The administration Liberal Party's (LP) standard-bearer Mar Roxas remained hard pressed in defending the record of the Aquino administration the continuation of the policies of which he promises to pursue under his platform in the final presidential debate.
Towards the end of the debate, PDP-Laban presidential bet Rodrigo Duterte and Roxas clashed over the record of the current administration with Duterte saying that if Roxas was telling the truth in his campaign pitches, why was he trailing in the surveys.
Roxas in response said that the youth should not emulate Duterte's foul character.
The four candidates for the top post of the land chose to stick to issues as the vicious attacks against each other which was the feature of the third debates was absent.
The debate was held in Pangasinan which has the biggest share of voters in Luzon with more than P1.6 million registered voters and estimated to have the highest voter turnout, with nearly 80 percent, in the last presidential elections in 2010.
The cast presidential candidates was complete this time around with Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago saying that she is now completely normal after taking a secret medicine to battle her cancer.
Despite the apparent difficulty in elucidating her thought on various issues, having been caught reticent a few times when it was her turn to speak, Santiago still managed to crack jokes in discussing territorial dispute with China.
"It would be easy to say that we are picking a fight with China but what if China loses and it surrender, how would we feed the Chinese?" she said in jest when a fisherman posed a query among the presidential candidates on how to deal with the foreign government's continuing aggression against the Philippines.
When asked on what she will do, if and when elected president, should China even attempt to encroach into Philippine waters, Santiago issued this one-line: "We will call the Coast Guard, I will bomb them."
Santiago, however, offered two ways in settling the issue with China - legal and diplomatic means, adding that all efforts should be explored and convince the foreign government to amicably resolve the dispute especially since "we have the world public opinion behind us."
United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) standard bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay said that while the legal dispute with China over the territorial claims is being heard at The Hague, he will still pursue negotiations with the Chinese to allow Filipinos to fish in the contested waters.
In contrast, the policy of President Aquino was to avoid any bilateral discussions on the dispute.
Poe defends husband
During the debate, Poe tried to put an end the issue hounding her and husband, Teodoro "Neil" Misael Llamanzares of him being an American citizen saying that he already renounced his foreign citizenship.
"He already renounced," Poe said when asked during a fast round talk portion, on whether her husband has given up his US citizenship.
Poe said that the renunciation happened a month ago when further inquired on the period in which Llamanzares has already relinquished his being an American citizenship.
Asked if Llamanzares has surrendered his American passport, Poe answered in the affirmative.
"Yes, he did what was required under the law," she said.
The senator did not further elaborate whether Llamanzares has taken an oath or affirmation before a consular office or at a US embassy his intention to renounce his US citizenship.
Poe had earlier assured the public that she "will not have an American boy in Malacanang," supposedly in the person of her husband.
It was the first time that Poe revealed the information publicly as the matter was not offered by her even as her husband has been subject of tirades by her critics, the latest of which was made by one of those who petitioned for her disqualification, lawyer Manuelito Luna who threatened to have her husband deported for being a US citizen.
Incidentally, Poe's running mate, Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero and her campaign spokesman, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, who came to her defense, made no mention about Llamanzares renunciation of his US citizenship.
Escudero, in a statement, called Luna's threat as a mere politically-motivated attempt to harass Poe, if not, a desperate act to prop up the candidacy of another presidentiable and supposed "patron" of Luna whom he did not identify.
Both Escudero and Gatchalian insisted that Llamanzares is a natural born Filipino, having born of Filipino parents and can as such or as a dual citizen under R.A. 9225 or the Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003.
"Anyone who attempts to petition the deportation of Mr. Llamanzares is ignorant of the law and is bound to fail because such petition has no basis at all. It will not prosper," said Escudero.
Escudero further noted that Poe's detractors are now training their sights on her husband after attempts to discredit her in the past failed.
"And we would not be surprised if their next targets are their children. These too, will not succeed. We ask the Filipino people to be vigilant against sinister minds whose only objective is to sow confusion during the remaining days of the campaign leading to the May 9 elections," he said.
"The allegations of Luna are baseless lies concocted by a troubled mind. It is so sad that his political obsession has now reached a point where non-candidates are being harassed. Since he did not get what he wanted when he attacked Poe, he is now on a rampage and unfairly harassing the family of Poe. This political oppression has to stop immediately. We are calling on Luna to spare private individuals and to focus the electoral discourse on important issues facing our country like poverty and unemployment," Gatchalian said in a separate statement.
Sign bank waivers, dares Binay
Hours before the third and final leg of the Commission on election (Comelec) - sponsored presidential debate, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) standard bearer, Vice President Jejomar "Jojo" Binay reiterated his call to all his opponents to sign a waiver to allow the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to peek into their bank accounts and at the same time bare the real status of their mental and physical health.
In a press briefing, Binay recalled that about a year ago, he had been subjected to demolition job, courtesy of an alleged AMLC report accusing him of maintaining more than one hundred bank accounts with an aggregate deposit running into billions of pesos.
