Row over rules: Why 2nd presidential debate was delayed

Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

CEBU - The much-hyped second leg of the PiliPinas2016 debates got off to a wrong start as serious misunderstandings on the debate rules delayed the debate for an hour and a half.

The debate was supposed to begin at 5 p.m. but an hour into the supposed start of the program, not one presidential candidate appeared onstage.

Presidential candidates Senator Grace Poe and Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte were the first to appear onstage, followed by former DILG chief Mar Roxas.

A few minutes later Vice President Jejomar Binay finally took to the stage, bringing with him several folders containing documents.

TV5 News Head Luchi Cruz Valdez soon joined the candidates to deliver a public apology in behalf of her network.

"There has been serious miscommunication," Valdez said. "The Comelec rules have initially stated at the outset that there should be no notes or documents to be brought by the candidates during the debate. This is a standing rule that was not communicated to me."

She explained that four or five days before the event, UNA spokesman Toby Tiangco called to ask her if the Vice President can bring notes with him to the debate.

"In earnest desire to make sure that all candidates would be present and not thinking that there was such a rule I did say 'I think so of course'," she said.

Valdez then called Cavite governor Johnvic Remulla onstage to explain the Vice President's side. He said that up to the last minute, the Binay camp was under the assumption that bringing notes was allowed.

"The VP had practiced in the last two weeks under the assumption and under the diligence of the team and she did say it was allowed," Remulla said.

"We feel that it is prejudicial against the Vice President for having been informed of what he can do and at the last minute (they tell him) that he cannot do that."

When asked whether the Vice President will be allowed to proceed with notes, Roxas readily expressed his strong objection.

"Tatlo, apat na meeting ang naganap sa pagitan ng lahat ng mga representatives ng mga kandidato. At no time was it said na magbabago ang rules. Inulit dun na no notes ang pag-uusap," Roxas said, eliciting cheers from the audience inside the hall.

"Are we a rules-based society? May patakaran ba tayo o hindi?"

Binay countered Roxas, saying that as organizer, the network could also decide regarding the rules of the debate.

"Ano ang diperensya? Sila ay naghanda ng walang notes e ako dahil sa naniniwala naman kami na pwede," Binay said.

"Byernes pa ho ako dito may dala akong dokumento na gusto kong ipakita."

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista also said the "no notes" rule must prevail. "You cannot bring notes to the podium," he told the crowd.

BETS BANTER ON STAGE

Some viewers took to social media to vent their frustration over the delay.

Before Binay showed up, his three rivals -- Poe, Roxas and Duterte -- took to the stage without him.

Forced to endure the delay themselves, Binay, Poe and Roxas passed the time exchanging banter onstage.