MANILA, Philippines – They could have been running mates for the 2016 elections. But now administration standard-bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas II hit presidential bet Senator Grace Poe over her government inexperience.
During the first PiliPinas 2016 presidential debate held in Cagayan de Oro City, Poe was asked the persistent question – her lack of experience.
Poe said she has done a lot in her short stint in government, citing the passage of the Freedom of Information bill, and her position as Movie and Television Review and Classification Board chairperson.
"Kaya po sa ating mga kababayan, pare-pareho lang naman ang problema ng Pilipinas e, pare-pareho nandyan. Wala pong proof na kapag matagal ka na sa pwesto mas magaling ka," she said.
(Our country's problems have always been the same. There's no proof that if you've held a position for a long time, you're good at it.)
Roxas, who was tasked to rebut during the specific round, criticized Poe, saying government service is not an internship.
"At siguro ipagpaumanhin ng aking kaibigan na si Senadora Grace Poe na ang pagiging pangulo ay hindi OJT. Kinabukasan, buhay, kaunlaran ng isandaang milyong Pilipino ang nakasalalay dito kaya may tamang panahon para sa lahat. At para sa akin, yung karanasan ay isa sa pinakamahalagang katangian para sa pagiging pangulo. Papaano mo malalaman kung binobola ka o hindi? Papaano mo pipiliin kung ano ang rekomendasyon ng dalawang magkaibang rekomendasyon ng mga cabinet secretary ang iyong pagdedesisyunan," Roxas said on Sunday, February 21.
(With all due respect to our friend Senator Grace Poe, the presidency is not OJT. The lives of 100 million Filipinos are at stake, that's why there's a time for everything. For me, experience is one of the most important things needed to be president. How will you know if you're being fooled or not? How will you choose which recommendation you will take up from different Cabinet secretaries?)
Poe, for her part, did not take this sitting down and countered Roxas’ claims.
The neophyte senator said Roxas has been in office for the past 3 administrations yet a lot still needs to be done.
Roxas had been a member of the Cabinet of the Estrada, Arroyo, and Aquino administrations.
"Alam ko naman kung binobola ako o hindi. Kahit maikli ang aking panunungkulan sa gobyerno. Unang-una, tama si Secretary Mar, nakatatlong administrasyon na siya diyan, nabigyan na ng ilang mga responsibilidad sa gobyerno. Pasensiya na rin po pero marami rin akong inimbestigahan katulad ng DILG at doon sa DOTC sa MRT, at sa tingin ko naman hindi mo kailangan ng napakahabang karanasan para malaman na kulang ang tulong ng gobyerno sa transportasyon sa ating bayan at kulang ang tulong ng gobyerno para magkaroon tayo ng katatagan," Poe said.
Poe has repeatedly hit Roxas for his alleged failures involving the Metro Rail Transit (MRT3).
The ruling Liberal Party earlier wooed Poe to be Roxas’ running mate. She, however, declined the offer and is now running with Senator Francis Escudero instead.
The debate – the first in a series being mounted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its media partners – was organized by GMA-7 and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. – Rappler.com
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Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org