Jojo A. Robles

A ‘debate’ proposal

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Okay, we’ve had our fun. Now, perhaps, it’s time to really find out about the people applying for the job of president.


Political science professor Antonio “Tonton” Contreras of De La Salle University has proposed a format for the third and final debate of presidential candidates which will give voters the opportunity to find out more about the would-be presidents’ views and programs without the distraction of watching them figuratively tear each other apart. What Contreras has suggested, actually, is to forget about “debating” altogether and to listen to the candidates one by one as they explain their positions on various issues at length and in depth. 

Contreras said all it would take is for the candidates to spend four hours or five, depending on how many of them are available in one day. Each candidate would be given one hour to answer the same set of questions previously prepared by the organizers but kept secret from them until they get together on the day of the “debate.”

Lots would be drawn to find out who goes first before the cameras and perhaps before a live audience. While the first candidate is being questioned, all the others will be kept in a room where they cannot hear that person’s answers; none of them will be allowed to have cellular phones or other equipment that would allow them to find out the responses of the candidate being grilled is saying.

“It would only take some hours of the candidates’ time, and they will be able to reach a big audience through television,” Contreras explained. “The viewers will certainly want to watch them; I know I’d watch them in this format.”

Because the candidates will not be facing off with their rivals, they will not be given the opportunity to beat each other up. What’s more, they will finally get a chance to expound at length on real issues that need to be discussed, like food security, corruption, jobs and unemployment, to name just a few of the really important matters that most Filipinos care about.

The organizer of the final “debate” can also compile all four or five candidates’ responses to the same questions and present them like they were being asked simultaneously and being asked to reply in turn. The edited (but unexpurgated) videos can then be uploaded on sharing sites like YouTube, for easy reference.

“The problem with the debate format in the first two episodes is that we never got to hear the candidates explain themselves fully on the issues,” Contreras told me. “If we give them enough time and remove the distraction of one-upmanship, the voters will be better served.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Contreras’ proposal. At the very least, this format will surely be acceptable to Mar Roxas, who can no longer complain that his rivals are taking away his time from him.

* * *

The Vietnamese know how to punish erring bankers: They sentence them to death by firing squad.

A report in the Washington Post published in 2014 reported that in just five months of that year, “at least three Vietnamese bankers have been sentenced to death - though their crimes amount to just 1 percent of Bernie Madoff’s haul” of $18 billion in a Ponzi scam.

“Last month, a 57-year-old director of a Vietnam development bank was sentenced to death after he and 12 others approved counterfeit loans in the amount of $89 million. For inking those contracts, he got a BMW, a diamond ring, and $5.5 million in kickbacks. 

“His death sentence follows similar punishments meted out to two other bankers: One was sent to death row in November for his part in a $25-million scam, and the other, banker Duong Chi Dung, got his in December.

“In 2003, the business of sentencing corrupt bankers to death was booming. That year, seven financiers got that punishment. Over the next three years, five other bankers were executed.

“One man failed to repay $6 million in loans. Another woman got it because she embezzled $658,000. Another man was sent to death row for just $90,000.”

Hereabouts, of course, the death penalty is no longer allowed. But even if it were, I doubt if it would ever be imposed on white-collar criminals like those who helped in the theft of $81 million from the Bank of Bangladesh that disappeared upon reaching the Philippines.

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