Debates Debatable

MANILA: Did you watch the PiliPinas Debate? I did not. Did you pay attention?

Ellen Tordesillas said, "Grace Poe took the first presidential debate" (
Rappler said, " PiliPinas 2016 Debate: Round 1 goes to Mar Roxas" (
Rappler said, " Rappler polls: Duterte consistent winner, Binay consistent loser" (

We have 3 winners of the PiliPinas Debate!

That of course is crazy, as I thought the debate would be. But that is not the thinking of the Movement for Good Governance, in whose Scorecard Roxas rated #1 (13 pt) in being Effective, Ethical and Empowering – Grace Poe was #2 (10 pt) ( I think that's not crazy; that's insane – Q&A can only measure Intelligence, and if you claim otherwise, you just don't have it.

The name PiliPinas is clever. Pili means choose or choice, Pinas means the Philippines (so does Pilipinas). You can say PiliPinas means The Philippines' Choice.

My choice was to not watch the debate because I knew it was going to be a waste of time. You are going to find out who is the best debater and that's whom you are going to vote for as President?! I thought you were a thinking species. Since when did the presidency become a debating station? But I forgive you, because even the Americans, the proudest people in the world, don't know how to select their President intelligently, and are using the debate platform to find out who has the mouth that roars. And of course we Filipinos imitate the American fashion; that's why we are called Brown Americans. (I imitate the language.)

The wrong people were in the debate. If you want to win, a debate is for a wit like me, not a leader. Wit is a natural aptitude for using words and ideas in a quick and inventive way to create humor, says the Oxford Dictionary. Or to create doubt and win an argument, say I.

I know about debates. Being born a philosopher, I always win a debate, no matter the topic. Try me!

About the PiliPinas Debate, Voltaire Tupaz said, "No sparks: 'Not a debate, but speed dating.'" ( His point? He quotes Nicole Curato, a Filipino sociologist based at the Center for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance in Canberra, Australia: "Tell me your dreams, hopes, and aspirations, and let me see if I like you."

That is the most (the only) sensible comment on the whole sorry affair.  What we are after is Vision; a presidential debate is Division.

Some 4 months ago, on 18 October 2015, I already pointed out the missing Vision in each of the Presidentiable in my little essay, "Here is your presidential candidate's Vision for the Philippines" (A Magazine Called Love, That essay was exactly 34 words, not my usual 1,000 words plus. And my visual was a big round circle that contained nothing except the word BLANK. Your presidential candidates are staring at you with an empty look.

I published another essay on 09 February 2016 on the presidential candidates, in it I wrote in response to the Inquirer's headline, "They're up and running!" my title remark was: "For what?" (A Magazine Called Love, I said there, "Each candidate has no Vision! Exactly like the Inquirer, not looking for Vision."

The legitimate Vision of a candidate for President is a prediction of a happy country, not just some people. "Matuwid na Daan" (Straight the Path) is not Vision; it is Mission, that with which to bring about the fulfillment of the dream, the Vision. It is the closest thing to Vision, but it is not Vision, not a prediction of a future happy land.

We are blindly imitating the American debates. Despite the disastrous consequences that the series of debates have wrought on the candidates and the American people. Like the American voters, we Filipino voters are not using our head.

To run the Philippines as it should be, you need a corporate (country) plan, where you will position the Vision where it belongs: At the top of the pyramid. That's where we are all going.

We are unthinkingly imitating the American presidential debates. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We are flattering those who have a fragmented vision of the future of their country, those who wish to talk only of priorities, not fundamentals; those who wish to talk only of programs, not policies; those who wish to talk only of poverty decrease, not poverty release. If you cannot think of Wholes, you cannot think Vision.

NEDA's "inclusive Growth" is Mission, not Vision. What do you want to accomplish with inclusive growth?

In a regional conference in Boracay, Aklan last year, Assistant Director-General of NEDA Rosemarie G Edillon said (ANN, 17 May 2015, "Inclusive growth to drive dev't, NEDA says," BusinessWorld,

Foremost, it is necessary to offer a level playing field to ensure inclusivity. This we can achieve by providing for transparency of regulations and credibility of institutions, investing in human capital, and ensuring mobility to equalize opportunities. Reforms in structural policies and regulations, infrastructure, education, and institutions, should be prioritized, as the main challenge really is to ensure that even the poor are able to participate in the growth process.

Lady, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but there can never be a level playing field between rich and poor. We have always been investing in human capital but not enough. It is utopian to dream of being able to equalize opportunities.

"The main challenge really is to ensure that even the poor are able to participate in the growth process." That is the view of someone who has not gone to the countryside and looked around. The poor farmers have always participated in the growth process – but they remain poor. How do you equalize opportunities? Infrastructures don't help; farm-to-market roads serve the traders, not the farmers. Education is for the wall of a home only – the diploma displayed. Institutions that should help the poor do not.

Take the case of my alma mater the College of Agriculture of UP Los Baños. Institutionally, why is the College not massively reaching out to the farmers, teaching and helping them to:

(1)   increase income by decreasing fertilizer expenses? The farmers continue to apply 13 bags of fertilizer to a hectare, spending as much as P13,000 on fertilizers alone (and that's a conservative estimate).

(2)   increase income by decreasing pesticide expenses? Pesticides comprise a major collective cost in rice, corn and vegetable production.

(3)   increase income by decreasing cost of money? Loans must be affordable by the poor.

(4)   increase income by decreasing cost of production? The College can teach the poor farmers techniques in natural farming that produce more with less.

(5)   increase income by decreasing water application? Farmers irrigate too much and too often.

(6)   increase income by decreasing postharvest losses? The public or private sector should help the farmers dry their palay properly.

(7)   increase income  by decreasing to zero the middlemen? Aye, there's the rub! It is the merchants who dictate the price, take it or leave it.

Your Vision must be inclusive of the poor and exclusive of the usurers, exclusive of expensive technologies and systems – because they make agriculture too expensive for the farmers. And your Vision must be exclusive of traders, merchants, aggregators whatever you call them – because they are the ones who rob the farmers blind.

Presidential debates rob us all blind.

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