag nagkasakit sa depression, bipolar at iba pa,” he added.

Pangilinan and Sotto’s Senate Records

Vice presidential candidate Sen. Kiko Pangilinan. (Screenshot)

For much of the debate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan touted their records in public service.

Sotto, who started his political career by winning the vice-mayoralty race in Quezon City in 1988, offered his consensus-building skills when asked of his readiness to assume the presidency if an emergency happens.

“I have built consensus with 23 republics as president of the Senate for almost 4 years. We believe in our competence, experience. And I think we will be guided, well not only by the good Lord, but of course the experience we built within 30 years,” he said.

Sotto reminded the public of the major legislation he shepherded in the Senate, such as the Dangerous Drug Acts of 2002 and the Bayanihan I and II that aided the general public during the pandemic’s onslaught.

For his part, Pangilinan branded his leadership as one that is not tainted by corruption, citing his stint as the chairman of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization from May 2014 to September 2015.

“Noong tayo ay chairman ng NFA (National Food Authority) board, for the first time in 42 years, nag-reject ng bid ang NFA dahil masyadong mataas. In fact, 4 na beses tayong nag-reject ng bid. ‘Di daw nangyari yan sa 42 taon ng NFA. Bakit nag-reject? Kasi mataas. Bakit mataas? Dahil merong sinisingit na tongpats (kickback). At sa 4 nating pag-reject, napababa nila ang presyo ng Thailand at Vietnam ng kanilang ino-offer na bigas. At nakatipid tayo ng 7 billion pesos dahil dito,” he said.

Bello vs. Sotto, Pangilinan, Duterte, Marcos

Vice presidential candidates Prof. Walden Bello and Senate President Tito Sotto, in a confrontational split-screen moment. (Screenshot)

The most contentious – and, for some, entertaining – highlight of the debate was the scuffles initiated by Partido Lakas ng Masa vice-presidential bet, Prof. Walden Bello.

He did not mince words in his criticisms of Sotto, Pangilinan, Duterte-Carpio and presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Because of this, the hosts, Rico Hizon and Ruth Cabal, had to remind candidates to follow the rules agreed upon by all camps before the debates.

Bello questioned why Sotto and Pangilinan voted for the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act that lowered corporate tax; hit Sotto for ‘rewriting history’ on issues like the West Philippine Sea and Duterte’s drug war, claiming he was “not independent” of the president, contrary to his stance that he preserved the Senate’s independence; and probed the Pangilinan-Robredo’s foreign policy.

The professor quizzed the two senators on-stage about the laws they passed that, in his view, are contrary to the platforms they present.

But his hottest zingers were reserved for Duterte-Carpio and Marcos Jr., whom he relentlessly described as ‘idiots.’

“The main problem we face is the Marcos-Duterte tandem. And I think they just spat on the face of Filipino people telling them, ‘you’re not worth giving my programs.’ They have no f*cking programs. So let me just end with that. I don’t care what others say but I feel strongly for the absence of these two idiots in this event,” he vigorously said.

Bello added that the Marcos and Duterte dynasties represent the “greatest evil of the political system.”

“It is very important for our people if you really want to oppose political dynasties – the South and the Nouth daw will get together to eat up the Philippines. The task is up to the voters. Do not elect these dynastic cliques coming to power. Make sure that you tell them that you are not going to come to power just to eat up the Philippines between the two of you,” he said.

“I am really terribly sorry that Mayor Duterte is not here to face the people. She is a coward just like Bongbong Marcos. He is a f*cking coward,” he added.

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