I watched the delayed telecast of ABS-CBN’s Harapan: The Vice Presidential Debate last night and here is my list of winners and losers.
The biggest loser of course is Sen. Loren Legarda. She started the debate by reciting her claim to fame: that of successfully negotiating the release of kidnapped military men from the hands of communist rebels and that of being all over the Philippines doing relief work at the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng late last year. She started with a fighting stance, asking her opponents several times: “where were you when I was doing this and that?”
That did her. The audience never recovered from her tirade. Both from the network’s four studios with their handy instant response gadgets and those at home with their text votes distanced themselves from Loren Legarda, doubting her every word, unable to chew the things that came out of her mouth (and there was an awful lot). It was a classic case of talking above the heads of your audience. Loren Legarda was not there to connect with the audience. She went to the debate with only one purpose in her mind – to crush her No. 1 opponent. I got confused myself. How could she not know the basics of mass communications? Was that also her style of negotiating with captors?
Needless to say, her strategy backfired.
The second loser in the run is MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando. He came to the debate with a yellow helmet for a costume, as if to protect his head from the mind-wrecking event that night. But the helmet proved useless, as he ended up with a bruised ego from the beating given him by his archrival and critic, Makati Mayor Jojo Binay. The usually hard-headed Fernando was no match to the masa appeal and tempered attitude of Binay. Fernando kept on using the word ‘squatter’, by which Binay characteristically retorted as an offensive and derogatory word to address the dirt poor. The TV camera pans on the smiling (laughing?) Sen. Dick Gordon, running mate of Fernando. Gordon was ironically sitting comfortably in his chair as he watched Binay wrestle Fernando. Too comfortably I must say, as if truly enjoying the show.
Winners of course are Jojo Binay and Sen. Mar Roxas. Roxas was casual, direct and gentle even (to Jay Sonza). I liked his fighting attitude in constrast to that of Legarda. His was subtle, silent and lethal if necessary. Rage or anger of the righteous kind was evident in his rebuttals to Legarda’s malicious accusations. Loren was there to kill someone. Mar’s presence on the other hand lend credibility to the event. Without him there, you would not believe that it was a forum among vice presidential candidates. Mar showed his maturity, his depth of understanding of the ills of our nation and more importantly, his outrage over traditional politics (and politicians). He also showed his clever self by talking to the self-professed Antiquena in the native toungue. Now Loren, te bal-an mo guid?
What about broadcaster Jay Sonza and lawyer Perfecto Yasay? Well, they were there to waste airtime. I still cannot imagine these two men, respectable and smart they are in their own rights, to be serious contenders. Nothing substantial came out from these two. Sonza talked like he was hosting the show while Yasay, well, he looked very much like a guest in someone else’s show.
It was regrettable that the tandem debate was cancelled. Hmm, it could have been the defining moment for the candidates as partners. Sayang!