#TheFilipinoDecides2016: PiliPinas Debates 2016 Post-Mortem

Pilipinas Debates 2016 will continue on its second leg on TV5 this Palm Sunday (March 20).

PiliPinas Debates 2016 ended yesterday. How does these debates will each participating network learn and need to learn for the Election Day broadcast in two weeks?

FOR THE PAST two months, you were able to watch at least one of the first COMELEC-organized debate series after 24 years — three (3) presidential and one (1) vice-presidential.

After yesterday’s final leg of the PiliPinas Debates 2016, you already decided who to vote for President and Vice President on May 9 but if not, don’t worry, the Turf says, “Take your time.”

In this post, how did each leg of the debate played out? Will this assessment pose their respective better coverage on Election Day itself? Let’s analyze them in detail.

NOTE: The Turf did not include the Harapan ng Bise on ABS-CBN that happened last April 17 because they’re not organized by COMELEC.

1st Presidential Debate (February 21)

  • Broadcaster: GMA
  • Broadsheet sponsor: Philippine Daily Inquirer
  • Venue: Capitol University, Cagayan de Oro City
  • Moderators: Jessica Soho & Mike Enriquez (GMA) and John Nery (PDI)
  • Participants: All candidates
  • Format: Fishbowl with head-to-head

Lasted two hours, the first PiliPinas Debate in Mindanao was held indoors of the said university, for both candidates and its supporters.

Defenders of the Kapuso network and the common Juan de la Cruz usually praised their News and Public Affairs for their impartial and consistent delivery but on this debate, not all of them are amused due to the moderators’ lack of professionalism – particularly, Enriquez.

Netizens aren’t happy with the limited time and tend to agree on Rodrigo Duterte’s quip for an hour’s extension; the other broadcasters soon noted this redressing. Another complaint is the obvious: the excessive commercial load as GMA is not a member of KBP for 13-14 years and will not probably think to return to the association.

For Philippine TV nerds and critics, GMA can be boasted of their 360-degree camera although suited for one occasion but the “simulcast” with GMA News TV isn’t still in Atty. Felipe Gozon’s vocabulary, despite of receiving the delayed coverage on the sister channel two hours after the main event.

On the bright side, before their commercial break, GMA 7 exposes real-time social media analytics (e.g. Twitter heat map, Facebook demographics, etc.) to viewers on how they are involved.

2nd Presidential Debate (March 20)

  • Broadcaster: TV5
  • Broadsheet sponsors: Philippine Star and Business World
  • Venue: University of the Philippines, Cebu City
  • Moderators: Luchi Cruz-Valdes (TV5)
  • Participants: All candidates except Miriam Defensor-Santiago
  • Format: Panel

Held indoors for candidates and outdoors for its supporters on the most vote-rich province in the Philippines, TV5 is what the TV group really wanted: an all-out simulcast with a pre-debate and post-debate analysis.

The most discussed flaw on TV5 was the 1.5-hour delay from the scheduled proper, thanks to Jejomar Binay’s delivery of notes or “documents” that is not allowed under the rules agreed between the network and COMELEC.

The absence of Defensor-Santiago made the debate gone out of control in the free for all round, despite Cruz-Valdes’ effort to quell. Before each round ends, TV5 made its own distinguishing feature of their Debates: the taas kamay (raising of hands) portion without explanation.

With a formal apology from LCV, they showed the behind-the-scenes during the 90-minute delay after the proper. Despite the list of criticisms, most netizens are somewhat satisfied with this edition than GMA’s.

Vice-Presidential Debate (April 10)

  • Broadcaster: CNN Philippines
  • Broadsheet sponsor: Business Mirror
  • Venue: University of Santo Tomas, Manila
  • Moderators: Pia Hontiveros and Pinky Webb
  • Participants: All candidates
  • Format: Hybrid (panel and town hall)

On the sole debate for the second highest elected office in the land, CNN Philippines made a strong, professional handling on covering the debates. The network made a good decision not to present entertainers masquerading as journalists (EMAJs) before, during and after the debate proper. Netizens praised the network and its moderator’s control and composure on handling wild reactions from the audience (e.g. heckling, jeering and cheering). The presence of international presenters of CNN marked an advantage. The distinguishing feature for this debate is the “yes or no” portion using the thumbs up/down sign.

