Topics Within a Trending Topic – Text Analytics on 2nd Presidential Debate 2016

April 22, 2016

A large amount of interest on the presidentiables for the May 2016 National Elections was generated after the first installment of the Pilipinas Debates 2016 series organized by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and its media partners. Interest was so high, especially given the short time (two hours) of the first leg of the series that many complained in Twitter about the lack of time.

The request of Filipino netizens was granted in the next leg of the event held in Cebu City last 20 March 2016. It was scheduled to run for an hour more than the previous installment. But an unexpectedly long pre-debate coverage that took almost two hours caused by, as everyone would later find out, issues with the debate rules, made Part 2 last far longer than the scheduled time. Throughout the almost-five-hour event, the audience spoke their minds, leading to the rise of different topics spontaneously generated by the viewers themselves.

We in Pointwest’s Data Science Team have an interest in knowing more about these topics, hoping to find trends in the thousands of posts that would give a better understanding of the social media landscape around the 2016 National Elections.

Text Analytics

To do this, we used Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) in topic modelling. This method automatically groups words from extracted tweets to form a latent topic.  The data here is the same as the one used in our previous analyses (Read: From Tweets to Thoughts), only that retweets were eliminated in this case. Retweets tend to dominate in one topic, thus distorting word frequency, an essential component in this kind of modelling.

LDA gives the most relevant words in a topic alongside with the tweets with the highest probability of belonging in that topic in order to make an interpretation. For this case, the model was specified to form six topics since this is the optimal number to assure that the latent space is interpretable. It is also important to note that the formed topics can overlap and may contain more underlying topics in them.

Below are the  topics that emerged in the #PiliPinasDebates2016 Twitter conversations.

VP Binay insists on bringing documents

Top Words: bida, kaalyado, kaklase, magdala, magtiwala, nagnakaw, simple

The delay of the debate proper was a consequence of a miscommunication between the designated moderator, Ms. Luchi Cruz-Valdez, and the camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay. Ms. Cruz-Valdez allowed Mr. Binay to bring notes during the debate. The camp of former Sec. Mar Roxas contested this, saying the agreed-upon rules with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) stipulated that notes were not allowed.

The discussion on the bringing of documents lasted even until the debate began, with Binay reiterating that they’re not notes, and he prepared for the event with his documents in hand. The issue was resolved only after ninety minutes. Luchi Cruz-Valdez later apologized, admitting she was not informed about the rules.

The scenario was so significant that it garnered the second highest number of shares with regard to Tweets about the situation, over and above any particular position or statement given by the Presidentiables.

Here are some of the tweets classified under this topic and containing some of the top words:


Netizens Rants Towards TV5 For The Delayed Debate

Top Words: aantay, bibitaw, katagal, kaunting, maghintay, pagod

When the cause of delay was not yet made known to those watching the debate, viewers had nothing to blame but the host network and bombarded TV5 with hate tweets. Although the network’s anchors repeatedly said that they were not the cause of delay, many retorted that any issue should have been clarified before the debate as they had been given enough time to prepare.

Cheryl Cosim’s “huwag bibitaw” (“don’t let go/give up”) statement triggered a domino of “hugot” (pulled from dramatic experience) tweets from netizens, making the “delay” end up high in our list.


Positive Tweets About Duterte And Poe

Top Words: crime, death penalty, divorce, drugs, fraud, leadership, pretentious

Among the four present presidentiables, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Grace Poe were the ones who voted in favor of death penalty in the Taas-Kamay segment. This led to the tweeting of people who shared the same belief. They also believed that the two candidates are the least pretentious, as well as being both for transparency of information.


Luchi Cruz-Valdez And The Deaf Interpreter

Top Words: Luchi, Cruz, Valdez, deaf, delicadeza, hosting, MVP, moderating, moderators, resign

Not only were the debaters talked about, but also the moderator, Luchi Cruz-Valdez, and the newly-added sign-language interpreter.

Many were glad with the addition, and were wowed by the composure of the moderator and interpreters during the debate. This was considered as an improvement from the first presidential debate.

Nonetheless, there were tweets referring to Luchi Cruz-Valdez asking her to have “delicadeza” and quit her job because of her admission of partly being at fault for the one-and-a-half-hour delay before the debate.

Here’s a tweet pertaining to Luchi Cruz-Valdez.

Here’s a tweet about the interpreters:


Visayan Tweets

Top Words: Top Words: dugay, dugaya, kaayo, magsugod, unsa

The rise of this topic on Twitter only tells us that the location of the debate has an impact on its audience. We at Pointwest also performed a topic analysis on the first leg of Pilipinas Debates 2016, and none of the topics pointed to the Visayan language.

With the second stretch happening in Cebu, the event gained an active Twitter participation from Visayans, many using their native language. Visayan tweets did not dwell on a particular topic:

(This one translates to “PiliPinasDebates2016 takes even longer to start than my lovelife.)

(This one means, “Binay is playing too safe that he could qualify as a PBB housemate)

(And with a little help from online translators, this says, “But Grace Poe, if the coast guard was killed, what would you do? Answer the question.)


Positive Tweets About Binay

Top Words: boodlenews, giginhawa, kinabukasan, onlybinayknows, subaybayan

Binay’s supporters may have offset, if not neutralized, the bad publicity their presidential bet was having (after the delay). They seemingly tried to “comfort” him through “we still support you”, “don’t mind them” tweets and the #OnlyBinayKnows hashtag. It is important to take note that @boodlenews is a newsportal tackling the vice president’s accomplishments.

Also, the Taas Kamay segment, where the vice president raised his hand when asked if in favor of burying President Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, may have caused a surge of tweets among the pro-Marcoses.

Let’s peek into some of the tweets:


Making Sense of the Tweets

Topics to start conversations are sometimes difficult to find, whether in real life or in digital mediums of communication. Common ground or shared experiences are often the best way to fuel exchanges, as in the case of Twitter users watching the Pilipinas Debate 2016, especially the ones who used the hashtag #PilipinasDebate2016. With just six major topics, 1.6 million Tweets were generated, showing the importance given by Filipinos to this event.

COMELEC’s goal with the debates is to help voters decide which of the five Presidentiables are worth their vote on 9 May 2016. It provides candidates with a platform to present their stands and proposed policies, as well as “show their mettle” against their fellow aspirants.

Yet three of the six topics generated by the Debates were not even about statements made by the candidates during the event. Filipino netizens focused on the delay and its reason far above the platforms, achievements and actions by any of the five candidates. Are these just the usual irate social media responses, or is this a behavior worth analyzing?

At the very least, the data shows where COMELEC can fine-tune its preparations for the next leg of the Presidential debates, as well as the one for the candidates for Vice President. It would appear, based on the Twitter responses alone for the second leg, that a more thorough coordination is required so that the Debates will allow voters to focus more on the candidates and their platforms and not on unfortunate incidents.


Founded in 2003 by pioneers of the Philippine Global Sourcing industry, Pointwest creates value for its list of satisfied clients — including top Fortune 100 and  local companies — with world-class IT and BPM services backed by international-standards methodologies and innovative practises.