Challenge accepted. This was the response of the opposition senatorial slate Otso Diretso to Mayor Sara Duterte’s call that there should be clear guidelines for a debate between administration and opposition candidates.
Otso Diretso campaign manager Sen. Kiko Pangilinan said the opposition slate first challenged the administration candidates to a debate because many of them do not show up to televised debates.
“Tungkulin nila na ipaliwanag, halimbawa, yung TRAIN Law, bakit naipasa ito? Ano ang epekto nito sa ating kababayan? Bakit magkakaroon pa ng TRAIN 2? Dapat kasama ito sa debate, dapat pinag-uusapan ito. Hindi ‘yung puro song and dance, etc,” he said in an ANC Headstart interview.
Pangilinan said Otso Diretso bets first challenged Hugpong ng Pagbabago candidates to a debate at Plaza Miranda last Monday, February 25, after the administration candidates said they were willing to conduct a debate “any time, any where.”
Not a single Hugpong ng Pagbabago candidate showed up for the debate.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte later said Hugpong ng Pagbabago candidates failed to show up because there was no formal invitation and agreement.
“Willing mag-debate ang some of the candidates but only if there is an agreement about the rules, venue. Hindi puwedeng unilateral ang pag-decide na about a debate,” said Duterte, also the HNP chairperson.
“Hindi puwede iyong sasabihin mo lang ‘Oh, mag-debate tayo’ dito tayo ngayon parang sinabi mo lang, ‘Oh, magsuntukan tayo,’ parang ganoon lang kasi, parang barabara, parang palengke style,” she said.
In response, Pangilinan said he will accept the presidential daughter’s challenge.
“We are willing. Today we will contact perhaps some of the incumbent senators sa Hugpong, tutal nakakasama naman natin sa Senado nitong mga nakaraang taon, we will contact them. Sige, pag-usapan natin ang rules para maituloy na ang debate na ito,” he said.
The campaign manager said it is possible that some candidates may shun the debates to mask perceived weaknesses during debates especially if they are doing well in pre-election surveys. He noted all 8 Otso Diretso candidates have done very well in televised debates.
The 8 opposition bets are former senator Mar Roxas, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, Mindanao peace advocate Samira Gutoc, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, former congressman Erin Tanada, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay and two incumbents, Sen. Bam Aquino and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano.
“The people deserve to know how you will defend the positions you are taking. Sabihin na nating strategy ‘yung umiwas para hindi na makita ‘yung kahinaan. Eh teka muna, bakit natin tinataguan ang mga botante? Bakit umiiwas na malaman ng botante ‘yung saloobin natin at ‘yung kapasidad natin?” he asked.
He also repeated the line of Otso Diretso candidate Chel Diokno that the work of the Senate “is not about making tarpaulins, but making laws.”