Topic Analysis of April 24 PilipinasDebate 2016

May 7, 2016

Just 15 days before the Election Day, the third and final leg of the PiliPinas Debates 2016 series was held at the University of Pangasinan on April 24, 2016. The debate made its way to the top spot of trending topics in Twitter with over 1.9 million tweets during the event, which lasted for more than 3 hours.

Pointwest's Topic Analysis on the 3rd Leg of the Presidential Debate 2016

Although a semblance of unity among netizens looked apparent with the cooperative use of the hashtags #PilipinasDebates2016 and #PilipinasDebates, there was still diversity in viewer sentiments and topics. During the second Presidential Debate, Pointwest’s Data Science Team took a closer look into Netizens’ tweets to uncover the latent topics behind the trending hashtag (Read: Topics Within a TrendingTopic – Text Analytics on 2nd Presidential Debate 2016). The team did a similar analysis for the final leg to get a fresh picture of what the audience was talking about in their tweets.

Text  Analysis and Analytics

From the 828,795 extracted tweets, all the retweets were removed, which resulted to 366,819 tweets that was used in forming latent topics. Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) is the algorithm used in this analysis, which groups words from the extracted tweets to form a latent topic. In order to interpret the topics, LDA can provide the top words and the top tweets (tweets with the highest probability of belonging in that topic) for each latent topic. The top words are the ones written below the topic title and the top tweets are the sample tweets that the team discovered.

LDA can give a large number of topics to be as specific as possible but in this analysis, top 6 latent topics were formed just to get a picture of the tweets. In addition, each tweet was assigned to one topic exclusively in order to graph the number of tweets per topic through time. The number of tweets were computed per hour to further analyze the topics’ peak time.

Tweets supporting Jejomar Binay

Top words: onlybinaywinner, onlybinay, binay, nog, galing

Consistency among the supporters of Binay is noteworthy. These were also apparent during the second installment of the debate series, where topics in favor of Binay first came out.

Despite all the issues VP Binay is facing, tweets with the words “galing,” “sumama,” “susuportahan” and similarly positive words still arose. These tweets supporting the vice president dominated the number of extracted tweets with a persistent increase from the start of the extraction period until it peaked between 6:00 pm and 6:59 pm, which was the start of the event. Although, it did not last too long as it experienced a continuous decline from 7:00 pm until the end of the extraction period.


Tweets supporting Miriam Santiago

Top words: miriam, simiriamangsagot, switchmiriam, miriamparin

Fresh from her absence during the 2nd leg of the debate, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was back along with her supporters. Her presence in the debate was indisputable as tweets supporting the so-called Iron Lady of Asia poured in when the debate started.

A long pause during her opening statement earned her tweets both of encouragement and doubt in her health condition. Mentions of Mayor Duterte also appeared in such tweets. Remembering accounts from the first leg of the debates, pairing between the two presidentiables emerged. Tweets mentioning the senator decreased as the program progressed. This trend was observed until 9:00 to 9:59 pm where tweets with the keywords “simiriamangsagot,” “switchmiriam,” and “miriamparin” reached another peak, which happened during her fast talk until her closing statement, which may have cleared the doubts about her health.


Netizens’ standpoint on the candidates’ answers

Top words: country, issue, west, sea, good, answer

There was a glimpse of the candidates’ personalities, as viewers heard their platforms when they answered questions related to West Philippine Sea, traffic, contractualization, OFWs, healthcare, Mindanao peace talks, and education.

As the presidential candidates expounded on their stand and plans for these national issues, Twitter was continuously bombarded with tweets that expressed the netizens’ own standpoint on the matter in question. Some of the answers of the candidates gathered support and was backed up by netizens actively Tweeting, while other candidates attracted criticisms on how they handled and conveyed their answers.

This topic started trending as the program started and gathered a consistent following from the netizens during the course of the whole program.


Alleged bias of ABS-CBN and Karen Davila in favor of Mar Roxas

Top words: abs cbn, bias, karen, biased, and abscbnnews

The tweets asserting the bias of ABS-CBN in favor of Mar Roxas gained consistent towering attention from netizens during the debate period. Furthermore, the number of such tweets were notably higher during the fast-talk round of the debate. Prior to the debate, protests against ABS-CBN’s hosting of the debate were already rampant due to some accusations against the network being biased.

At around 8:00pm, the issue of the “screen capture” of what Secretary Mar Roxas was about to say versus the alleged advanced ticker text came about. In some other articles and posts online, this was debunked. There were also allegations of VIP treatment for the ex-DILG Secretary during the debate, i.e. giving him a different set of question during the fast-talk, and letting him finish his statements even if the time was already over.


Netizens Describing Their Ideal President

Top Words: binay, grace, mar, miriam, and duterte.

At around 7:00pm to 7:59pm, tweets about the Filipino people’s hope to have an ideal leader were on the rise. While the presidentiables were busy answering questions regarding various issues and asking each other questions during the face-off segment, netizens were occupied with their newly developed fascination — presidential fusion.

The twitter-verse listed down each candidate’s selling points beneficial to the country’s development, and fused them to bring out the perfect leader they could possibly have. The search for a complete-package president reached its peak during this time and then declined as hours passed by.


Opinions on Presidentiable Promises

Top words: Pangako, tax, traffic, plano, and salita

“Enough! Enough of those promises,” the battlecry of the Filipinos at this stage of the election campaign. Filipinos are tired of hearing the same promises, again and again, assessed the capacity of the future leaders to handle the country’s unceasing problems. Aside from their seemingly unrealistic promises, twitter netizens questioned the inefficient performance of the candidates from their past posts dragging their credibility down. A tweet asked if some presidentiables needed to be president before they performed what was expected of them.


Making Sense of the Tweets

Third debate with 5 candidates, 7 national issues, hundreds of thousands of twitter users, all with different perspectives and stand on the issues. It was challenging to capture with much certainty all the sentiments posted, but the 6 topics gave a peak into the debate’s progress, and the twitter-verse’s pulse against it.

The third installment of the debate series can be considered a success in terms of focusing  the attention of the Filipino people to the actual problems of the country, and the corresponding statements from the candidates.

The topics in the 3rd debate were more focused, as a whole, on the qualifications and platforms of the candidates, and the stand of the people on the real issues of the country. Whereas in the 2nd debate, 3 of the 6 topics in Twitter — the rants on the delay of the debate, how VP Binay insisted on bringing documents to the debate,  and the deaf interpreter and host of the debate, were irrelevant to the real-world issues that were asked during the debate proper.

Although there were concerns about the impartiality of how the debate was handled by ABS-CBN, the reactions of the people in Twitter demonstrated their preference on substance over form. According to the data, tweets showed that people regarded the final leg of the debate as an avenue of information than mere entertainment.

Starting from the first leg of the series on February 20, 2016 until the final leg, a lot of Filipinos followed and got involved in the debate series. Social media was used as their primary platform in expressing their response and reactions regarding the debate. Such posts, which trended over a period of time, may have had some impact, but only the 9th of May 2016 will truly change the course of history of the country.

In the end, the Filipino people need to cast their votes, and vote wisely.