Isko projects presidential polish, calm under time pressure in KBP forum

MANILA, Philippines – Wearing a button down shirt barong and sitting in front of the Manila city seal and blue curtains that looked suspiciously like the Malacañang press conference room, Isko Moreno at the KBP presidential forum projected the man he wants to be: the president of the Philippines.

The polish manifested itself in another way: of the five candidates for the virtual forum, Moreno was one of the few to finish his answers before the one-minute buzzer sounded. His good time management saved him the embarrassment and humiliation of being cut off by the host.

“The mayor is a picky eater to follow instructions,” Raymond Burgos, head of Moreno’s campaign communications team, told Rappler after the forum.

Burgos was one of the people who helped prepare the mayor for the three-hour town hall. He said Moreno had spent the night before “internalizing” his 10-point platform. From 7 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., while having coffee, Moreno got ready with Burgos and campaign manager Lito Banayo on possible questions, Banayo told Rappler.

WATCH THE GAME. Isko Moreno joins the KBP Forum from a studio next to his Manila City Hall office used for the live broadcast of his “Capitol Report”.

The “presidential-looking” setting of Moreno’s teleconferencing setup was his office studio at Manila City Hall used by the mayor for his regular “Capitol Report.”

Moreno started the forum with a ho-hum recitation of highlights from his platform prepared by Banayo as a Powerpoint presentation made by Burgos was flashed on the screen. But again, this part was dreary for everyone.

How Moreno got away with political issues

The energy picked up in the Q&A portion, where Moreno often gave his answers in structured bullet points and tended to switch between English and Filipino. It started with general concepts and statements of motherhood that would capture the attention of ordinary Filipinos before delving into more detailed answers that pundits or political observers might appreciate.

How will he finance his ambitious programs with the government’s debt of 11 trillion pesos? Thanks to efficient government spending, Moreno said, citing how he was able to pursue major infrastructure projects despite Manila’s fiscal challenges. He failed to mention, however, that most of his new buildings were financed by loans from the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank. But Moreno has proven his ability to collect taxes. City hall figures show the city’s tax revenue has grown every year under his leadership, even in the midst of a pandemic.

But quoting his record in Manila has its limits. For example, his response to TV5 presenter Roby Alampay’s question on how he would help the generation of Filipino children suffering from a lack of face-to-face education. Moreno simply said he would expand his Manila program of providing tablets and the internet to students and teachers nationwide. He did not answer Alampay’s question.

Moreno succeeded in giving concrete and clear answers to the other political questions. He accepts reclamation in general as a way to increase government revenue without further taxing citizens, as long as environmental regulations are followed.

It would legalize online cockfighting or e-sabong so that the government can regulate the underground industry and derive funds from it.

He is against the creation of a Boracay Island Development Authority as it is redundant and could deprive local Visayas governments of tourism revenue.

To address the lack of communications during and after typhoons, it would exploit low-Earth-orbit satellite technology developed by Elon Musk, with the help of Filipino companies.

It would prevent the overcrowding of prisons caused by Duterte’s war on drugs by attacking the “root” of the problem: the drug supply. Specifically, it would enhance the Navy’s capabilities to stop drug smuggling across the seas.

Moreno loves hit-two-bird-with-one-stone ideas. The strengthening of the navy also helps it deal with the encroachment of the Western Philippine Sea. Satellite technology improves access to education during a pandemic, in addition to assisting in disaster response.

Moreno and personal controversies

Moreno and his team prepared for questions about the Western Philippine Sea and the International Criminal Court, but they did not expect his excess campaign funds of 50 million pesos to be brought up again, Burgos said. to Rappler.

The mayor responded as he has in several other interviews, to emphasize that the “most important thing” is that he paid the appropriate tax, as requested by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

But asked about the morality of his decision to keep millions of pesos as personal income, Moreno said: “In the future, dapat magtatag tayo ng alituntunin na gabay para mga kandidato.(Going forward, we should put in place guidelines so applicants know what to do with the funds.)

[WATCH]    In the Running: round table on the KBP presidential forum

Burgos said the campaign team would have liked Moreno to point out that the excess funds were generated by his 2016 senatorial campaign, not his 2019 Manila mayoral bid.

Moreno seemed better off putting off another personal matter: his tendency to switch political allegiances and change national political parties.

“What matters most in the end is your loyalty to the people. As President Manuel L. Quezon said, ‘My loyalty to the party ends where my loyalty to the people begins.’ ….If this party member is abusing his power or not serving the people, why would you be loyal to him?” Moreno said.

Strategy of the “third force”

But perhaps Moreno’s most telling remarks were his last.

In his closing remarks, he did two things: backed all the top presidential bets except Vice President Leni Robredo and ex-Senator Bongbong Marcos, and presented himself as the candidate who “can get things done”.

Ako po, mga kababayan, tulad ni senator Manny Pacquiao and tsaka ni Ka Leody – kami po galing sa wala, nagsikap kami, nagtaguyod kami, pinagbuti namin ang aming trabaho. Salamat to Diyos, nakaahon kami to kinalalagyan namin. Ngayon, katulad din ni senator Ping Lacson naniniwala ako sa kanya. Siya, on the ground noong panahon, lalo na noong linalabanan niya yung korupsyon“, said Moreno.

(I, my compatriots, like Senator Manny Pacquiao and Ka Leody – we started from nothing, worked hard, did our job well. Thank God we got out of our situation. Like Senator Ping Lacson, I believe in him. He was on the ground mainly to fight against corruption.)

Her praise of Lacson sounded like a dig at Robredo who, in his interview with Boy Abunda, said the senator speaks but lacks “hands-on” work.

Pacquiao, De Guzman and Lacson are off-the-books bets behind Moreno in voter preference polls. Like Moreno, Pacquiao and Lacson were the contenders with whom Robredo engaged in “unification” talks that ultimately failed. Robredo and Marcos, meanwhile, are ahead of Moreno in the polls.

Moreno previously slammed Robredo and Marcos in his interview with Boy Abunda. While saying good things about the other bets, he said Filipinos should not vote for Robredo or Marcos as they would only seek revenge on the other if one of them is elected.

Rappler columnist and veteran journalist John Nery said Moreno’s statement shows he’s “really doubling down on his third force strategy for the election.” He appeals to a sector of voters who dislike Marcos but are also put off by Robredo and the “elitist” politics the two politicians might represent for them.

Promoting governance that “knows how to act, ‘doesn’t analyze, analyze, paralyze’, Moreno appears to be copying Duterte’s “I will provide leadership” moment during the 2016 Cebu presidential debate.

Can squatter-mayor Isko embody the image of political will that won Duterte many voters? –