First presidential debate gives birth to Duterte-Miriam 'love team'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The heated presidential debate on Sunday (February 22) was momentarily eased by the show of love and respect between Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

The first debate — organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), KBP, GMA Network, and Philippine Daily Inquirer — birthed a tandem between Duterte and Santiago that was christened by netizens as DuRiam, which is a portmanteau of their names, Duterte and Miriam.

Before the debate was televised, Duterte approached Santiago and hugged her. His gesture was reciprocated by a tight hug from the senator as cameras clicked away.

Some of the presidentiables traded barbs, but Duterte and Santiago spared each other. In fact, they even went as far as praising each others' qualifications and characters.

Related: Presidential candidates grilled in first official debate

During Duterte's 60-second opening speech he opted to start it with, "It's good that Ma'am Miriam is here. She's one of the two only qualified to run this country as president."

When the issue of graft and corruption was brought up, Santiago said that Duterte is one of the very few who have fought it.

"Everybody speaks out but nobody has done very much except Mayor Rody Duterte." To which Duterte answered with a surprised smile.

When Santiago was questioned about her decision to run despite the fact that she just battled Stage 4 cancer, Duterte, instead of rebutting her answer, chose to defend Santiago,

"She's telling you the truth and truth is very important. I do not see Miriam passing away in the next 20 years," Duterte said.

When the debate concluded, Duterte assisted Santiago from her podium on the way to her assigned spot on the stage.

Related: PiliPinas 2016 first presidential debates gallery

#DuRiam, a hit on Twitter

Netizens on Twitter tweeted #DuRiam to show how much they "ship" or approve of the tandem, with the hashtag garnering at least 30,000 tweets from Sunday night until Monday.

You know it's forever when he looks you this way #DuRiam #PiliPinasDebates2016

— Louelle (@skinneeh) February 21, 2016

Bkit kinikilig ako kay Duterte at Miriam Santiago? #DuRiam #PiliPinasDebates2016

— Kate Roxas (@juvykate_) February 22, 2016

Some even noted that the Duterte-Santiago tandem was better than their favorite local love teams.

AlDub, JaDine, and KathNiel flew out of the window. I'm rooting for #DuRiam now. #PiliPinasDebates2016

— blaise (@blaiseziken) February 21, 2016

Aside from the jokes shared, some netizens expressed their thoughts on how the Philippines would benefit if Duterte and Santiago ran together, instead of against each other.

They would've been the perfect tandem.#DuRiam #PiliPinasDebates2016

— larry cristobal (@hacristobal) February 21, 2016