The first of three Presidential debates was aired on GMA and featured Binay, Santiago, Duterte, Poe and Roxas. The next one is scheduled for March on TV5 and in April on ABS.CBN.
This is how the candidates rated in my opinion for impression, message, strength, weakness and scope for improvement:
Impression: The Vice-President came across as a battle hardened campaigner who would take care of business.
Message: He is a decisive leader who will do for the Philippines what he claims he accomplished in Makati.
Strength: He projected calm and confidence, a President who would get things done.
Weakness: He flunked the Anti-Dynasty question. Strangely, his opponents did not challenge him on corruption, his biggest vulnerability.
Room to improve: The VP came away unscathed from potential attacks on his integrity. Knowing this, in the coming debates he can go on the offensive, focusing on his track record in Makati.
Impression: She appeared tired. One wonders how long she can continue her campaign both physically and financially.
Message: She is running on a rehash of sound bites on good governance.
Strength: She was best when donning her legal hat even if people were not interested.
Weakness: Miriam is a candidate whose time has passed, a case of too little, too late. She deserves to be put out to stud.
Room to improve: None.
Impression: The man is always one smirk away from either cussing or saying the most outrageous thing; which is endearing. He often seems more interested in entertaining you than delivering a message. When serious, however, he is passionate and determined especially on familiar issues like criminality. He makes you feel safe.
Message: In 3-6 months he will eradicate crime and corruption.
Strengths: He is a man you want on your side, a goon perhaps, but your goon. He provides simple answers to complex questions.With drugs so ubiquitous, his message on crime works. As the only candidate who is not Manila-based, he articulates best the concerns of the rural folk.
Weakness: He is still uncomfortable on economic policy. His health is an open question. Unlike his opponents (three for each of Binay, Poe and Roxas, one for Miriam), he did not air any ads so he may be short on funds.
Room to improve: With funding and organization Duterte has the biggest potential to improve. His simplicity, candor and charisma resound with voters. He should expand his message of returning more of the budget to the provinces.
Impression: Grace had the best aura. She was bright-eyed, fresh and eager to be on stage. She had visibly prepared to counter criticisms of her inexperience.
Message: Hers is a message of promise that speaks from the heart.
Strengths: Like a big sister, she appears the most caring and the least “trapo”. She wants to get better at who she is, does her homework assiduously and is a quick study.
Weakness: Black ops are saying a Supreme Court decision disqualifying her (8-6) has been bought and paid for. The uncertainty has affected her poll numbers, funding and organization. Her DQ would benefit Binay and Duterte.
Room to improve: She has much scope to grow once her SC case is settled.
Impression: After a nervous start, Mar came onto his own. He was best in the rare case when he expressed passion.
Message: He is the “honest and experienced driver” you would want to take your children to school.
Strengths: He is honest and predictable.
Weakness: He does not think like the common man (His allusion to “an experienced driver” forgets most Filipinos do not have cars, much less drivers).
Room to improve: He needs to take risks if he is to re-invigorate his stalled campaign. This means going on the offensive with aggressive advertising and a populist platform even to the point of over-reaching.
How did the candidates rate over-all? This depends on what I imagine their objectives were going to the debate and how they met these goals:
Binay’s objective was not to be blind-sided by the corruption issue. He succeeded: B
Santiago’s goal was to be competitive and stay in the game. The spirit was there but the flesh was wanting: C
Duterte’s aim was to project his image and name recall nationwide. He did: B+
Poe needed to bolster her popularity thereby putting pressure on the SC to qualify her. Mission accomplished: A-
Roxas hoped his performance would bump his numbers to within striking distance of Binay and Poe. He did fine but probably not enough: B
Conclusion: Poe and Duterte benefitted most from the debate. Binary was happy he did not lose ground. Roxas did not get the boost he needs. Santiago was not there and should really go home.
The real winner in the Debate was GMA Channel who made a killing on the ads. The losers were we, the audience.