Binay ‘lackluster’ in 1st presidential debate – analysts

MANILA, Philippines – Did Vice President Jejomar Binay, as promised, “throw all his punches” in the first presidential debate?

Political analysts said the seasoned politician did not meet expectations, failing to highlight his 30 years’ worth of experience in public office as well as the pro-poor platform that made Binay loved by the masses. (READ: Cinderella Man)

Medyo 'di gaano kasatisfying ‘yung responses. Kulang. Hindi rin malinaw what he intends to do differently kahit naka-focus siya sa mahirap. Tama rin 'yung mga banat sa kanya,” University of the Philippines (UP) political science associate professor Aries Arugay told Rappler.

(His responses were not that satisfying. Lackluster. What he intends to do is also not clear even if he is focused on helping the poor. The jabs at him were also correct.)

Binay faced off with his 4 rivals for the presidency on one stage for the first time on Sunday, February 21, in a debate mounted by the Commission on Elections in partnership with GMA-7 and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The Vice President was confronted with questions about his real estate properties, improving the agricultural sector, fighting drugs in Makati, and his stand on political dynasties.

Social media users gave the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) standard-bearer the lowest score in online polls. 

According to political analyst Jean Encinas Franco from UP, Sunday’s debate showed that Binay “seems not very comfortable with the medium.”

“I think that’s the trait of the people who have been in the executive branch for so long. He said they’d rather do things than talk about it, so he sort of demonstrated that in the debate,” Franco said in an interview with Rappler.

Binay in a tangle of dilemmas?

Considering that Binay promises free benefits and the end of income tax for the poor, analysts think he failed to outshine his opponents in terms of eradicating poverty and inequality during the debate.

“I thought Binay would stand up against the economically powerful kasi sabi niya tutulungan niya ‘yung mahirap (because he said he would help the poor). I would’ve expected him to really say that the reason for poverty are the economically powerful Filipinos. 'Di ko narinig 'yun (I didn’t hear that),” said Arugay.

He said Binay is “caught in so many dilemmas and it’s constraining him.” 

Oo (Yes), you’re taking care of the poor but you are also rallying them against the rich and the establishment. Problem [is that] he is part of the establishment,” said Arugay.

The political analyst added that while Binay may be the closest to a populist candidate among the other presidential bets, he will be a “populist with limits.”

Binay is facing a number of allegations of corruption and unexplained wealth during his time as Makati mayor. The Ombudsman already found probable cause to indict him with criminal charges over the alleged overpricing of the Makati parking building.

Binay’s real estate properties

One such accusation was thrown at the Vice President during the debate, when he was asked how was he able to accumulate 13 real estate properties during his 30 years as a public servant.

Binay reasoned that he inherited two of the properties while the rest were bought from his earnings as a lawyer and that of his wife who is a doctor. 

The Vice President, however, was unable to explain how he could have purchased real estate properties on a government salary.  His answer was a sharp contrast to his famous rags-to-riches story. (The return of the ‘juggernaut’? What Binay needs to do to win)

“I saw his pained expression when he was asked by corruption charges. I thought he was born poor. I didn’t know that he inherited properties from his parents,” said Franco.

UNA president Toby Tiangco reasoned, however, that Binay was prepared to answer questions about his corruption allegations if not for the debate’s time limits.

“No, VP was not rattled. We were prepared to answer all issues, including corruption, head on. But the question was not directly asked, so he had no chance to reply regarding corruption,” he said in a text message.

‘Good job’ for the VP

According to Tiangco, Binay’s camp was “very much satisfied with the VP’s performance.”

This was echoed by UNA spokesperson Mon Ilagan.

Nailahad nang maayos ni VP Binay ang kanyang programa tungkol sa kahirapan, kung paano iaangat ang buhay. Maliwanag ang plano niya sa Mindanao na palakasin ang programa sa agrikultura bilang food basket,” he told Rapler.

(VP Binay was able to communicate well his program on poverty, on how to uplift the lives of the poor. His plans to boost agriculture in Mindanao and turn it into a food basket was clear.)

During the debate, Binay said he would improve the agricultural sector by pushing for its modernization, and by giving subsidies to and removing the irrigation fee being imposed on farmers.

“Among the candidates, he showed a grasp of policy issues and has a plan to move the country forward especially in addressing poverty. Other candidates had a litany of programs but did not go into the details how to implement them,” added Ilagan.

The Vice President’s daughter, Senator Nancy Binay, also thought her father stuck to the message they wanted him to convey.

For us, he did very well. Kumbaga ‘yung messaging na gusto naming ipaabot sa mga mamamayan, ‘yun ‘yung nasabi niya during the debate,” said Nancy Binay in a chance interview with Rappler before she headed back to Manila on Monday, February 22.

(For us, he did very well. He was able to say during the debate the message we wanted the people to know.)

Nung nagkita kami, sabi ko nga sa kanya, ‘Good job!’ O 'di ba? Tumawa lang [siya].” (When we saw each other, I told him, “Good job!” He just laughed.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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