THE FILIPINO commercial television network TV5 praised the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu, its academic partner in holding the Visayas debate featuring four out of five contenders vying for the Philippine presidency in the general elections to be held on May 9, 2016.

 

Conducted at the UP Cebu Performing Arts Hall on March 20, this was the second round of the PiliPinas Debates 2016. Working with partners in the news media and the academe, the series is administered by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to inform citizens about key policies and issues affecting the electorate.

 

UP Cebu dean Atty. Liza D. Corro observed that “to educate and to provide public service is part of the mandate of UP as a national university.”

 

“Our partnership with UP Cebu is a big factor in the success of the event,” emailed Bing Mallari-Maano, TV5 news and information program manager.

She recalled that after shortlisting Cebu, Iloilo and Leyte as a venue for the Visayas leg of the presidential debate, the TV5 team made an ocular survey in 2015 to exhaust key universities that would meet the operational requirements to host “such a demanding event”.

 

“UP Cebu has been the top choice,” she recalled during the search “to choose a reputable university that will not only serve as venue for the debate but that which commands honor and prestige to the occasion.”

 

According to the social media meter compiled by the TV5, round 2 of the presidential debate generated an estimated 6.7 billion impressions, more than the 4.3 billion resulting from the first debate hosted by the GMA Network and Inquirer.net at Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao last February 21.

 

“More influential Twitter personas” used the #PiliPinasDebates2016 hashtag on round 2 than round 1, leading to the “significant lift in impressions,” explained Maggie Cortez, TV5 social media manager. During round 2, 891,300 Twitter personas mentioned the #PiliPinasDebates2016 hashtag 1,169,820 times, compared to the 973,000 Twitter personas using the same hashtag in round 1, creating only 4.3 billion estimated impressions and 1,151,639 mentions.

 

Determined from the start of the collaboration that UP Cebu would “not just be a venue” but an “avenue for a public sphere” to be created among informed and critical citizens, Corro said the UP Cebu team carried out an innovation that brought more citizen engagement during the second debate.

 

“(The on-ground) event made the (debate) more engaging and experiential to a greater number of concerned voters,” said UP Cebu’s event manager Gregg Lloren, a faculty member.  “It brought election issues closer to the people instead of a one-way interaction provided by television and other media avenues.”

 

The highly positive feedback of netizens to the pre-debate event reflected in the TV5 social media monitoring. “(UP Cebu’s) on-ground event in support of the presidential debate proved to be effective in raising awareness not only about the debate but most importantly in the campaign for an informed electorate,” commented the TV5 program manager.

 

Mallari-Maano also thanked UP Cebu for respecting the network’s creative freedom even if the TV5 could not share certain details about format and content during the pre-production stage. She singled out Dean Corro, the “extremely passionate and hardworking” faculty conceptualizing and executing the plan, and about a hundred students assisting in production, who were “happy and proud to make history with us”.

 

Despite constraints in facilities, UP Cebu has stepped up more than once in its service to the community, such as its hosting of the 6th ASEAN University Network’s (AUN) Presidents’ and Rectors’ Meeting in June 2014. “It is the talent, expertise, cooperation and enthusiasm among UP Cebu’s constituents that matter most,” said Dean Corro.