Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Support for televised presidential debates

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon supported the call by some quarters for the need of presidential debates on television that would enable the Filipino electorate to evaluate the candidates in the May 2010 elections.

Gordon lauded the call made by Pastor Boy Saycon and his group, Halalang Marangal, for prime time debate in major networks, at least for presidential candidates, as practical and sensible.

"That is what we need, an avenue for presidential candidates to present their platform of government. This way, the electorate will get to know the candidates and they will be able to evaluate their competence, integrity and reliability to lead the country and would not have to rely on surveys in choosing the country's leaders," he said.

Gordon has earlier filed Senate Bill No. 2079, which seeks to mandate major television and radio networks to sponsor at least three national debates among presidential candidates and at least one national debate among vice presidential candidates. Each debate shall not be less than sixty minutes, exclusive of airtime for commercials and advertisements.

"The debates would be very useful as they would help the electorate get to know the candidates. We will see the last of meeting the avances usually attended by candidates who are only full of promises but offering no concrete action plans. The debates would enjoin a candidate to prepare concrete action plans in consonant with his or her platform of government in order to weigh more favorably against the opponents," he noted.

The senator noted that though the Fair Elections Act requires the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to procure free airtime from at least three national television and radio networks for equal allocation to all candidates for national office, there is currently no mechanism that requires nationally elected candidates to make known their position on matters of national significance through intelligent debate.

Gordon pointed out that in the recent presidential elections in the United States, the electorate gained an insight on the two candidates through the debates that were strategically held throughout the campaign period.

"Look at the recently-held presidential elections in the US, the debates helped the electorate decide on which candidate to vote for because the debates gave the electorate an insight on the two candidates' position on matters of national significance," he said.

Government must provide funds for poll automation

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today tossed the challenge to President Arroyo and leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives to provide the necessary funds for the automation of the synchronized elections in May 2010.

Gordon, co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election System, said it is now up to both Mrs. Arroyo and Congress to make allocations for the P21-billion budgetary request of the Commission on Elections to enable it to implement Republic Act (RA) 9369, or the Amended Automation Elections Law.

"Let us put our money where our mouth is. Or were we merely paying lip-service to the Filipino people when we promised them that we are for modernizing the electoral process to ensure that the next elections would be clean, honest and credible?" he said.

"It might be expensive, but how much is our democracy worth? The law is there, and it is ripe for implementation. Let us live up to our commitment to the Filipino electorate by funding the full automation of the 2010 elections," he added.

The automation of the electoral process is included in President Arroyo's 10-point agenda, which will be implemented through the use of the latest technology for voting, counting, canvassing, transmission of election results.

"President Arroyo will be leaving a great legacy at the end of her term if she exercises strong political will now and support nationwide poll automation program. Our commitment to safeguard the sanctity of the people's vote should stand firm," he added.

Gordon said Congress' continued failure to allocate the budgetary requirement has already caused glitches in the Comelec's tight timetable in its bid to implement RA 9369.

In the poll body's timetable submitted to the Senate, the budget should have been released last Oct. 24, the invitation to bid should have been published last Oct. 27 and it should already be holding a pre-bid conference last Nov.10.

"Our continued delay in providing the necessary funds will only cause further setback for the Comelec unless we provide the needed wherewithal to them," he pointed out.

Gordon also stressed that the conduct of an honest, clean and credible election has been an elusive dream for every Filipino.

"If we fail, or even refuse, to act and stand for what should be done to achieve that dream, then we miserably fail as a nation and as a people. For that dream to be realized, the modernization of the country's electoral exercises is a step in the right direction. The full automation of our country's electoral process is a sine qua non condition for a vibrant democracy," he said.

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