Loren gets poor audience response in Harapan VP debate

Posted at 03/22/10 7:49 AM

MANILA, Philippines – In a surprise result, Sen. Loren Legarda did poorly in ABS-CBN’s Harapan: The Vice-Presidential Debate, based on feedback from citizens who participated in the debate.

The debate, aired live Sunday-Monday over Channel 2, ANC, Studio 23, and abs-cbnNEWS.com, introduced a new way of getting feedback from citizens: the Wireless Audience Response System (WARS).

In the debate, randomly-selected citizens in 4 areas—Metro Manila, Naga, Cebu, Davao—were given a gadget. After a candidate answered a question, the participant had to press a button to say whether they felt the candidate gave a truthful answer. Another button meant he or she felt the candidate was not telling the truth.

Legarda failed to get 50% or more in most of feedback from the audience through the WARS.  She was asked about her experience in governance, her plans on improving the state of education, as well as on her pet themes, environment and climate change.

Climate change – did not register

Even as Legarda spoke about climate change – a subject she claims to be an expert on - she still failed to improve in the truth meter.

Her fiercest opponent, Liberal Party (LP) candidate Sen. Mar Roxas, questioned her choice of climate change as a major focus of her political platform even if the Philippines has a negligible level--less than one percent--of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming.  

Legarda explained, however, that climate change is a “gut issue” in the Philippines since it is a disaster-prone country. She noted that Panay, where both she and Roxas trace their roots, suffered from typhoon “Frank” in 2008. Panay was one of the worst hit by the typhoon. It asked the government for P15 billion in rehabilitation funds.

She added the country was also badly hit by tropical storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” in 2009. However, only 41% believed her explanation on this issue, based on the WARS.

Increase teacher’s pay

But it was her education agenda where the audience doubted her the most.

Legarda said that she will improve the state of education by increasing the salary of public teachers, a reform she tried to introduce as a senator through Senate bill 1611.

The bill aimed to raise the entry-level pay classification of teachers in public elementary and high schools from salary Grade 10 to 19. She decried, however, that the bill only gathered dust under the committee on education, which was chaired by Roxas.

Only 38% believed that Legarda was truthful, based on the WARS.  

No executive experience

Her lack of executive experience was raised by former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair and Bagumbayan vice-presidential bet Bayani Fernando during one of the rounds of the debate.

Around 60% did not buy Legarda’s defense that she has the capacity to hold an executive position because she has implemented various projects. Among these are her nationwide tree planting activity, her successful efforts to free soldiers, policemen and citizens kidnapped by Communist rebels and separatists, scholarships for poor students, assistance to women, and free vaccination to children.

Legarda’s political career has been in the legislative branch. From her broadcasting work in ABS-CBN, she entered the political scene as a senator in 1998, tried but lost to Noli de Castro in the 2004 vice-presidential race, and returned to the upper chamber in 2007.

“I go beyond the halls of the Senate,” she said.

But Fernando countered that Legarda’s achievements could not serve as a gauge of her capacity to hold an executive position because she was not accountable to any particular constituency.

“If only one was able to avail of your project for free vaccination, you cannot be held accountable for it,” he said.

Legarda’s rating in the WARS improved, however, when she relayed her solutions to the problem of El Niño, which has cost the agricultural sector P8 billion in damages.

Legarda said the Agri-Agra law, which she sponsored and was recently enacted, would help farmers and fisherfolk get bigger loans from banks.
She added that she would prioritize the development of water-impounding projects.

Poor rating in on-line poll

Aside from doing poorly in the WARS, she also did badly in the on-line poll through abs-cbnNEWS.com chat with netizens, http://abs-cbnnews.com/harapan.

The poll asked the question: Who is the most believable among the candidates in the Harapan debate?

Aside from Legarda, 5 other vice-presidential candidates joined the debate: Bayani Fernando of Bagumbayan-Volunteers for a New Philippines; Sen. Mar Roxas II; Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay of PDP-Laban; broadcaster Jay Sonza of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan; Perfecto Yasay of Bagong Pilipinas.

Legarda was tied with Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) vice-presidential bet and broadcaster Jay Sonza with 4% in the on-line poll.

Yasay got 11%.

Binay and Fernando were tied at 13%.

Roxas got the highest rating in the “Harapan: The Vice-Presidential Debate” online poll with 54% of those who participated saying he was the most credible candidate among the six.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD vice-presidential candidate Edu Manzano did not join the debate.