Observations on “fully edited” presidential interviews

I watched Jessica Soho’s ‘Presidential Interviews’ for three hours and it revealed deep knowledge and character of four of Malacañang’s top candidates.

The crucial segment on controversial issues with a follow-up question was the most interesting.

All candidates received a uniform question, ie a possible “unification” to defeat the main candidate, ex-senator Bongbong Marcos, who declined the invitation to join the program.

Senator Manny Pacquiao bravely responded to his P2.2-B tax evasion issue, handing out money personally, early support and a fight with President Duterte, corruption in this administration, LGBTQ insult, the fact that he was a “naive drug user”, the War on Drugs and EJK.

Senator Ping Lacson faced explosive and almost adversarial issues. “Are you honest”? ‘Did you kill anyone?’, ‘Can you look people in the eye?’, ‘Lawmaker turned law breaker’ after avoiding arrest warrant in Dacer case -Corbito. Discussed his “torturing role” as commander of PC-Metrocom during the martial law years and also as lead author of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which SC declared had two unconstitutional amendments, which Lacson retorted, coming from his colleague Senator Frank Drilon.

Isko Moreno was directly branded, “Nagkabayaran na ba, mayor?” on the alleged P120M per month lobbying fund on sidewalk vendors and mayoral corruption. He was labeled a ‘hinog sa pilit’ with no national exposure, a ‘trapo’ (traditional politician) with questionable loyalty when he turned on benefactor mayors Alfredo Lim, Joseph Estrada, then compared to the disgraced US president Donald Trump and Brazilian Jair Bolzonaro for being “populist” and provoking class war. He was asked why he earlier alluded to Vice President Leni as a fake leader, fake persona and fake colors.

He explained “it’s complicated the relationship with Duterte” and if he was from the opposition, the administration or floating. Again, he was labeled as “unprincipled” against martial law and stolen loot from the Marcos family. And finally, his SALN where excess political contributions, which he kept and paid taxes for, were highlighted.

Vice President Leni Robredo, in turn, was asked about her independent candidacy and the Liberal Party, as well as her previous call for the acceptance of vote and conscience buying, foreign donations, the “symbolic lugaw”, the poverty in Camarines Sur and the obsession to fight Bongbong Marcos. She was very lucky as her remaining questions were softer and generic, such as her opinion on a “kamay na bakal presidency”, and how she plans to improve her investigations.

The shortest time in this segment was 11 minutes and 52 seconds for Senator Pacquiao, 15 minutes for Vice President Robredo and a grueling 18 minutes for Senator Lacson and Mayor Moreno. I honestly wondered what questions the producers would have asked or how long the grills would have lasted if ex-Sen. Bongbong Marcos joined.

As a former television news and current affairs producer, I was surprised that the show became an “edited compilation” of contestants’ answers to a single question. Some answers were short, long and some parts edited. Some were thrilling while the feel-good platitudes were disappointing and repetitive.

I wonder if the producers would now release the “unedited versions” of all the contestants’ interviews for the sake of transparency. Possibly a one-on-one unabbreviated type since the “original material” was recorded that way. If it’s done, we’ll know if the published “edited version” was true to form, or which parts were cut. We can see the candidate’s decorum especially during difficult or easy questions. The example would be one-on-one with Lacson and so on and so forth. But again, it’s entirely the prerogative of the producers and they can refuse. Ultimately, the “fully edited/designed” presidential interview program is now judged by the people, whether it was truly fair or not.

But overall, the exercise was beneficial and eye-opening. And I believe Mayor Isko and Senator Ping stood out. They were very impressive and persuasive even when openly accused, but responded competently. They also revealed the best achievable plans, capabilities, and strong track records.

I now look forward to the more natural full interview of the five presidential candidates which began on Monday, by ABS-CBN television guru Boy Abunda, then DZRH’s live presidential interviews today until the debates Comelec live more exciting in February.

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