How Filipinos reacted to the first Presidential Debate 2016

The first in the series of PiliPinas Debates 2016 was held at  Capitol University, Cagayan de Oro and aired on GMA Network  on February 21.

The two-hour presidential debate gave the Filipinos a chance to see the five presidential candidates give their opinions and solutions on  several issues hounding the country. There was a lively exchange of ideas as well as potshots, among  Vice-President Jejomar Binay, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares, former DILG Sec. Mar Roxas, and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

PiliPinas Debates 2016 (Image Credit: GMA News)

The debate was a resounding success as Filipinos aired their instant reactions on social media. On Twitter, the #PiliPinasDebates2016 hashtag was on top of the list of trending topics in the Philippines and worldwide, with more than one (1) million tweets as of  8 P. M.. GMA News reported that the exchange between Binay and Roxas got the most number of tweets.

The debate consisted of three rounds, aside from the opening and closing statements of the presidentiables. Round 1 tackled the track record and performance of the candidates. Round 2 focused on the problems of poverty and development while Round 3 centered on Mindanao issues.

Many netizens gave their opinions as to who won each of the three rounds of the debate. Opinions varied widely, depending on which side of the political spectrum they come from.

A Twitter chart presented during Round 3 showed that netizens were most concerned about poverty and development, followed by peace and order issues.

Browsing through the tweets, a lot of netizens also said that it would have been better if the candidates were given  more time to answer the questions, A lot of them pointed out the debate should have been aired commercial-free.

Some netizens also observed that the questions were sometimes too complicated and long-winded to understand. They suggested shorter and more concise questions for the candidates next time.

Social media also gave a good idea on the profile of viewers who were drawn into the discussion about the presidential debate. The Twitter heat map presented by hosts Jessica Soho and Mike Enriquez showed that reaction to the debate was strongest in Metro Manila and Cagayan de Oro during the early minutes. A Facebook heat map later on showed that  discussion about the debate was highest in Davao  and Ilocos Norte.

A demographics bar graph of those engaged in the discussion about the presidential debate on Facebook showed  interesting results .  The graph showed that engagement  was strongest among women, and among those belonging to younger age brackets. Majority (58% ) or 6 out of 10 who were into the debate are women. Forty (40) per cent of those involved in the discussion were aged 18 to 24 while 31% belong to the 25 to 34 age bracket.

The demographics  could have been more meaningfully interpreted if baseline data of Facebook users in the Philippines are available for comparison.

Did the demographics map of FB debunk the usual notion that men are more interested in politics?  And that the Filipino youth are more interested in trivial matters  than serious topics such as  elections and politics? Or did the Facebook demographics map simply reflect the basic profile of Facebook users in the Philippines?

At any rate, the first installment of PiliPinas Debates 2016 gives a taste of what we can look forward to in future debates.

Like other Filipinos, we couldn't wait for the next fireworks among presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls.

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