Today four out of five presidential candidates are expected to take the same stage and dazzle voters anew with their wit, charm and grasp of national issues. The objective is to sway the people that they should vote for them, and not their opponent, instead.
The previous debate, held February 20, hardly achieved this objective. A survey taken by this newspaper’s resident pollster showed that nearly eight in 10 likely voters had already made up their minds on whom to vote for, regardless of how their preferred candidates actually performed in the debate held in Cagayan de Oro City.
What does this imperviousness of four-fifths of the voting population tell us? It may indicate the still-strong appeal of personality politics. Regardless of what the candidates say or do, or what they don’t, people remain loyal to them as though they were brands whose qualities—whatever they are—do not waver.
Truth is, the last debate also hardly provided an opportunity for the candidates to tell us what they know or plan to do, or even quiz their opponent about his or her answer. The questions were general and the candidates were given just a few minutes to respond to them or react to what an opponent said.
There have been a few changes one month later. Senator Grace Poe’s candidacy no longer hangs in the balance after the Supreme Court declared she was eligible to run according to the provisions of the Constitution. Senator Miriam Santiago has begged off from this second round of debates, claiming she would try a new cancer treatment pill so that she could fully commit to the race. Muckraking between and among the candidates has intensified, making us wonder whether politicians could really rise beyond this level or whether they willfully engage in such to mask their inability to sustain a sober discussion of pressing issues.
But we will tune in anyway, because we are still interested in finding out whether there is still anything worth adding into the equation. Are there things that have not been explored, questions that have not been asked? Are there positions that have not yet been articulated? Have the candidates been mouthing the same platitudes without substance, or are there advocacies close to their hearts and which we know they would see through, to the end? Is there any other game changer during this last stretch of the campaign, some new trick that has yet to be pulled?
We will find out soon enough. So let’s know what we want to hear, and be uncompromising about whether the candidates would say something we can actually stew on.