There should be more 'Face to Face' type forums
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-10-13

The “Face to Face: 100 Local Government Champions vs. 4 presidential contenders” (Gilbert Teodoro, Chiz Escudero, Manny Villar and Noynoy Aquino) forum that aired over Cable Channel ANC last week proved to be very engaging and informative.

What made it work was that the questions came from a field of local government executives who know their subject matter and their concerns. Also, by limiting it to the administration presidential candidate plus three from the Opposition with really good chances of winning the 2010 elections, we were able to focus on the four candidates and thus have a better appreciation of the values they each will bring if elected president.

By putting the presidential candidate one at a time for an hour each, we got a good glimpse of their preferred policies, communications skills, overall personality, grasp of the issues and capacity for grace under fire. It is presumed that the presidential candidates did not know what the others answered as they were ushered into the AIM (Asian Institute of Management) Conference Room, the venue of the forum, one at a time.

All four presidential candidates came out unscathed from that forum. The voters who saw it were the big winners. There was really no outstanding performance by anyone to cause a perceived shift in voter allegiance. They all proved that they were knowledgeable and can be the 2010 president.

Likely, the Teodoro, Escudero, Villar and Aquino diehards would remain Teodoro, Escudero, Villar and Aquino diehards after having watched the ANC forum. Where the ANC forum could likely make a difference is among those who have not yet made up their minds and were leaning towards two or three of the four presidential candidates.

Administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro displayed a good grasp of details. His position on attaining lasting peace in Mindanao is sound. He acknowledged that the role of the military is to hold the territory so that peace can be cemented in the conflict areas. He also acknowledged that only human development, dialogue and confidence building can really create lasting peace.

Teodoro made a good pitch for Charter change but it is doubted if many people will go for it because of the deep distrust that this is being undertaken for personal political ends and not really for reform. It is in this issue where Chiz Escudero scored well as the Senator from Bicol stressed that the current Constitution was never given a chance to deliver its full potential. Chiz made a good point when he said that implementation of the law, not Charter change, is the solution.

Teodoro called the 1987 Constitution as too reactionary (to the Marcos dictatorship) and does not provide for the growth needs of the country because of too much emphasis on checks and balance. He claimed that the problems of the Marcos era are already behind us. That is of course highly debatable.

The present regime Teodoro serves is responsible for many autocratic acts, the likes of which we last saw during the Marcos era. Among the biggest violations of the principles of checks and balance by the present regime are the constant recycling of cabinet nominees who have been junked by the Commission on Appointments and the refusal of cabinet officials to attend adverse Senate and Congress hearings. What we need therefore is more reinforcement of the system of checks and balance.

Villar made a good account of himself but obviously public speaking is not in his comfort zone. On the question whether he will allow the local government units a greater revenue percentage allocation, Villar’s scored well by focusing on increasing the size of the pie instead of the percentage share of the pie.

Noynoy Aquino was a big revelation to many folks who have not really seen him in action. His relative obscurity compared to his presidential rivals plus the snide remarks of his detractors created the low expectation that worked greatly in his favor. A very high expectation can work against a candidate during a forum. Failure to live up to the high expectation could mean voter shift.

Noynoy stood up every time he answered a question — the only forum speaker to do so. This enhanced his image of being a respectful, deferring and humble person. He was also the most relaxed and even cracked some jokes — something that was sure to endear him further to people.

Noynoy was consistent with his core message of people empowerment as the real solution to our socio-economic problems. Only an empowered citizenry can make our democracy work and bridge the Wealth Gap.

On the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) issue, Noynoy was the only presidential candidate who made note of the foreign superpower agenda in Mindanao (which your Chair Wrecker had discussed in previous columns). More than the one-sidedness, the Philippines must see clearly through the geopolitical ramifications of the VFA as it could place the country as ground zero in the event of a US-China War.

It would be great if ANC can stage similar forums with housewives and mothers, youth and businessmen and professionals following the ‘Face to Face’ format.

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

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A great disservice to P-Noy

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