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With Election Day just a month away, senatorial aspirant Nancy Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on Wednesday said she has no time for debates. "Alam niyo, among the candidates kasi, ako ang pinakahuling sumabak dito, 'di ba? So ang priority ko ngayon ay umikot at talagang magkaroon ng face-to-face contact sa ating mga kababayan," said Binay on GMA News TV's “News To Go” in justifying her decision to decline fellow senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros' challenge to a debate.
Analyst: Nancy Binay chose the safer road "Ang priority ko ngayon ay manalo sa ngayong halalan, and I think wala na kaming panahon para mag-debate pa ni Ms. Risa Hontiveros," she said. Binay, daughter of Vice President and UNA stalwart Jejomar Binay, said she would rather engage Hontiveros in a debate on the Senate floor if they both get elected. Hontiveros, a former party-list lawmaker, is running under the Liberal Party-led coalition. "Siguro, para sa akin nga, 'yung Senate floor is a proper forum para kaming dalawa ay mag-debate," Binay said. "For the meantime, kaming dalawa, dapat mag-concentrate muna kami sa aming laban ngayong Mayo 2013." Internet meme Hontiveros challenged Binay to a debate after a meme became viral on the internet comparing the two candidates based on their track records in politics and questioning the results of a Social Weather Stations survey showing Binay ranking 4th and Hontiveros 18th. The meme pointed out Binay's supposed lack of qualifications to join the Senate, her having no experience in legislation, and having only served as personal assistant to her politician parents, while on the other hand mentioning that Hontiveros is a three-term congresswoman before she ran for a Senate position in 2010. Binay said she is aware of the meme but doesn't think much of it. "Nakita ko nga 'yung meme na kumakalat ngayon sa Facebook. Para sa akin, may kanya-kanyang kakayahan kami ni Risa Hontiveros na pwedeng ibigay sa ating mga kababayan," she said. She also defended herself against criticism that she is only using her famous last name to get a Senate seat. "Halos isang buwan na rin kaming nag-iikot sa buong Pilipinas and I think marami na akong nakausap, nakamayan na ating mga kababayan. Siguro naman, at this point, nakikita nilang hindi lang ang apelyido ko ang pwede kong dalhin sa Senado," Binay said. "And gusto ko lang sabihin na I am very much proud of my last name na Binay. Kasi iyang apelyido ko na iyan, may serbisyo nang itinatag," she added. If elected, she will be the fifth member of the Binay family in politics after her father; mother Elenita, a former Makati mayor; sister Mar-Len Abigail, incumbent congresswoman of Makati's 2nd district; and brother Junjun, incumbent Makati mayor. Disappointed In a separate phone interview, also on “News To Go,” Hontiveros said she was disappointed that Binay refused to engage her in a debate, but added she is still open if Binay ever changes her mind. "Nadi-disappoint akong ayaw tugunan ni Ms. Nancy Binay ang panawagan ko para sa isang public debate. Inaasahan ko pa ring ang ibibigay sa kanya ay respeto pa rin bilang isang tao," she said. Hontiveros said debates would help inform voters of a candidate's character and platform to help them make an informed choice in voting. She also urged voters to be “discerning” in picking their candidates. "Nanawagan ako sa ating mga kababayan, sa lahat ng mga botante, manatili po tayong magkritika, maging discerning at siguruhin po natin na ang kampanya ito ay hindi bumaba, maging contest na mga aatake na 'yung mga below the belt, 'yung mga alaskahan, o nagiging unethical na, o kaya nagiging racist na or sexist pa," she said. Hontiveros said she is not disappointed with her performance in surveys despite being outside the “Magic 12.” "Ang inaasahan ko lamang, dala ang mga mahahalagang turo sa akin ng mga survey results, katumbas niya 'yung mga inspirasyon at saka 'yung hamon na magsisikap pa lalo sa pangangampanya na dalhin sa kanila ang ating mga mensahe at 'yung panawagan kong dalhin rin itong sliver na pag-asa ng isang ordinaryong mamayan na walang mabigat na apleyido o malaking pera, na dalhin ako sa Senado,” she said. — Amanda Fernandez/KBK/BM, GMA News
For political analyst Ramon Casiple, UNA senatorial candidate Nancy Binay's refusal to engage in a debate with administration bet Risa Hontiveros maintains her quiet status. "She will remain a question mark, walang epekto sa kanyang current status," Casiple said, when asked what are the implications of Binay's refusal to engage in the debate during the election period. "She chose the safer road kasi pwedeng mas disastrous kung pumasok siya sa debate," he said. "But if she accepted the debate, she could have had a chance to prove herself against the criticism." Though maintaining a quiet status has been working for Binay, Casiple said the lack of ambiguity may eventually become her problem. "Based on my observation, ang selling point niya is ang pagiging anak ng bise presidente," he said. "Well, malaking initial advantage iyon pero nandito na tayo sa stage kung saan kinikilala na at kinikilatis na ng publiko ang mga kandidato." "Kung may mga nagdududa at hindi ka pa siya nakikilala, problema iyon," Casiple added. — Amanda Fernandez/KBK, GMA News