Militant Groups: Presidential Debate Lacks Substance

February 23, 2016

MANILA, Philippines – Three militant groups yesterday said the first presidential debate on Sunday fell short of a lot of people’s expectations because the candidates failed to deeply discuss their visions, programs, and platforms.

In a statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the debate focused more on “image building and personality politics.”

“No one among the five presidentiables gave a substantial discussion of their political and socio-economic platforms,” KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano said.

“The country’s centuries-old social problems can’t be solved by mere elevator pitches,” he added.

Mariano said the 2016 frontrunners did not tackle the need for genuine land reform that will address the landlessness of farmers.

“The presidential wannabes cited the need for free irrigation, crop insurance, rural infrastructure, and social welfare, but totally missed the point that without land reform and land distribution, the national economy will not genuinely prosper,” he said.

“Genuine solutions to poverty and unequal distribution of the country’s wealth will not be realized as long as land monopoly exists and the country’s resources are in the control and ownership of the few,” he added.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said most of the candidates resorted to “motherhood statements” that resemble to a campaign television ad.

“Rather than educating voters on the problems faced by the people and the solutions to these problems, most of the candidates made general promises and remarks,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

Reyes said it appeared that most candidates had similar general agenda because there was hardly any rebuttal on programs.

He said the only time the candidates showed willingness to engage in the debate was when it came to criticizing each other’s track records.

“For example, all candidates promised better services and increased subsidy for farmers but none of them touched on actual land distribution or land reform,” Reyes said.

“It’s as if the problems of landlessness and land monopoly have been resolved and all that is needed are capital and services for the farmers,” he added.

The Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), on the other hand, said the next debate should be more meaningful.

“Instead of banking on dubious past achievements, what many Filipinos want to hear are their concrete stances and programs on wage increase, housing, social services, urban and rural development and disaster preparedness,” said Kadamay chairperson Gloria Arellano.

Dubbed as “PiliPinas Debates 2016,” Sunday’s debate was first in a series of debates organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in partnership with major television networks and newspapers.

It was held at Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo suggested to make the next series of debates commercial-free.

Castelo said too much ads distract the audience.

“Let’s try to remove the commercials to enrich the public during these important political exercises,” the lawmaker said.

“The public would benefit greatly if future presidential debates are devoid of commercial interest,” he added.

According to Castelo, the excessive commercials in the debate during its airing over a major television network annoyed the audience as they longed for more explanations from the candidates.

“We have to enhance the process to come out with intelligent choices,” he said.

“Those commercials should never be part of the process,” he added.

The next debates will be held in Visayas next month and Luzon in April.


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