Two mayoral candidates and nine aspiring councilors presented their plans for Naga City in Harampangan 2019, a debate organized by the Ateneo de Naga University, through the Center for Community Development, Law Student Government and Supreme Student Government on April 26, 2019.
In an interview, law students Lai Abaño and Melissa Bulaong, vice presidents for internal and external affairs, respectively, explained the objectives of the debate. “It was intended for voters’ education. We wanted to assist voters in choosing the right
candidates,” Abaño says. “We hoped to provide voters an opportunity to know firsthand the candidates’ stand on current issues,” Bulaong adds.
The issues discussed were: traffic and parking management, housing, poverty, economy, garbage and waste segregation, war on drugs, health and city hall relocation. Abaño said there were close to two hundred attendees.
“Tato Mendoza was asked to clarify his promise of a mas maogmang Naga,” Bulaong says. “He said it would not be a complete overhaul. Programs that are working do not have to be changed. But he emphasized that he would ensure that his plans would be accomplished during his term.”
Meanwhile, Luis Ortega, who is aligned with the Duterte Administration, was asked what “aspects of Tapang and Malasakit” he would introduce. “He said he decided to run for Mayor because he saw the need to let the people know the benefits of federalism. He also said he was in favor of the war on drugs,” Abaño adds.
July Catimbang, Eduardo Gregorio, Ricardo Mariano, Manny Morano, Romulo Portes, Badette Roco, Mulo San Ramon and Nathan Sergio were the candidates for Sanggunian Panglungsod who joined the debate held in the afternoon of the same date.
They were also asked to respond to the questions from the organizers, fellow candidates and the audience. “To make sure only relevant issues are tackled, we checked first if the question from the audience was issue-based,” Abaño explains.
“Atty. Irene Estrellado, a faculty member of the AdNU law, was the moderator. She called the attention of some speakers when they veered away from the issue or when they attacked their opponents’ personal qualities,” she recalls.
Two days before the debate, local media was abuzz with Vice Mayor Nelson Legacion and partymates’ decision not to participate. In a letter to the university, they said they received the invitation on a short notice and after they had “committed to attend to equally important activities.”
Abaño said it was “logistically-impossible to postpone.” She also said that moving the date, due to the absence of one party while other camps had already said yes, would appear favoring one over the other. Asked to comment on the holding of the debate sans Team Naga, reelectionist councilor Lito del Rosario says they have no regrets.
For Abaño and Bulaong, the debate was helpful both for voters and candidates. “It gave the new candidates a chance to be heard. It was refreshing because they were able present specific plans, unlike many candidates who would just give motherhood statements,” Bulaong says.