Let the debate begin

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

IT’S amusing to see and hear how some candidates needing to earn points against incumbents are predisposed to challenge the latter to a debate.

Don’t get me wrong.  A debate is, indeed, one great opportunity to know more about candidates, to compare capabilities and platform between candidates. However, not just any debate will serve that purpose.

For a debate to be useful, there must a be a common reference. A debate among new candidates vying for the same position to be vacated will be informative and ideal. Since all candidates have no actual experience in the position aspired for, they are equally pitted against each other, effectively validating propositions on a “if you get elected…” basis.

But a debate involving an incumbent with performance to boot while the others never served in that capacity will not help voters decide. Here’s how that debate will proceed:

Incumbent: “I have done this and you haven’t, how can you tell you can do the same?

Wannabe: I know I can do it. Why did you do what you did?

Incumbent: Why shouldn’t I have? You couldn’t know what the situation was, you were not there.”

Was that exchange helpful? Certainly not because their perspectives are not aligned. All that can happen is seeing them discredit each other without creditable basis.

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USELESS DEBATE. In Dagupan City the Lim-Fernandez (LI-FE) team has been taunting the Fernandez-Kua (Balon Dagupan) team to a debate. And because the latter won’t bite, the former is making it appear that the Fernandez-Kua team is not competent and fears the Li-Fe team.  Hahaha.

The Li-Fe team is deluding itself. I cannot but agree with the decision of the Balon Dagupan team not to accept the challenge since the proposed debate with no meritorious purpose will only provide LI-FE the opportunity to criticize Balon Dagupan projects and initiatives while LI-FE  has none to offer but promise-promises.  

So Mayor Belen cannot debate with VM Brian who was never a mayor.  A debate with LI-FE cannot give voters the proper background on issues. It’d be a debate on apples and oranges. Pikonan lang ang mangyayari.  Useless debate.

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DEBATE ON PERFORMANCE. But there is a debate format that I’m sure Dagupeños will welcome and want to happen.

Let there be a debate based on performance as an administration: Mayor Belen Fernandez’s and ex-Mayor Benjie Lim’s performance.

VM Brian has nothing to show for himself but he was fully aware of what his father did and accomplished. Also, several of those in LI-FE had the opportunity to work with Mayor Benjie so there is enough material to work on to boost their stock. Besides isn’t Mayor Benjie’s performance the rallying point of LI-FE?

A debate on performance between Belen administration and Benjie administration on specific issues will be good for the voters. Patas yan! Both have ruled for about the same length of service as mayors.

For such a debate, let each team appoint three debaters from their slates.  Since Mayor Benjie is no longer around, Mayor Belen should not be one of the debaters for Balon Dagupan, but VM Brian can for LI-FE.  Let the IBP with representatives of the two teams set the debating rules. 

For issues to be debated, I suggest: 1) City hall building 2) Projects and initiatives on environment 3) Projects and initiatives on education 4) Projects and initiatives on disaster management 5) Budget performance 6) Corruption 7) Drugs and peace and order  8) Citations earned.

The debate will probably last 5 hours, and I’m sure one radio and a TV network will be willing to cover the debate, each one allowed to solicit ads to make up for the costs.

So, let me challenge both Balon Dagupan and LI-FE teams to debate on the above issues, based on past performances of their respective performing mayors.

Let’s level up the campaign in Dagupan City.  Do I hear Dagupeños shout: “Let the debate begin!!”

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LA MAREA ROCKS. Last week, I was privileged to attend the graduation rites at the La Marea Academy in Dagupan City to address the Grade 6 and 12 graduates. As I watched the program proceed, to say that I was impressed would be an understatement.

I had to ask myself if my inarticulate grade school generation can ever stand up to today’s generation.  La Marea’s graduates alone told me we have a bunch of confident achievers in this generation!

Frankly, I was completely taken by the very articulate speakers among the students, the number of awards that most if not all the graduates received from the school and from competitions, particularly at the annual National Press Conference of the Department of Education in the province and in the region.

So when that young graduating lady on stage said: “I want to be a journalist” I instinctively replied, softly, from my seat: “ You’re hired!”

La Marea appears to be a place for budding journalists who are under the care of watchful eyes of highly qualified teachers. In fact, I think I found a pool of future journalists in that school who can competently take over from our retiring journalists, including myself.

So impressed was I that I had to tell Rochelle SD Novales, the principal, that I am prepared to offer a weekly column space in Sunday Punch next school year for articles written by their students that the teachers believe are worthy to be published.

The La Marea Academy has certainly arrived. It has taken its proper place among the best private schools in Pangasinan. The school owners, Raymond and Reggie Sto. Domingo and their children, Rochelle and Ria should take a bow and acknowledge the gratitude of the graduates and their parents for a job well done.

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IT’S ABOUT CHARACTER. Addressing the young graduates, I thought it was timely to tell them that character of a person in addition to their accomplishments in school is equally important in the real world.

I had to stress that it is character molded by their daily interaction with everyone in their daily lives that defines person, is what will define them in the real world.

And the ideal character that everyone wants to see in a person is that which is strongly founded on integrity and respect – respect for others and strong self-respect.  I do hope I succeeded in making some heed that advice.

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WORRISOME. The recent developments at the West Philippine Sea is worrisome not only for our fishermen in the western part but for the rest of the country’s welfare.

We are seeing an escalation of defenses and aggression in the area. China has its own fleet and maintains the biggest army in the world.  On our side, we have nothing to show but hopefully a semblance of unity in purpose with the US.

It is not likely that China will easily turn around and back down from its posturing. And us? We have nothing to intimidate China with, certainly not with military force. We can only rely on pressure from ASEAN neighbors via series of diplomatic initiatives.

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