"I denied that supposed AMLC report and dared AMLC to prove its allegation. And for more than six months, AMLC probed not only into my bank account but as well as the bank accounts of the other members of my family. Even the bank account of Office of the Vice President from which I draw my salary as vice president, was not spared. AMLC also investigated the bank accounts of people close to me," said Binay.
"And after more than six months of investigating, what does AMLC have to say to the court? That I only have one bank account with a balance of only a million pesos and not the billions of pesos which they earlier claimed," Binay stressed.
To show good faith and his trust in the justice system, Binay bared he promised the court he would not touch his bank account in the pendency of the investigation against him.
"This is also to show my commitment to prove that the said bank account did not come from any illegal source. That never have I exploited and stole from the people," said Binay.
"And it is for this reason that during the presidential debate in Cebu last month, I signed a waiver allowing AMLC to again look into my bank deposits, along with my family's. I also dared my opponents to sign the waiver as well," Binay said.
"If we have nothing to hide, then we should bare everything to the people. If all of us are saying we are in favor of the freedom of information, then I call on them to sign the waiver. Let us all subject ourselves to AMLC probe," Binay said.
"As we again face each other today, I reiterate my call for my opponents to sign this waiver to determine once and for all who is hiding something from the people," he stressed.
Binay added that about the same time last month, he made public the copy of his medical certificate declaring him mentally and physically fit to run in the forthcoig elections and assume the presidency should he win.
"I also called on my opponents to make public their medical certificates. But just like in the AMLC waiver, not one of them heeded," said Binay.
"And so again, if you are not suffering from any form of illness, be it psychological or physical, show your medical certificate," Binay said addressing the other presidential candidates - Senator Grace Poe, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte and former Secretary Mar Roxas.
"With the mountain of a problem the next president will be inheriting from this insensitive and incompetent administration, we have to ensure that whoever will be the next leader of the more than 104 million Filipinos will be psychologically and mentally fit," said Binay.
Binay also took a dig at each of his opponent saying the presidency should not be entrusted to someone who lacks experience, pertaining to Poe, one who lacks competence referring to Roxas and one who disregards the rule of law and has no respect for human lives.
Binay also downplayed the results of the latest pre-poll survey showing Duterte still leading the race.
"While the pre-poll survey shows Mr. Duterte is still leading, we shuld take note that his ratings had declined and that I have gained some points," Binay said.
"But at the end of the day, what would matter most is the actual survey on election day," he said.
The vice president also bared they have received reports that PCOSmachines deployed in Hong Kong for the Overseas Filipinos (OFW) Absentee Voting were printing receipts not corresponding to the votes cast by the OFWs.
"We have already asked our lawyers to seek an explanation from the Comelec regarding this matter but unfortunately, until now, we have yet to hear from them," said Binay.
"This seems unusual as the Comelec was quick to respond on the hacking issue but surprisingly quiet on this one.
According to unconfirmed reports which has also gone viral in the social media, those who have voted for Binay got receipts showing they voted for Roxas, while those who cast their votes for vice presidential candidate Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, were issued receipts showing they voted for Senator Gringo Honasan.
According to political analysts, votes were apparently being shaved from other presidential candidates and being counted for Roxas to favor the administration bet.
In the case of Marcos, his vote was being shaved and being transferred to cellar-dwellers to help administration vice presidential bet, Camarines Sur. Rep. Leni Robredo to catch up with Marcos.
Asked if he was alarmed by the reports of alleged cheating in the OFW Absentee Voting, Binay answered in the negative.
"Nothing is 100 percent perfect. Maybe the machines may have glitches but I think they are still minimal at this point in time. What we should be worried and should be ready oppose and fight is the bigger cheating which would alter the true results of the election," Binay said.
"At this point I am not worried because I believe I would be winning by a huge margin," Binay said.
In earlier sorties, Binay had predicted he would be winning by no less than four million votes against his nearest rival
Part of the manifestations he is gaining strength going into the last two weeks of the campaign, Binay said, is the formation of a group comprised of administration allies now pushing for the Jo-Len Tandem, short for Jojo - Leni.
"See, my support is coming from everywhere," said Binay.
The other day, several administration allies openly dumped Roxas as they announced their support for Binay and Robredo.
Political pundits say that while the new variation being proffered by the administration allies would benefit Robredo more rather than Binay, it would tend to show that Roxas is now fast losing support from within his own circle.
For his part, Honasan, UNA's vice presidential bet, said the groups' call for the Jo-Len Tandem would have no effect on their tick as for them UNA is pushing for the BiHon (Binay-Honasan) or BinGo (Binay - Gringo).
"Actually, it does not occupy our minds and our hearts. UNA carries the tandem BinGo and BiHon, depending on what you prefer," said Honasan.
"If you're hungry, go for BiHon. If you want to win the jackpot, then go for BinGo," he added jokingly.