NEGRENSE leaders lauded their respective presidential candidates in the final debate before the May 9 elections aired live over ABS-CBN on Sunday, April 24, from the Phinma University of Pangasinan, Dagupan City.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senators Grace Poe and Miriam Santiago, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II are seeking the highest position in the country.
Topics discussed in the town hall presidential debate included aggression of China on the West Philippine Sea, traffic, labor contractualization, jobs for Overseas Filipino Workers, public health service in remote communities, and peace in Mindanao.
For Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., a staunch supporter of the Aquino administration, Roxas was “no doubt the clear winner and the most presidential,” citing the latter’s “excellent performance” in the debate.
“I cannot overemphasize the fact that Mar is the most decent when confronted with issues, very grounded with his answers, and provided substance when pointing out the successes of the current administration. And while saying that the country is now better placed under the ‘Daang Matuwid,’ he was also honest enough to admit that more needs to be done,” the governor added.
Marañon said the of the platform of governance Liberal Party standard bearer clearly indicated his readiness and capabilities to take lead as commander-in-chief and be able to sustain the Philippines’ standing as the “Bright Spot of Asia.”
The governor said that Roxas was also “impressive on how he handled the offensive questioning of Duterte.”
He added that the best of Roxas, including his character and good upbringing, were drawn out with the way he answered Santiago during the one-on-one segment.
Former governor Rafael Coscolluela agreed that Roxas bested the other candidates.
“Hands down winner is Mar. He came out the most knowledgeable, the most reassuring with his clarity of purpose and vision, the most inspiring, the most presidential,” he added.
He also said that Poe came out second followed by Duterte and Binay, adding that Santiago was not her old self and maybe under medication, so it was not fair to judge her.
Coscolluela, however, pointed out one issue that was not quite captured during the debate was health services, which is under local government units.
“Curative health care in hospitals falls under provinces and preventive health care is under cities, towns, and barangays. This is because of devolution, and there are questions about whether these services should be reintegrated and placed back in the hands of Department of Health,” he added.
Fourth District Representative Jeffrey Ferrer, also an ally of Roxas, said that the administration standard bearer has comprehensive plans on the economic and political situation of the country.
“He came well-prepared to discuss all issues under the sun. His explanation is based on actual facts and data. He is the president the country is waiting for,” he added.
Yves Akol, secretary-general of Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban)-Negros Island Region, said that he would not say who he thought won the debate as he may be suspected of being biased.
“I can only say that my candidate, the people’s candidate, has always been consistent and has always been talking from his heart. The other candidates sound like they are copying what he promised from the very start,” he said.
Akol pointed out that Duterte never changed or deviated from his stances since the beginning of his campaign, and has always been consistent.
Bacolod City Mayor Monico Puentevella thinks “nobody won” in the debate, adding that “nothing spectacular happened.”
“By now, the people have already made up their minds, even before the debate. The debate was merely a closing to this divisive election,” said Puentevella, who had earlier declared his support for Roxas.
The Bacolod mayor wished all the presidential candidates good luck as he said that their fate is now in the hands of the Filipino people.
Roxas, Robredo visit
Supporters of Roxas and Robredo assembled at the Capitol grounds in Bacolod City on Sunday, April 24 – two days before the administration tandem is scheduled to visit the province – and viewed the presidential debate together at the nearby Negros Occidental Multi-Purpose Activity Center.
The group, who call themselves “The Silent Majority,” wore yellow shirts as they showed force for the administration tandem.
On Tuesday April 26, Roxas and Robredo are scheduled to hold sorties in the cities of Kabankalan and La Carlota in the south, Cadiz in the north, and finally a grand rally in Bacolod.
Liberal Party provincial chairman Manuel Escalante said the group would make these sorties more successful than the last one where about 18,000 people joined the LP rallies in three cities in February.