Hugpong bets ‘running scared’ of TV debates – De Lima

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima chided the 13-man Senate slate of the administration’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) for evading public debate aimed to scrutinize their character, competence and their policy stance on national issues.

De Lima said she fully supports a public televised debate to be organized by a third party, preferably the Commission on Elections (Comelec), so that the Filipino electorate can find out who among the long list of senatorial candidates deserve their votes for the May polls.

“I hope that the administration’s senatorial candidates would not be scared to stand national scrutiny but instead be brave enough to show their true character, fitness, and their stance on issues that matter most to people,” she said.

“If they are really serious to serve the Filipino electorate, as they brag they are, they should not run away from public debates and use it to inform the public where they stand on issues and what they intend to do,” she added.

Last Feb. 25, the united opposition’s senatorial slate waited for HNP candidates to debate with them at the Plaza Miranda, Quiapo Manila after HNP Campaign Manager and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte expressed her team’s willingness to face them.

However, not a single HNP senatorial bet showed up, maintaining that they want a third party to organize a national debate that is professionally conducted and is based on commonly-agreed ground rules.

In response, Otso Diretso sent a formal request to the Comelec to organize and facilitate a national televised debate between the administration and opposition senatorial candidates.

Otso Diretso’s challenge still got some cold response, with HNP senatorial candidate Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa rejecting it because he claims he had no more time for debate due to his tight campaign schedule.

De Lima, a renown election lawyer, reminded administration’s candidates that the work in the Senate is a serious job that requires hardwork and dedication, and cannot merely rely on a person’s fame and connections.

“Bakit tila umiiwas o nagtatago yung mga kandidato ng administrasyon kapag debate na ang usapan? Malinaw na may mga iniiwasan silang mga isyu,” she asked.

“Ang mandato at trabaho ng Senado ay seryoso. Kailangan malaman natin kung sino-sino ang may kakayahan, kaalaman, at paninindigan–mga karapat-dapat na malagay sa institusyon na yan.”

She added: “Hindi ito puwedeng daanin lang sa puro pa-pogi o anumang galing sa sayawan, kantahan o pagpapatawa. Kung seryoso talaga sila sa layunin na mapaunlad ang Pilipinas, huwag silang matakot na ilatag ang kanilang plataporma at isapubliko ang mga solusyon nila sa tunay na isyu sa ating bayan.”

De Lima said that she sees no reason for the Comelec to deny the request of Otso Diretso not only because it could help democracy to thrive in the country but also it could ensure that the Filipinos will be allowed to make informed decisions to vote whoever they think best deserve their votes.

In the formal letter addressed to Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas, the opposition senatorial bets explained that their request for a debate was in line with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte’s preference to have a third party to facilitate a debate.

“The debate between the candidates of these two political groups was planned but it appears that the Hugpong ng Pagbabago would not agree unless formal rules or guidelines are set up and an independent body would facilitate or conduct the same,” wrote Otso Diretso. The opposition senatorial ticket noted that the issues that can be covered in the debate may include the foreign incursions in the Philippine waters, the influx of foreign workers in the country amid unemployment of Filipinos, the TRAIN law, and the unresolved murders in the country, among others.

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