ANGELES CITY—Mayoralty bet and Partido KAMBILAN official candidate Alex Caugurian said the snub to public debate invitations of mayoralty and vice mayoralty candidates is a direct insult to organizers and the public.
“Candidates must join public debates to help voters make the right choices, especially those initiated by non-partisan sectors, especially the academe. Unless a matter of life-and-death, personal reasons (not to appear) must bow down to public interest,” Cauguiran said.
Cauguiran cited the non-appearance of Vice Mayor Bryan Nepomuceno and his running mate, Edu Pamintuan, during the mayoralty debate sponsored by the Angeles University Foundation on March 22.
Only Cauguiran and his party’s vice-mayoralty bet Maricel ‘Marang’ Morales, a former three-term city councilor, and Carmelo “Pogi” Lazatin and running mate Vicky Vega joined that debate.
Another public debate initiated by the Holy Angel University (HAU) Criminal Justice Organization for Public Service (CJOPS) scheduled on March 26 had to be cancelled because both Nepomuceno and Lazatin refused to attend.
Last March 5, the Rotary Angeles Kuliat held a public debate for mayoralty aspirants candidates where all candidates participated. Most reactions from veteran politicians and analysts who watched the debate live and from online feeds, along with social media engagements, point to Cauguiran’s competence and expertise in a public discourse.
“Nepomuceno could have used these public debates to explain why the city has accumulated an alarming debt of P2.3 billion, at a yearly payment of P273 million, while allocating only P4 million for medicines, and P11 million for medical supplies at the Ospital Ning Angeles this year. Or why Lazatin, even as part of the minority failed to raise any objection to the use of the loans. The public has the right to know,” Cauguiran said.
“It is unfair to the students and faculty, the public and the organizers that candidates themselves who are supposed to welcome public discussion of their platforms are themselves fearful of public forums,” he added.
Cauguiran said he also accepted an invitation by Angeles Jaycees to join the forthcoming “Talastasang Kuliat,” a public debate for mayoralty and vice mayoralty aspirants.
“Why shun public scrutiny? Like the print media, debates are effective antidotes to fake news that unscrupulous groups and individuals peddle through social media. In open debate, it is easy to discern who is speaking the truth as statements could be challenged by the audience themselves. Truth must stand the test of public scrutiny,” the erstwhile city hall chief-of-staff said.
Irene Mae Manabat, the Assistant Research Director of Systems Plus College Foundation, said the initiatives of private academic institutions in the city to hold public discussions are vital in achieving good governance.
“As far as the academe is concerned, the snub of these candidates is a direct insult to the learning community that wish to help raise the level of politicial discourse,” Manabat, a doctorate degree holder in business management, said.
Cauguiran said there was a time when candidates have to defend their campaign promises in a public square to gauge public opinion.
“The late President Ramon Magsaysay used to challenge politicians with a famous question ‘can you defend it in Plaza Miranda’?” he said.
KAMBILAN is Pampanga’s biggest political party led by Governor Lilia Pineda. A former airport executive, Cauguiran is widely known for his results-oriented managerial skills and is credited with the increase in flights, destinations and revenues at the Clark International Airport.
The political party’s campaign kick-off on March 30 in a proclamation rally at the city’s old railway station (crossing).