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For 8 of 9 presidential bets in CNN PH debates, attendance in presidential debates a must

By NICK GARCIA Published Feb 28, 2022 6:20 am

Presidential candidates who attended the CNN Philippines' debates on Feb. 27, except for one, underscored the importance of going to debates.

Ernesto Abella, Leody de Guzman, Isko Moreno Domagoso, Norberto Gonzales, Ping Lacson, Faisal Mangondato, Jose Montemayor Jr., Manny Pacquiao, and Leni Robredo were all present, except Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

Marcos was in Pangasinan for his campaign rally with running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio, who also skipped the network's vice presidential debates.

"Side by side here on stage at the University of Santo Tomas are nine out of the 10 presidential candidates," said CNN Philippines' Pia Hontiveros, who co-hosted the debate with co-anchor Pinky Webb.

"Nagpapasalamat kami sa mga kandidato na nagpakita ngayong gabi," Webb added, as she asked everybody, "How important are presidential debates?"

All candidates answered in the affirmative, with Montemayor Jr. being the odd one out saying, "No, hindi mahalaga."

"Unang-una, hindi debate ito," he said, lamenting the time constraints in answering questions and rebutting rivals.

Attendees were only given 90 seconds to answer and 60 seconds to rebut.

It may be, well, a forum. But this is not the classic debate that we expect.

"Tama ang sinabi ni Sen. Lacson, walang time e. Iyong brain mo, nagfa-fire pa lang, titigil na kaagad," he said. "Iyong ganitong klaseng debate, tulad ng exchange namin ni Ka Leody, hindi namin masyado na-discuss iyong issue."

"It may be, well, a forum," Montemayor Jr. said. "But this is not the classic debate that we expect."

De Guzman alluded to Marcos Jr., saying "Dapat andito iyong isang kasama namin, bakit hindi pumunta dito," as the camera shifts to the empty podium where the late dictator's son and namesake should be standing.

Domagoso also likened viewers to a company's human resource officers who scrutinize them candidates as job applicants.

Gusto mo naman bang mag-hire ng empleyado na hindi mo nakausap? Hindi mo nakita, hindi mo nalaman kung ano ang karanasan...

"Gusto mo naman bang mag-hire ng empleyado na hindi mo nakausap?" Domagoso said. "Hindi mo nakita, hindi mo nalaman kung ano ang karanasan, ano ang magagawa para sa iyong kumpanya, metaphorically speaking?"

For Lacson, presidential debates are a level playing field where it's a fair game for everybody.

"Walang tutor, walang script," he said. "Pati cellphone, ipinagbawal niyo pa. So, walang makakapag-Google."

"Dito masusukat, maaarok iyong wisdom ng bawat isa sa amin, pati ang grasp sa issues," Lacson added, noting that, "Sana, lahat kami andito."

Iyong number one ingredient din...ay you show up in the most difficult times. Pag hindi ka mag-show up in the most difficult times, hindi ka leader.

For her part, Robredo said that presidential debates are opportunities to not only present platforms but show the public their demeanor and character as would-be leaders.

"Iyong number one ingredient din...ay you show up in the most difficult times," she said. "Pag hindi ka mag-show up in the most difficult times, hindi ka leader."

Kahit mahirap, kailangan andiyan ka," she went on. "Kailangan mo harapin iyong mga tatanungin tungkol sa iyo. Kailangan masagot mo iyong issues laban sa iyo. Hindi ka magtatago."

Later on in the three-hour program, when Hontiveros and Webb asked the candidates what made them change their mind to run for the presidency, Marcos Jr.'s absence was reiterated.

"This is the same question we would've wanted to ask Sen. Marcos, but, as well all know, he's not here tonight," Hontiveros said.

'Tiger is here'

Minutes before the presidential debates, UST's official student publication Varsitarian tweeted about the presence of a "tiger" in the event—a lifesize papier mâché of the striped animal in front the university's Main Building.

The tiger is UST's mascot, with its basketball team called the Growling Tigers. The "Tiger of the North," meanwhile, is a nickname given by some supporters of Marcos Jr., whose hometown is in Ilocos Norte.

"For those asking, the tiger is here, too. Not the “Tiger of the North,” former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, though," Varsitarian's tweet read. "He’s absent. He’s in Pangasinan as of Saturday for campaign purposes."

The tweet has over 3,000 likes and 2,000 retweets.

"Varsi throwing shade. I'm here for it," a user said.