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For somebody whose camp crowed over Rody Duterte’s silence following a challenge to a debate, presidential tail-ender Mar Roxas came out as the laughing stock when he failed to show up at the first chance of meeting his former friend in a verbal encounter in De La Salle University in Manila Wednesday.

Called “The Leader I Want Forum” and billed as the first Presidential and Vice Presidential tandem debate sponsored by DLSU and Rappler.com, the event was attended only by Duterte and his vice presidential running mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.

Rappler reported that Roxas begged off from the debate, first saying that he had a series of sorties in Nueva Ecija and later claiming that the LP standard bearer was sick.

“Dalawa, tatlo na ang hamon kay Mayor Duterte nang debate, nasaan sila ngayon? Siguro yun ang dapat nating itanong,” Cayetano was quoted by Rappler as saying.

Duterte did not miss the chance of rubbing salt to Roxas’ wound when he said: “Tanong ko sa kanya, nakadroga siya? Nandito kami wala kayo. He failed to appear at the most appropriate time.”

He later on said that the candidates who were invited but did not show up “must have their own reasons” for not attending, but “I’m only saying that, not that it’s regrettable, but, I’m sad.”

In a format designed by the organisers, the Presidential and Vice Presidential tandems were supposed to present their platform of government and programs.

They were also expected to respond to questions from the representatives of the academe, the audience and the social media.

All of the tandems were reportly invited – Roxas and Leni Robredo, Jejomar Binay and Gregorio Honasan, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and Grace Poe Llamanzares and Francis Escudero.

In the absence of the four other tandems, Duterte and Cayetano had the crowd all for themselves and all the time to explain their programs of governance.

Duterte, with his signature sarcastic remarks, tough talk and jokes, captivated the audience and the won the hearts of many with his frank and straight forward answer to questions raised.

Roxas, on the other hand, who made a big issue about Duterte’s silence when he challenged the Davao City Mayor to a debate, not only lost the opportunity to show his debating prowess but also missed the chance to respond to his former friend’s searing accusations about his “incompetence.”

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