HARAPAN tandem debate cancelled


Posted at Mar 26 2010 07:40 PM | Updated as of Mar 29 2010 11:47 PM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2) - HARAPAN: The Tandem Presidential Debate scheduled for Sunday has been cancelled, after several presidential and vice-presidential candidates declined to participate.

The latest candidates to decline participation in the tandem debate are Liberal Party bets Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and Sen. Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, and the tandem of Sen. Manuel "Manny" Villar and Sen. Loren Legarda of the Nacionalista Party.

Aside from the LP and NP bets, also backing out of the debate organized by ABS-CBN News are former Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and Edu Manzano (Lakas-Kampi-CMD), and former President Joseph Estrada and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay (Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino/PDP-Laban).

The only presidential and vice presidential tandems to have confirmed attendance are Sen. Richard Gordon and former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Bayani Fernando (Bagumbayan-VNP), and Bro. Eddie Villanueva and former Securities and Exchange Commission chief Perfecto Yasay (Bangon Pilipinas).

The debate would have been held at the Far Eastern University (FEU) campus in Manila on Sunday evening. It was set to have been broadcast live on ABS-CBN, Studio 23, the ABS-CBN News Channel, The Filipino Channel, and online at www.abs-cbnnews.com/harapan.

Instead, a replay of the HARAPAN: The Vice Presidential Debate from last Sunday will be shown.

Different reasons

The Naconalista bets said their non-participation in the debate was not a result of Legarda's performance in the vice presidential debate last Sunday.

Villar and Legarda said they already committed to visit their supporters in Bicol on the same date.

Villar added they did not back out because they never confirmed their participation.

The Liberal bets, meanwhile, said they backed out after their other opponents withdrew from the debate.

In a statement to ABS-CBN News, the party said they declined to participate because the debate would not be meaningful for them if only a few of the candidates showed up.

In an interview on Thursday, Estrada said he and Binay are simply too busy campaigning to make time for the debate.

"Natiyempo ng maraming gagawin. Nasabi ko na lahat, platform ko, lahat," he said.

The two opposition candidates said campaigning direct to the people is more important than televised debates.

Teodoro, meanwhile, said he has already saturated forums and debates and now needs to concentrate on doing campaign sorties in the provinces.

On the other hand, Manzano said he shunned the first Harapan: The Vice-Presidential Debate last Sunday because he sees TV debates as just another venue for mudslinging. He also noted that the debate would only benefit the TV stations through ad spots.

ABS-CBN's response

In a statement regarding the cancellation of the HARAPAN debate, ABS-CBN said the network is "disappointed" key candidates decided to back out of the debate.

"Voter's education is at the heart of Ako ang Simula. That's why we mounted at least a dozen forums and debates in the past few months. This is public service," ABS-CBN said.

""The response we received from last week's Harapan was overwhelming. ABS-CBN set the stage. The questions and reactions - the content of the program - came from candidates and viewers. It is the most interactive debate we have ever had in this country," the network said.

"We are disappointed key candidates decided they had better things to do than face our nation. It seemed they were driven by fear: afraid to appear together as president and vice-president; afraid to be immediately judged based on their actions and words," ABS-CBN said. "In the end, we all lose."

Political analyst Ramon Casiple said debates are still important to gauge the ability of the candidates to lead the country.

"Kung may kakayahan ka, lilitaw doon. That's the point of the debate. Importante 'yong one-on-one, lalo na sa TV. Kita ng publiko pati mannerisms mo," Casiple said.

Fearing technology?

Talk had been rife that parties backed out of the debate because of the use of social networking tools and the Wireless Audience Response System (WARS) to gauge audience reaction during the debate. (Read: How technology was used in Harapan VP debate)

WARS is a device wherein a pre-selected group can give feedback to the answers of candidates during debates and forums.

The system has been used in various events including the televised debates between US presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama in 2008.

Most of the national candidates know the power of social media in the country, especially considering that there are at least 9.1 million Filipino voters who use Facebook. Most of the presidential candidates have their own Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts where people can follow up on their activities.

Internet marketing consultant Carlo Ople said social media can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on the type of feedback that they get.

"If a candidate says something good, all those on my network in social media will know about it. It can be a positive thing but also a bad thing," he said.

Rock Ed Philippines founder Gang Badoy said social networks actually allow candidates to touch the public. "As opposed to doing miting de avance or door-to-door, now social media replaces that," she said.

Social media enthusiasts believe sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow them to give feedback to their candidates. After all, in this wired age, the conversation between voter and candidate cannot be just one way but a constant interaction between the two. With reports from Kris Danielle Suarez and David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com; Jing Castañeda and Ces Oreña-Drilon, ABS-CBN News