Now, we can debate, Roxas tells Duterte
“That’s good” was Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Mar Roxas’ immediate reaction on Friday to the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to accept the certificate of candidacy (COC) of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
“Now we can debate about which direction we will take this country,” he said in Filipino.
Speaking to reporters in San Fernando, Pampanga, the former Interior Secretary said he would not shy away from a debate with Duterte on the country’s problems, instead of the “shallow” issues the two candidates had feuded about in the past week.
“I won’t back away from him, any time, even right now! Let us do it before he changes his mind again,” Roxas said of Duterte, whose COC validity was questioned as he was substituting for Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban’s (PDP-Laban) Martin Diño.
Roxas said he was ready to move on from the public tiff he had with Duterte, particularly about his economics degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which the Davao mayor had questioned.
The word war began after Roxas said Davao’s reputation as the country’s safest city was a “myth,” based on police statistics ranking the Mindanao city fourth in crime incidence.
Duterte retaliated by saying Roxas’ degree was also a “myth,” insisting that Roxas did not finish a four-year course from Wharton. The presidential contenders dared each other to a slapping match, following a public spat over the former interior secretary’s academic credentials.
He said the controversy on his academic credentials had been resolved. “The Wharton School and the University of Pennsylvania have already said that I graduated there with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Economics. What else do I need to prove? If he (Duterte) doesn’t want to believe that, I can’t do anything about it,” he said.
Roxas said there were more important issues to discuss than his degree.
“What is inclusive growth to each of the candidates? For us, we are clear on inclusive growth. We will use a ‘bibingka (rice cake)’ approach, in which there’s fire above and fire below. There are projects from above, and projects from below,” he said.
He expounded on his proposed “Walang Iwanan (no one left behind) Fund,” a P100-billion expansion of the government’s Bottom-Up Budgeting program, in which local government units would receive money to spend according to their own needs.
Roxas also responded well to United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) presidential candidate Vice President Jejomar Binay’s call for a “ceasefire” among the presidential candidates during the Christmas season.
“That is only right. Not only during the Christmas season but the whole year. In 2016, that’s what the people should see in us. It should be about the issues. Where will we take this country? The dreams of 100 million Filipinos are at stake here,” he said.
During a visit to the Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center in San Fernando, Pampanga, on Friday, Roxas said he would stop the word war with his presidential rivals.