CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 21 Feb) – Too much commercial ads and few vague questions on Mindanao.
This was how Cagayan de Oro residents summed up the “PILIPinas Debates 2016” , the start of a series of presidential debates that would help voters select the next President of the Republic.
NGO worker Dodong Borja said the debate fell flat to his expectation that it would help him discern who among the presidential candidates have a grasp of Mindanao’s problems.
“It had too much TV commercials taking half of the debate time instead for candidates to answer the questions, “ Rhona Canoy, principal of the International School in Cagayan de Oro said.
Canoy said there was only one question on the Bangsamoro Basic Law which only one presidential candidate was made to answer.
She said an important question like BBL should be given to all candidates to answer so the voters will know whether the next administration will continue or not the peace process in Mindanao.
Jobags Bagabuyo, a resident, said the peace process involving the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the New People’s Army is an important issue for Mindanao because it has become a lynchpin to its development.
“Sayang, they have a very lackluster performance because they were given short time. The ads should have been limited to allow the candidates more time to explain their answers,” Bagabuyo said.
Borja said even the candidates’ answer to the question about development are vague—evident that many of them are not aware of the problems in Mindanao.
He said other issues like the Lumad killings, agriculture, mining and environment that beset Mindanao were not even asked.
“I wondered how the organizers came up with the questions. It is like they do not have a good script writer,” former Cagayan de Oro councilor Birchman Abejuela said.
Philippine Daily Inquirer’s John Nery said they conducted several “town hall meetings” across Mindanao to be able to get the questions that would be raised during the debates.
Iryn Salcedo, a nurse at the J.R. Borja Hospital, said she was disappointed that the candidates could not offer a solution to the image of a river with no bridge in Zamboanga del Norte.
She said it meant that the candidates have little grasp of Mindanao’s woes.
“They only offer motherhood statements. They did not offer solutions,” Salcedo said.
Another NGO worker, Mark Brazil, said he wanted the candidates to offer solutions or offer action plans for Mindanao development.
“We already have enough promises. We need action plans,” Brazil said.
Media workers from Cagayan de Oro who have chosen to cover the debates despite the restrictions came out complaining.
Bobby Lagsa, Cagayan de Oro stringer for Rappler, said not all in their team were allowed inside the debate venue.
Lagsa said GMA 7 allegedly objected to the entry of Bea Cupin, his colleague at Rappler, reasoning that she came from their main office in Manila.
He said the Cagayan de Oro Press Club had “adopted” Cupin and gave her one of the 13 slots assigned by GMA7.
Rowena Fernandez of the UNTV also complained at the reception in the media center where journalists were supposed to cover the debates.
“Only one in our team was allowed inside. Me and my cameraman covered the debate from the streets,” Fernandez said.
Ed Montalvan, publisher and editor-in-chief of the weekly Mindanao Current, said they have chosen to boycott the coverage of the debates because of the restrictions imposed to the local journalists.
“This is our city and yet they were arrogant enough to impose these restrictions to us,” Montalvan said.