One criticism of this debate is not on the network but the topics it handled – particularly, corruption and human rights abuses – that carry much chagrin to one of the aspirants, Sen. Bongbong Marcos and his family. That said, being the most discussed and the longest in the proper, the eyes of the viewers were more eager on the verbal jabs between Alan Peter Cayetano and Marcos than the physical jabs of Manny Pacquiao’s last fight against Timothy Bradley hours earlier. The network does not play the “PiliPinas” theme by Gravity.

3rd Presidential Debate (April 24)

  • Broadcaster: ABS-CBN
  • Broadsheet sponsor: Manila Bulletin
  • Venue: University of Pangasinan (PHINMA), Dagupan
  • Moderators: Karen Davila and Tony Velasquez
  • Participants: All candidates
  • Format: Town hall with head-to-head

Being the last of the series, this is certainly not the least for the nationally conscious citizens; in fact, it is the most exciting, most discussed and the longest in the series.

Before the debate proper, severe criticisms began to speculate on social media, particularly on their favoritism of presidential candidate, Mar Roxas and to downplay Defensor-Santiago and Duterte because of the outlet’s headline angle. Others were calling for the boycott of the network and the transfer to CNN Philippines by an online petition but it cannot be undone because it’s agreed upon between the constitutional commission and the broadcast network. The only choice left for the network to appease the criticism is to assign impartial moderators.

ABS-CBN planned for an all-out simulcast yesterday. However, the Himig Handog Grand Finals on MOR 101.9 and ABS-CBN Sports+Action’s unavoidable priority of replaying UAAP, NBA and Top Rank (especially the Nonito Donaire vs. Zsolt Bedak fight) hindered the materialization. Although, the sister channel received the full debate as the Channel 2’s live broadcast was wrapped up.

Held outdoors with a built-in air conditioning system, this is the only debate that kicked off the proper with the national anthem sung by Erik Santos. The distinguishing feature for the network’s debate is the “Fast Talk” for each candidate.

During the live broadcast, some parts of the proper were carried inconsistently in 4:3, 16:9, HD or SD. The broadcast carried the most political ads and sponsors in percentage of the ad load and this is the only Big 3 network that did not use the PiliPinas theme by Gravity.

During the closing statement (the longest in duration, given 5 minutes per candidate), the presence of the mother and the child (who studied hard by using leaves as paper) from Bohol in the last debate indeed lives up to their network’s election coverage slogan, “Ipanalo ang Pamilyang Pilipino.”

One of the severe criticisms in the proper is the blunder from the moderators, especially calling Roxas as the incumbent Vice President instead of Binay. This can draw ire for politically motivated social media scholars for “not moving on because it’s not 2010 anymore.” Aside from that, the Twitter account of ABS-CBN News is tattered with harsh and negative replies — directly or not — from die-hard supporters for slanting the remarks of the candidates during the live proceedings. Lastly, as Joshua Jimenez pointed out, there was no head-to-head between Duterte-Binay to oversee on the recent issues on the slip of rape and the death of an Australian missionary in 1989 by the former.

Non-sponsored networks’ response

PTV 4 acts as a backup to the aforementioned COMELEC-sactioned debates and the Harapan ng Bise together with #TheLeaderIWant Senatorial Debates (organized by Rappler and Manila Broadcasting Company). However, IBC 13, and UHF networks (not owned by the Big 3) were apathetic to carry the replay and sometimes selective upon they aired it on their news items with proper attribution due to their religious and/or political slant.

That said, the assessment of the main networks that participated in the recent debate series should be the benchmark of learning and improvement for their Election Day news marathon in the next fortnight (2 weeks).


Have you decided already?

Like Timow’s Turf on Facebook and discuss on the subreddit.

[Photo courtesy of COMELEC]

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