By Ben Rosario
Even as Hugpong ng Pagbabago and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio showed interest in getting administration senatorial candidates to accept the challenge for a public debate, only a handful appeared receptive to the idea.
As of Thursday, only re-electionist Sen. JV Ejercito and former Secretary Rafael Alunan have accepted the debate invitation sent by television network ABS-CBN.
Ejercito, who represents the Nationalist Peoples Coalition, is one of the 13 senatorial hopeful endorsed by Duterte-Carpio’s Hugpong party.
On the other hand, Bagumbayan bet Alunan just earned President Rodrigo Duterte’s backing last Saturday.
Ejercito and Alunan will face little known senatorial bets in the ABS-CBN event.
Interviewed on the debate controversy, Duterte-Carpio denied she refused to accept the challenge of debate coming from the opposition Otso Diretso bets.
“Sige, mag-identify lang dapat ng organizer, dapat may third party na organizer sa debate,” she told reporters. (Yes, we have to identify an organizer; there should be a third party who will organize the debate.)
At the Pateros campaign sortie Thursday, the lady mayor chided the Otso-Diretso challengers for being ‘disorganized”, noting that they have heretofore failed to come up with debate rules.
Duterte-Carpio said she resents being ordered around by Otso Diretso, apparently referring to the Liberal Party-backed team’s advice that she must set the rules herself.
“May obsessive disorder na grupo na may fixation obsessions sa debate. Hindi naman kami ang nag-challenge, sila iyon,” she said. (This group has an obsessive disorder that has a fixed obsession in holding debate. We were not the ones who aired the challenge, it was them).
She added: “Sabi ko lang make it professional, they should present themselves to be senators, they act like senators.” (I said they should be professionals, present themselves to be senators and act like one)
Asked if she could guarantee the presence of the HNP bets last Tuesday, Duterte said the debate is a “personal choice” left to the candidate to decide.
“May mga candidates kasi kami na hindi talaga interested sa debate because they based their candidacy on track record for public service,” she explained. (There are candidate who are not interested to debate)
Ejercito, who has earned the moniker Mr. Public Health for his authorship of the newly-signed Universal Health Care Law, and Alunan were among the senatorial bets who were scheduled to appear at the ABS-CBN Senatorial Debate last Sunday.
Both begged off in order to join President Duterte in a big campaign rally in Cebu City scheduled the same day.
The names of former Senate President Koko Pimentel, PNP chief Ronaldo “Bato” de la Rosa, Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu and former Sen. Serge Osmeña in the original list of participants at the ABS_CBN event but likewise have to beg off.
ABS-CBN, Manila Bulletin’s media partner for the 2019 midterm polls, has scheduled four weekly public debates that started on February 17 in order to allow all 62 candidates to air their views on various national issues.
The public discourse has been assured wide multi-media coverage, including print and online platforms of the Manila Bulletin.
While all Otso Diretso senatorial candidates were able to show up, only former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino and broadcast journalist Jiggy Manicad attended for the administration slate.
Among the Otso Diretso bets who participated in the past two weeks of the ABS-CBN debates were re-electionist Sen. Bam Aquino, lawyers Florin Hilbay, Chel Diokno and Romulo Macalintal; former Quezon Rep. Erin Tanada and former Sen. Mar Roxas. Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano and human rights advocate Samira Gutoc.
Others who have already appeared as guest panelists in the TV show were lawyer Larry Gadon of Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, former Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong, Dr. Willy Ong, former Pagsanjan Mayor Abner Afuang, Makabayan bet and human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares, Agnes Escudero, and Conrado “Ding” Generoso. #MatalinongBoto2019