PiliPinas debates offer Pinoys better ‘view’ of presidentiables
This refers to Randy David’s column titled “Presidential debates: to entertain or to educate?” (Opinion, 3/27/16).
In that column, David stated that the second round of the PiliPinas Debates 2016 in Cebu City was a “massive failure of the Comelec… to protect the dignity of the electoral process,’ due to the fact that it was more “entertainment” with the “cheap thrills of reality television” rather than a discourse of “reasoned argumentation.”
David also noted that the conduct of the presidential debate trivialized politics due to the candidates’ emphasis on impulsive, insulting and careless words against each other.
I disagree: The debate in fact raised the level of discourse by finally pitting the candidates against each other on various issues that rarely crop up during their individual campaign sorties and engagements, although it became entertaining in the process. For example, we finally came to know the positions of the presidential candidates on divorce, the reinstitution of the death penalty, tax reform and coco levy fund.
How the candidates communicate their positions and agenda is entirely up to them (within a certain time limit, of course). This goes to say that they also must listen to feedback from viewers like myself, David and countless others who want the answers to the debate questions to be more worthier and to be communicated in a better way.
To answer David’s question, I believe that the debate’s principal purpose is indeed both to educate and to entertain, since by allowing the candidates some leeway in defining and articulating the issues of their campaigns, they “keep things interesting.” Through the debates, the candidates themselves “educate” voters on the choices they have to make, and the process definitely does not have to be boring.
In a face-to-face debate, a candidate can establish a huge advantage over his or her opponents with one deftly delivered point—say, on a matter of policy—more effectively than maybe a hundred campaign sorties and dozens of predictable speeches. This opportunity is provided by the Comelec and its media partners for free in PiliPinas debates, and it is entirely up to the candidates how to best comport themselves before the merciless cameras.
If David feels he wasn’t satisfied with their answers and their manner of answering, he should direct his comments at the candidates.
We all recognize and agree that the platforms and policy manifestos of candidates are exactly what voters must know, even more than the candidates’ personality and mannerisms. But knowing how the medium of television works, one must understand that a candidate cannot be given hours on end to enumerate his or her programs of government. Still, I believe PiliPinas debates provide candidates a unique opportunity to tell millions of Filipinos that he or she has a better plan for the country, and that he or she is the better person who should take the presidential oath at Quirino Grandstand on June 30.
—PAOLO CELERIDAD, firstname.lastname@example.org
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