Most front-running presidential aspirants are interested to join the much-anticipated public debates so far even when they’re not legally mandated to do so.
This is what Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez said when asked about the planned events.
“Under the law, participation in debates is not mandatory. So wala tayong choice. We cannot force them to join the debate,” Jimenez said on ANC on Tuesday, January 18.
A candidate’s participation, Jimenez believes, will increase his or her exposure to the voting public.
“They don’t have to, but they do come, because it is a massive airtime, and they do get massive coverage that they could not normally get otherwise without paying, or without running afoul of the time limits for broadcast advertising,” Jimenez said.
This is what some of the top presidential aspirants have said about the debates.
Vice President Leni Robredo
Lawyer Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s spokesperson, tweeted about the importance of political debates for the coming elections.
“Hindi ba dapat magharap-harap ang mga kandidato para malinaw kung sino talaga ang may totoong ibubuga at sino ang umaasa lang sa fake news at memes?” Gutierrez said.
“I really hope we take a more proactive stance in giving Filipinos the opportunity to really see who our candidates are,” he added.
Hindi ba dapat magharap-harap ang mga kandidato para malinaw kung sino talaga ang may totoong ibubuga at sino ang umaasa lang sa fake news at memes? I really hope we take a more proactive stance in giving Filipinos the opportunity to really see who our candidates are. #LabanLeni https://t.co/l9TRjPm3ll
— Barry Gutierrez (@barrygutierrez3) January 18, 2022
In a separate interview with ANC, Robredo said that such events allow the people to confront their candidates.
“Kung iiwas ka, siguro dahil mataas na ‘yung numbers ko, hindi ko na kailangan sagutin ‘yan, o hindi ko na kailangan mag-appear dito, lugi ‘yung taumbayan. Lugi ‘yung taumbayan kasi hindi siya nagkakaroon ng opportunity to confront,” she said.
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
As of writing, the camp of Marcos Jr. has yet to issue any reaction or statement about joining these forums.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso
In an interview with reporters in October 2021, Domagoso said he was in favor of face-to-face presidential debates provided that there are health protocols in place.
“Pabor sa tao yun dahil malalaman ng tao yung kung ano ang intensyon at pananaw ng mga kandidato na katulad ko at mga kasama ko,” he said back then.
“Syempre yung minimum health protocol pero kaya ng gawin ng Comelec yun. We will abide by the rules. I guarantee that,” the city official further said.
Domagoso was also firm that he will attend these forums.
“We will participate kasi you deserve to know. The people deserve to know kung ano ang intensyon, layunin at pangarap ng mga kandidato para sa kanyang mamamayan,” he said.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao
In a statement on January 20, Pacquiao said he is prepared and “excited” to join a presidential debate.
“I’m ready and excited to join any presidential debate. Itong mga debate ng mga gustong mamuno sa ating bansa ay isang magandang paraan upang aming mailahad ang aming saloobin, layunin at programa para sa bayan at para sa ating mga mamamayan,” he said.
Sen. P:ing Lacson
In an interview with ANC in November 2021, Lacson was confident that he and running mate Senate President Vicente Sotto III are prepared to face any candidate in these forums.
“Ready ako kasi nag-aral kami ni Senate President Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III. Alam namin ang problema, pinagaralan namin ang solutions. We are ready to face any forum or any candidate for that matter to present our platform and plans,” the lawmaker said.
Lacson also pointed out that national debates have unexpected questions that will gauge a candidate’s competency.
“These are unexpected questions testing the capability, competence and experience of each candidate. The final judge will be the people after the debate,” he said.
Leody de Guzman
In a tweet on January 20, de Guzman informed Comelec and the public his intent to join national debates.
“Nais kong iparating sa @COMELEC at sa publiko ang aking interes na lumahok sa kanilang national debates,” he said.
Nais kong iparating sa @COMELEC at sa publiko ang aking interes na lumahok sa kanilang national debates. Tingin ko, tungkulin ng bawat kandidato na ipakilala ang kanyang sarili at kanyang plataporma sa mga botante upang magkaroon sila ng “informed choice” sa Mayo 2022.
— Ka Leody de Guzman (@LeodyManggagawa) January 20, 2022
The labor leader also perceived that it’s better for the poll body to organize these dialogues for a “level-playing field” among candidates.
“Ang mga debate at diskurso ay mas mainam na inoorganisa ng Comelec para sa ‘level playing field’ para sa mga kandidato’t partidong kwalipikado ngunit kulang sa rekurso, lalo na yung ayaw magkaroon ng ‘utang na loob’ sa mga makapangyarihang mga interes sa lipunan,” De Guzman said.