'Presidential Town Hall Debate' sets record on TV, social media


MANILA, Philippines – The ''Presidential Town Hall Debate'' Sunday set new milestones on television and on social media with a 40.6% nationwide rating during prime time weekend viewing, and with over 1.9 million Tweets.

Held at the Phinma University of Pangasinan in Dagupan City, the Presidential Town Hall Debate was attended by all five presidential aspirants -- Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe, former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

With its town hall format, the debate allowed the candidates to present their platforms and discuss some of the most pressing issues in the country, such as those concerning foreign policy, health, jobs, overseas Filipino workers, Mindanao, traffic, and education. Seven people from different parts of the country were also selected to present their plight to the nation and the candidates.

The debate recorded the highest nationwide TV rating at 40.6%, according to Kantar Media.

The first presidential debate hosted by GMA on February 21 only garnered 23.8%, while the second presidential debate hosted by TV5 on March 20 garnered 8.5%.

On social media, the latest debate registered the highest number of reactions yet.

''The total of 1.9 million Tweets during the live broadcast was the biggest Twitter reaction for a presidential TV debate in the Philippines this year,'' Twitter said in a statement.

In the same report, Twitter said netizens' engagement peaked by over 17,000 Tweets per minute around 8:30 p.m. This was during the heated exchange between Duterte and Roxas about PhilHealth.

True enough, healthcare registered to be the most discussed issue on Twitter with 20% of the Tweets, followed by Mindanao (18%), traffic (17%), and the West Philippine Sea (15%).

However, in a report released by Facebook on Monday, which involved 8.2 million interactions and 3 million Facebook users, transparency was hailed as the most discussed topic during the debate.

Transparency dominated the Facebook engagements at 59%, followed by defense and foreign policy (17%), economy (16%), health (10%), education (9%), social welfare (9%), infrastructure (3%), and environment (1%).

READ: Transparency is top topic among Facebook users during debate.

Meanwhile, Duterte continued to be the most discussed candidate on Twitter, with 37% and 33% share of voice before and during the debate. He is followed by Binay who rose from 17% before and 27% during the debate.

Santiago, meanwhile, earned the biggest increase in the ''share of voice'' – one's share in online engagement on Twitter -- from 5% to 16%. Poe and Roxas, on the other hand, dropped their share of voice before versus during the debate, with Poe losing the most with a 12% decline to last place during the debate.

Duterte also maintained lead on Facebook engagements at 47%, followed by Roxas at 46%. Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Grace Poe were tied at the third place at 31%, while Binay fell to the last spot at 17%.

Facebook has said that the volume of engagements on its platform is not indicative of intent to vote, nor of positive or negative sentiment.

According to Twitter Head for Media Partnerships for Southeast Asia Pratiksha Rao, Filipinos are becoming more engaged on Twitter conversation, increasing at nearly 50% from the first to the last debate.

Spearheaded by the Commission on Elections, the "Presidential Town Hall Debate" was organized by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, Manila Bulletin and ABS-CBN. It is the third and final leg of PiliPinas Debates 2016.