CAGAYAN DE ORO City mayoralty bet Elmer Francisco cried foul over what he perceived as discrimination when he and four other candidates were excluded in a candidates’ forum held at Xavier University gymnasium on Tuesday.
Francisco, a businessman, on his Facebook page, posted the letter from Xavier University-Governance and Leadership Institute that arrived in his office only on Tuesday, the day of the forum.
It informed him that he was no longer included in the forum as it turned into a face-off between reelectionist Mayor Vicente Emano and his challenger Misamis Oriental Governor Oscar Moreno.
“Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan), by virtue of their attached letter, is unfairly limiting the choices of the people of Cagayan de Oro City to only two candidates out of the seven eligible candidates. “Where is the democracy?” Francisco asked.
Francisco’s statement lambasted the XU-GLI over what he called as an unfair treatment.
The letter signed by Dr. Hilly Ann R. Quiaoit, vice-president for Research and Social Outreach, stated that “due to constraint in time, XU has decided to limit the forum to a face-off between the top mayoralty candidates based on XU’s latest poll surveys.”
“Is this the kind of democracy that the Research and Social Outreach vice-president of the prestigious Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) teach? Maybe she has a different definition of democracy? Maybe the higher management of the prestigious Xavier University did not know about the actions of their employees?” Francisco asked rhetorically.
Francisco added: “Under a democracy, anybody who is eligible under the limits of the law could run for any public office and equally have the right to be heard as with any other candidate for public office.”
Francisco said that the five candidates, including him, were deprived of their rights to air their respective platforms and it equally deprived Kagay-anons from hearing and knowing about their platforms, “While they only allowed only their preferred candidates to participate. Where is democracy?”
Francisco lamented that in the previous forum from XU, they were able to accommodate 15 candidates for councilors and vice-mayors.
Dr. Dixon Yasay, Director of Xavier University-Governance and Leadership Institute (XU-GLI) who organized the forum, said that the first consideration was time constraint, “much as we would like to accommodate all candidates, we have a limited time,” Yasay said.
“Whatever the reason is, I do not know but I will not accept time constraints as an answer,” Francisco countered Yasay’s explanation.
The letter further stated that the forum was intended to hear out the top contenders (Emano and Moreno) on their performance and alternative plans based on the top five identified and expressed needs of the electorate based on a survey conducted by the XU-Kinaadman Research Center (XU-KRC).
Yasay said that the second consideration why only Emano and Moreno were invited was due to the result of the survey that XU-KRC commissioned.
He said XU is only a single entity and that there could be other forums for candidates, “but we decided only on the two because they have the highest chance of winning and addressing the issues that voters wanted to hear.”
“Only the two (Emano and Moreno) stood out, the rest of the candidates have less than one percent chances of winning,” Yasay said on the phone.
Social Media comments
Francisco’s Facebook (FB) post generated comments, and called the move of XU an “elitist” one.
Hernan Agpawa, commented on the post: “What a shame. In our time, during 2010 elections, we conducted a forum with all mayoralty candidates in XU Little Theatre with the Phil. Jaycees (JCI), and it was orderly done.”
Melissa Fernandez-San Jose commented the move as “unfair.”
Another FB user Noel Bacal commented: “I am ashamed that XU discriminated you and other candidates by excluding you to the forum. XU is my school from pre-school to College of Law and trust me, this act of the current administration does not reflect the entire XU community as a whole.”
Bacal added that he is not for Francisco but is one in condemning the act of discrimination.
“XU is clearly supporting traditional politicians,” Bacal said. The post has generated hundreds of likes and was shared 77 times.