Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Binay-Trillanes Debate

One of the first callers upon my arrival from California was my barber. He wanted my views on the upcoming debate between Vice President Jojo Binay and Senator Sonny Trillanes.  He says, “It is a hot topic at the barbershop.”


Senator Sonny Trillanes and VP Jojo BinaySenator Sonny Trillanes and VP Jojo Binay

Vice President Binay has been on a hot seat for sometime because a Senate Blue Ribbon Sub-committee chaired by Senator Koko Pimentel has been investigating the alleged over-pricing of the construction of the Makati Parking Building during his term as Mayor of the premier city. Subsequently, the investigation revealed more alleged over-pricing of other projects resulting from alleged bid rigging as testified to by witnesses who used to be allies of Binay and who had personal knowledge.

The 350-hectare land dubbed as “Hacienda Binay” also came into play as revealed by his former Vice Mayor ally. Pictures of the hacienda, garden, air-conditioned piggery, and guests visiting the place as hosted by the Binays are certainly worth a thousand words.

Binay has been invited by the Senate Blue Ribbon Sub-Committeeto appear and answer all the charges hurled by the witnesses. He refused, accusing the investigation as a “kangaroo court”.  He preferred responding through Press Conferences and Press Releases.

According to the surveys, about 70% of the people would like him to appear at the Senate hearing and defend himself. The accusations resulted in the decline of his satisfactory and performance ratings substantially. It is expected to continue falling threatening his presidential ambitions unless he does something to arrest the decline.

This must be the reason why he decided to challenge Senator Sonny Trillanes to a debate. Why Trillanes? Why not Senator Cayetano or Pimentel who are also in the sub-committee?

Was it wise for Binay and his close advisers to challengeTrillanes? Did they actually expect Trillanes to accept as he did?

Unlike Cayetano and Pimentel who are proven to be brilliant lawyers and debaters in the Senate, Trillanes is a military/naval officer whose prowess is exhibited in actual battles. Academically he obtained a MastersDegree in Public Administration from the University of the Philippines. He is no pushover, unafraid to face legal luminaries and experienced politicians like Senator Enrile in Senatorial debates re the China issue.

Logically, the Binay camp probably thinks that Trillanes is easier to beat.

Binay and his drumbeaters could be wrong. It seems that Trillanes would benefit the most. Let us analyze.

Propaganda/Public Perception: The expose on Binay at the Senate hearings were televised and reported by the mainstream and the social media. Interested parties could also watch it at You Tube. But the scope and audience were quite limited. The Binay-Trillanes debate would be televised, broadcast by radio, streamed, and published by all the networks and publications nationally, internationally, and locally.  The allegations of corrupt practices in Makati by the Binays would now be known nationwide and worldwide.

Trillanes said that he is confident because the Truth is on his side. In argumentation and debates, what he really means is that “Arguing against facts is an invalid inference” (Argumentum contra factum non valet ilatio). Binay will be forced to argue against the testimonial evidence presented by credible witnesses who have personal knowledge of the alleged over-pricing and bid rigging. They are credible because they admit participating in the scheme and testifying against their own interests. Binay will be forced to argue against facts and figures that are public record and undeniable. Binay will also be arguing against images and perception that are hard to erase in the minds of people.

In short, Binay will be debating not only Trillanes but also people in the know, direct participants, undeniable public records, photos, and perception of a whole nation.

Personality: By challenging Senator Trillanes, Binay either elevated Trillanes to being a presidential or vice presidential timber or in the process actually downgraded himself. By accepting the challenge, Trillanes put himself in an unbelievably high level expecting to put Binay down the level of a Makati Mayor as he raises the issues of corruption.

Remember, this is television. This is a debate between an incumbent Vice President who was an experienced human rights lawyer and a Senator who was a military officer.

This is also a debate between Binay who is 72 years old and Trillanes who is 43 years young.  On television, it would show who is Tall, Dark, and Handsome. My barber says, “Binay may not be Tall, but he is definitely Dark, and quite Handsome to some of his lady followers. Another barber says, “Trillanes may not be as Dark, but he is definitelyTaller, and very Handsome to many”.

But television will decide. The Kennedy-Nixon debate was a case in point. Kennedy on television was too handsome to lose. In the last US presidential elections debate, Texas Governor Perry had a mental block. He was in his early 60s in age. I hope it does not happen to him but Binay is 72.

Pity or Presidential: Presidential front-runner Binay is also in a dilemma. He could either try to obtain sympathy from a nation who elected him Vice President by using the Pity technique being a victim of unwarranted investigations, or by acting Presidential. If he uses the former, he would look weak and not presidential. If he uses the latter, he would look arrogant displaying his legal prowess and experience over young Trillanes. His over-confidence as shown in his challenge could actually “kill” him. (Sobra compiansa mata el hombre)

Trillanes seems to have the advantage of an underdog. If he is able to show some legal skills without being a lawyer, accounting skills without being an accountant, and some engineering, architectural, design, and other knowledge without the necessary formal training as well as with plenty of common sense, in proving the corrupt practices in Makati, Trillanes would prove that Binay made the most grievous error in challenging him.

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