WHY NOT? This is not really the question, but when. This should be a “coming soon” spectacular feature in the electoral campaign for the Bacolod mayoralty seat this May. Indeed, people will be waiting for this intellectual combat that will challenge any claim or platform of government that the two mayoralty candidates, incumbent Mayor Evelio Leonardia and challenger, Jocelle Batapa-Sigue will present to the people. This debate will be on equal footing because both are lawyers.

In the 2016 election, Monico Puentevella was at a disadvantage because he is not a lawyer nor had taken courses in law. He was, of course, a congressman for a long time and was expected to be good at debates because Congress is a debating body. However, he was not known to have clashed in mental combat with any other member of Congress on a controversial issue that could have tested his mettle.

Most members of Congress don’t really engage in verbal tussles – they are good in lobbying for their pet projects or contractors. This function is most welcome in their district when they bring in projects. People prefer projects than debates. Many congressmen and senators, and councilors for that matter are elected and reelected for their silence as long as they have the dole outs on Election Day.

Leonardia had been in Congress in between being mayor and while in Congress had not been known to be a debater but he is a lawyer and therefore had undergone training in argumentation and debate. On the other hand then challenger Leonardia could not also match him in the basketball court. Nevertheless, their radio debate was an uneven fight.

This time, however, we have two lawyers so from the point of view of training they have both although while Bataap-Sigue is practicing law, Leonardia is practicing politics. He had not been known to have argued a case in court.

Still their training and intellectual acumen will be matched so that we can expect an exciting discussion on the controversial issues in this city which are political in nature. Though a seasoned politician, Leonardia is certainly on the defense while Batapa-Sigue is the aggressor.

The Commission on Election had already called on candidates to participate in the debates among them that we understand the commission will organize. Can we expect then the Bacolod Comelec Registrar whoever will be assigned here during the campaign to initiate this debate? There is also the church-based group that can take up this task.  In the last mayoralty race, the debate was hosted by BomboRadyo and that created issues among the radio stations.

If the Comelec organizes this debate, it can make use of its Comelec time with all radio stations hooked up to an independent host in a neutral venue where only a select group of audience will be allowed entrance. This will eliminate the problem of cheering crowds for or against. We need a sensible discussion, not a gathering of rabbles.

There are many issues plaguing the Leonardia administration. He or his cohorts had refused or avoid defending them except in press releases. This should be a good time for them to defend their system of governance and the malaise that has befallen Bacolod under their government of secrecy and cabalism. I believe that Batapa-Sigue will be able to pry loose their tongue, or at least that of Leonardia.

Although Leonardia had not been always engaged in this confrontational situation, he has a stable of lawyers to provide him with advice and techniques on the issues to be raised. If they can hurdle the more difficult cases before the Ombudsman and the Court of Appeals surely they can surmount anything else.

Of course the court of public opinion is different. The courts of law have many dark corners and byways that the experts in law and operators will be able to see their way to dismissals. But not so with the public mind that has multifarious interests and hundreds of biases. They will cast their votes to make known their decisions during the election.

We must admit that winning the debate does not equal winning the votes. The reality of voter behavior shows that winning depends, to recall a popular television show, on whether “the price is right.”

But not all voters can be bought; the debate can tip the balance.