CEBU (Updated) -- The Philippine presidential debate on Sunday erupted into heated exchanges over allegations of corruption, a lack of patriotism and incompetence hurled against the leading candidates in a tight race to lead the nation.

Discussed were issues of disaster preparedness and climate change but observers noted the absence of any mention of other topics set for the debate, namely, health and education.


Posted by Superbalita Cebu on Sunday, March 20, 2016

The second of three debates, held in the central Philippines' vote-rich Cebu province, aimed to shift the public's focus toward policy debate and programs to confront social ills. The four main contenders in the May 9 elections, however, often used the nationally televised debate to exchange personal attacks.

President Benigno Aquino III ends his six-year term in June. Under Aquino, the economy has been growing steadily but daunting challenges remain, including corruption and poverty, issues that figured prominently in Sunday's three-hour debate.

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Among the first to square off were Sen. Grace Poe, who has led in pre-poll surveys, and Vice President Jejomar Binay. Poe sniped at Binay for failing to attend a Senate inquiry into allegations of large-scale corruption against him when he was still mayor of the financial district of Makati city.

Binay lashed back by questioning Poe's love of her country because she once renounced her Filipino citizenship and became a U.S. citizen to live with her family in the United States.

"You always say you're a true Filipino, but how can you be one when you took an oath to become an American and you abjured, you were ashamed of where you came from," Binay said.

Elections officials disqualified Poe from running for president last December, saying she was not a natural-born Filipino as the constitution requires of presidential candidates and did not have the 10-year residency requirement ahead of the elections. Poe brought her case to the Supreme Court, which ruled this month that she was eligible to run.

Si Atty. Andres Bautista, chairman sa Commission on Elections, nipasabot nga daan nang gipahibawo ang mga presidential candidates nga gidili ang pagdala og mga dokumento o notes atol sa actual debate sa UP Cebu sa ikaduhang hugna sa Presidential Debate 2016.#PiliPinasDebates2016

Posted by Superbalita Cebu on Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of southern Davao city, who is known for his tough stance against criminality and corruption, challenged Binay to withdraw from the presidential race with him if the vice president can prove that Duterte has been charged with graft.

"I'd like to be very, very brutally frank to the vice president. Sir, you have so many cases ... that's public knowledge," Duterte said.

Duterte accused another candidate, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, of a lackluster response to the massive deaths and devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, which ravaged the central Philippines in 2013.

Duterte called Roxas "a weak leader," adding that the former interior secretary appeared "lost, like a zombie" amid the typhoon devastation.

Binay-Duterte 'bromance' at 2nd presidential debate

Roxas said Duterte would be a dangerous leader because he has a tendency to spring into action based solely on his own suspicions, alluding to Duterte's repeated threats to have criminals and drug pushers killed across the country if he wins the presidency.

Roxas also talked about the government’s bottom-up budgeting (BUB) as giving the power to smaller political units the decision on priorities, even as Poe said the method was a way to bribe local governments into supporting the present administration. Poe said the BUB was “suspicious.” But Roxas said it was a way to give communities the chance to fund projects “without corruption, without deduction, without kickback (walang kupit, walang kaltas, walang kickback).”

A change in format allowed for a no-holds barred discussion of issues outlined for the second presidential debate.

A Facebook Live discussion by Isolde Amante and Michelle So, editors-in-chief of Sun.Star Cebu and SuperBalita Cebu, respectively, added perspective to the discussions during breaks.

The debate was highlighted by Binay’s question about the rules that disallowed him from bringing documents. Other presidential candidates and the Commission on Elections insisted on the rule against bringing of notes or documents. Binay’s question resulted in the delay by over an hour of the start of the debate.

The final debate will be held next month. (Sunnex/