To debate or not to….

With three more days to go before the much awaited debate between Bacolod mayoralty candidates – incumbent Mayor Bing Leonardia and former Cong. Albee Benitez – there seems to be hitches that may (not so surprising) lead to the cancellation of the event.

The debate is being organized by the UP Law Alumni Association-Negros Occidental Chapter at the USLS campus in partnership with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

However, with the rising cases of COVID-19 in our midst, the organizers deemed it prudent to conduct the debate online, via Zoom. This is responsible enough for the group who knew they could get some flak if they push through with their initial plan because this might become a COVID-spreader event, knowing that each camp will probably bring their own supporters to cheer them on.

Thus, it was surprising that just a few days before the said debate, Mayor Bing’s camp sent a letter to the head organizer demanding a face-to-face debate with Albee because doing it online makes the word debate “a misnomer.”

This literally blew me off because most of us, including the mayor I suppose, have been conducting most of our meetings virtually due to the pandemic. Thus, to push for a face-to-face debate or else… in light of the organizers’ decision to go virtual, sends an impression that the mayor’s camp is looking for a way out of that debate.

In a letter sent to lawyer Ramon Pandan last Monday, their excuse to revert to the physical face-off is to “prove to the general public their ability and readiness in tackling the issues and respond spontaneously to the questions in an impromptu manner.”

Furthermore, the mayor’s camp said, doing it virtually may give his contender the advantage because “the rival might be aided by a teleprompter. He might bring a coach and some documents or employ a team that will prompt him how to give his responses. It defeats the purpose of a debate. If the proceedings are done behind closed doors, it can be a venue for cheating.”

Geez! Talk about thinkers are doers!

We all know how a debate is conducted and with just a minute or so to present your case or do a rebuttal, there is very little chance for the candidate to even consult any instrumentalities, let alone have someone write a response to be read on a teleprompter unless Albee’s camp has a Flash Gordon in their midst.

Oh, and their demand does not stop there. The mayor’s camp came ready with four things they want the organizers to follow plus, for health and safety protocols, they are “willing to disinfect the venue prior to the debate” for as long as their wish for a physical face-off be granted.

I am sure the letter sender – George Zulueta who is the mayoralty debate coordinator – would not have sent this communication without Mayor Bing’s approval. And this peeves me that the mayor actually agrees, or rather demands, for a physical gathering in the light of rising COVID cases in our locality. How absurd can that be!

As if that wasn’t enough, Mayor Bing’s camp even imputed that the organizers may be favoring his rival, pointing out the mistake made when they listed the mayor’s birthplace as Negros Occidental. It gave his camp a chance to rub the “tumandok” rallying cry they have been making, to stress the point that Albee is not a native of Bacolod, having served as a congressional representative of the third district in the province.

To this, the organizers wrote back that “we take exception to sly and baseless imputations of unfairness and bias against the organizing institutions.”

As to the candidates’ profiles where Mayor Bing’s camp took exception again as to why he only had one advocacy listed while Albee had six under his belt, the organizers responded that “we were constrained to rely on the online research of knowledge partners, in the absence of information from candidates, following our request for a cv/profile.”

Thankfully, the organizers stood pat with their decision to go virtual with health and safety as an utmost priority given the surge of COVID cases plus the fact that we have just been placed on Level 3 Alert.

If Mayor Bing’s camp was attempting to portray him as the supposed man-to-beat because of his demand for a face-off while Albee is a puny candidate who is afraid to go head-on with him, then they are fooling themselves.

Anyone who read the communication between the organizers and the mayor’s team can immediately sense that they are looking for a way out of this debate. They are trying to save face by demanding the impossible.

As a leader, this physical face-off demand also sends a wrong signal to the community to not take this new COVID crisis seriously. I wonder what the medical community or the EOC has to say about this.

Granting that they will ensure physical distancing is followed, with the rising cases, the mayor should be the first one to urge the citizenry to stay home and avoid gatherings so we can get over this crisis as fast as we can.
Ah, but then, Mayor Bing has always displayed a strange way of tackling this pandemic from the moment it set foot in our community and where in the early stage he was nowhere to be seen.
Yet now, amidst the surge, he demands to be seen.

“Inglorious Bastards” is now on Netflix! I think I’ll schedule that on the 15th with the probability pointing to the debate not happening.*

1 Comment


    Sang Kanto boy pa ko, the norm was pagdamo style ang tawo, hadlok na sa himuon o ginapahimo sa iya. Ang desidido ya wala na ya gapagamo.

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