There was no face-off in what was supposed to be the first presidential debate among the top four candidates in the 2016 elections: Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Vice President Jejomar Binay, former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, and Senator Grace Poe.
Mounted by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), VP Binay asked for the format to be changed from debate to a one-on-one forum, where each of the presidential contenders were given a chance to lay out their platforms on taxation, infrastructure, and other economic issues.
Senator Poe, on the other hand, supposedly begged off from the forum due to a prior engagement and some “miscommunication.”
But she pulled off a last-minute appearance and answered questions from the members of PCCI at the 41st Philippine Business Conference and Expo, held at Marriott Hotel yesterday, October 27.
VIEWS ON LOWER INCOME TAX PROPOSAL. According to Philippine Daily Inquirer's report, this is what they have to say on Senator Sonny Angara and Marikina Representative Miro Quimbo's bill to lower income tax rates:
Santiago: "The Philippines' tax system is 20 years old. It needs to be overhauled... I promise to reform it within six months of my administration."
Binay: “I fully support it... We are the second highest sa income tax returns. Ang nangyayari diyan, you are depriving our kababayans the money they can consume. Kasi mataas ang income tax returns. Ang ating income tax returns in 32 per cent na."
Roxas: “The answer is always yes. But I also think that that’s the difference between serious people who are in government and those who have no responsibility, and simply say, ‘Let’s do this, let’s do that.’ Any reduction to income tax will lead to reduction of service. Any reduction in income tax will lead to a reassessment of the investment grade of the country. Frankly, it should not be discussed in the heat of the political battle of elections.”
Poe: “I also firmly believe that we should reform our tax code. And from the onset we already support it. The reduction in tax payment, I think we should classify the different branches of taxes. We are one of the highest in Asia and yet our government services still has to be improved. From 2011 until the present, we have about 600 billion [pesos] unspent funds in the government and reducing taxes will only take away about 30 billion.”
BINAY: MORAL PROBLEM IN PH IS NOT CORRUPTION. All four candidates were also given a chance to speak about the respective issues being thrown against them amid their bid for presidency.
Binay is currently facing plunder and graft complaints, among which is the alleged overpriced construction of Makati car park and other public infrastractures.
But the vice president maintained that such were mere allegations and not yet proven in court.
Binay explained, “The moral problem is not corruption, the moral problem is poverty. That is what I want to face, not the fight against all these allegations, but the fight to alleviate the life of every Filipino.”
POE ON HER SUPPOSED LACK OF EXPERIENCE. Senator Poe, for her part, was unfazed amidst feedback that she has the least number of years in public service compared to the other presidential candidates.
Senator Poe served as chairperson for Movie and Television Classification and Regulation Board (MTRCB) before she was elected as senator in 2013.
But she stressed that she is determined to deliver an honest and dependable service to the Filipino people.
“Totoo na ako ang may pinakamaikling panahon sa gobyerno, pero sabi ko nga, ang mga excess baggage, mahirap, e.
“Mas mabuti yung lean, basta malaman, saka mayroong kalidad ng serbisyo,” Senator Poe said.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is also slated to hold official presidential debates to give the Filipino voters a chance to get to know their preferred candidates.
Target date for the first presidential debate is on February 21 in Mindanao, to be hosted by GMA-7 and its election partner Philippine Daily Inquirer.