presidential debate 2016_thenextpingdotcom

WELL, WHAT DID you think? Did things get any clearer for you? Are you closer to a choice? I know I’m not. I was hoping to be persuaded by one or more of the candidates, but after two hours, all I was was pretty bored. I’m sure that three of them are permanently off my list and that the other two have to convince me big time before I fill that oval for president.

Was it even really a presidential debate? There were moments when it seemed more like a slanging match or a coffee social or a beauty pageant question-and-answer than a debate.

I was disappointed when Mar Roxas opened with a series of jabs at his opponents instead of citing his eligibility for the post. (Immediately, I questioned his eligibility for the post.) This is also the first time I’ve ever seen a rebutter repeatedly refuse his option because he had “nothing to rebut.” Duterte should’ve just discussed his commonalities with Miriam over a cup o’ java, they were so chummy. Saddest of all, Mike Enriquez’s hosting style reduced it to a showbiz talk show when it should have been a sober step towards clarity for the Philippine electorate. Why was he so nervous, by the way?

Did you notice that the candidates didn’t make many distinctions among their platforms, and that their rebuttals were more character digs than probing inquiries? And did you see how some of them copped out of substantial questions by repeatedly pointing to their supposedly massive experience instead? Binay’s “I am a decisive leader” was the night’s one-note samba; Mar’s irritating invocation of the Tuwid na Daan was the bass line. Duterte and Miriam supplied rhythm, while poor Grace Poe was the wallflower at the dance.

Does this mean that yet again this contest will be decided on personality and not platforms? Do we have a field of candidates with essentially the same approach to our perennial problems, and are we merely choosing who among them is the most moral and capable to carry out that single solution? If he or she is not found, do we settle for second best, as before? I hope not. I am waiting to hear proposals that are creative and feasible, something new and different and addresses our needs where they press on us most. I am waiting for a leader with imagination to emerge and prove his or her viability. If I do not find that leader, I will abstain.

To be fair, if there were comprehensive platforms to present, who could understand them? The time allotments were too short for the candidates to lay out their points clearly. I had to admire Grace Poe’s deft elocution skills because she alone managed to shoot out issues like an automatic rifle. (Miriam came a close second.) I was disappointed, though, that instead of a meaty discussion on Mindanao problems, we got only a bunch of motherhood statements and rattled-off statistics that left me breathless and wanting more.

On these platitudes – sorry, platforms – however, I must agree with Miriam’s impatient question: HOW? How will the rice shortage be dealt with? How will agrarian reform finally be accomplished? How will the transportation and traffic problems be resolved? How will the government pay for all the wonderful programs these hopefuls are offering? How will things really get done?

This is what I and the rest of the nation are waiting to hear. It is all right to give us data and proposals to mitigate our burdens, but what steps will actually be taken and how much will they cost? And who will pay for them and, again, how?

This is what I want to know. This is what will make me vote.

Till the next debate. March 20 in Cebu, everyone. Keep posted. And please, pray.

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

– Psalm 1:1-2

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