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Daily Tribune : Debates gauging poll candidates

News & Interviews
29 October 2021

By Gab Humilde Villegas | Daily Tribune

The Commission on Elections said Thursday it will conduct not one, not two, but three in-person debates for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates

In 2016, then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte gamely fielded questions from panelists and students of De La Salle University in Manila during a scheduled debate among candidates for president.

Duterte’s fellow candidates were no-shows, seemingly having no gumption for a no-holds-barred confrontation among themselves. The others were not missed, though, as Duterte had a lot to say.

One feisty student heatedly asked Duterte what he’d do with the runaway criminality prevailing then, with motorcycle robbers and assassins striking with impunity.

Duterte silenced the hoots and the howls from the gallery by answering he’d make it safe for all students and all Filipino citizens, for that matter, to walk the streets again.

Elected President months later and quickly stopping the “tanim-bala” extortion schemes at the airports, Duterte made good his promise as seen by the big drop in index crime volumes under his administration.

For next year’s elections for president and vice president, there’s no reason for the candidates to miss crossing swords or showing their wits to afford voters a chance to vet their suitability for the highest offices in the land.

This as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Thursday it will conduct not one, not two, but three in-person debates for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that the debates will be marked by the physical presence of the candidates, but that the audiences will be virtual.

“It will be face-to-face among candidates. Yesterday, there was a lot of talk about it being online and people were concerned that online meant the candidates will be virtual as well. They wouldn’t be,” Jimenez said.

“Candidates will be in the same place, they will debate in-person, but the audience will be virtual,” he added.

Apart from the three presidential debates, Jimenez said the poll body will host three separate debates for the vice-presidential candidates, as the vice president is elected independently of the president, unlike in the United States.

Meanwhile, Jimenez said the Comelec guidelines for the campaign period will be released soon.

“The most prominent feature, as far as I’m looking at the review of it, is that we will be regulating the number of people who can participate in in-person campaigns. It is likely going to be determined in large part by the alert level in a particular place,” Jimenez said.

The Comelec has yet to declare the official candidates for president and vice president for the 2022 elections.

So far, the primary candidates for president are Vice President Leni Robredo, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso and Senators Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Manny Pacquiao and Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, and former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Disputing the vice presidency are Senate President Tito Sotto, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Willie Ong and Walden Bello.