Empty podiums for absentees at CNN presidential, VP debates deemed ‘good move’

February 18, 2022 - 5:25 PM
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UST debates
Representatives from the University of Santo Tomas, CNN Philippines and Microsoft Philippines in this photo uploaded on UST's Facebook account on Feb. 17, 2022 (Photo credited to Hans Malgapu and fr. Dexter Austria, O.P.)

(Updated Feb. 24, 2022; 11:29 a.m.) For some Filipinos, the debate organizer’s plan to leave the podiums of absent presidential and vice-presidential aspirants at the CNN Philippines debates “empty” is a good move.

The news outlet will be hosting the second presidential and first vice presidential debate for 2022 candidates on February 26 and 27, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the University of Santo Tomas.

Vice presidential bets who will attend on February 26 are former lawmaker Walden BelloManny SD LopezRizalito David, Sen. Kiko PangilinanCarlos Serapio, Senate President Tito Sotto and physician Willie Ong.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio declined the invite but her team did not give a reason for her absence.

Rep. Lito Atienza (Buhay party-list ) is also not attending the debate.

On the other hand, presidential candidates who will attend on February 27 are labor leader Leody de Guzman, ex-presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, cardiologist Jose Montemayor Jr., ex-defense chief Norberto Gonzales, entrepreneur Faisal Mangondato, Sens. Ping Lacson and Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and Vice President Leni Robredo.

Similar to Duterte-Carpio, presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will not attend due to the schedules his team “have already confirmed for the UniTeam’s campaign commitments.”

His spokesperson, lawyer Vic Rodriguez, previously said that they are not keen on attending forums where aspirants would be pitted against each other.

Some members of the UST community previously shared of hoping that the 2022 electoral bets would emulate the university’s core values once they step in and engage in the debates.

READ: What Filipinos are hoping for attendees of CNN presidential, VP debates

According to CNN Philippines president Benjamin Ramos, each aspirant would be given a podium. This means there will be ten podiums for the presidential aspirants, despite only nine confirmed attendees.

On the other hand, there will be nine podiums for the vice-presidential bets despite only eight confirming their attendance.

“We have already set up podiums for the 10 presidential candidates, so we will just leave it blank and just wait for them, just in case [they change their] mind. Hindi natin masabi, baka magbago [ang] isip [nila],” Ramos was quoted as saying.

The debates will be aired live on CNN Philippines Free TV Channel 9, cnnphilippines.com and CNN Philippines’ official Facebook account.

The news outlet on Friday also shared a quote card with the details of the debate.

“We heard you,” part of its caption reads.

Some Filipinos commended the organizers for leaving empty podiums for the electoral bets during the event.

“This is good. You see where they were supposed to be, you see that they chose not to be there. No matter the bias. Candidates should have their platforms exposed, to be tested, to be appraised, and compared with the ideas of the competition,” a Twitter user said.

“Let their silence be heard as the lack of their commitment to serve the Filipino people,” wrote another online user.

“Tama ‘yan para malaman ng taong bayan kung sino ang ayaw maglatag ng maayos na plano nila sa Pilipinas. Malalaman din (‘yung) wala talagang malinaw na plataporma,” a Filipino from Facebook wrote.

“Tama behavior (thumbs up emoji). Please put their names to the assigned podiums as well,” another Facebook user said.

During the first presidential debate for 2022 bets hosted by SMNI, a network owned by controversial church founder Apollo Quiboloy, the podiums dedicated to the invited candidates were also empty.

Presidential bets Robredo, Lacson, Pacquiao and Moreno skipped the debate while Mangondato and Montemayor were not invited.

Marcos, De Guzman, Gonzales and Abella attended the event.

Last month, the Commission on Elections underscored the importance of candidates’ attendance in debates.

The poll body will host debates for these candidates as well. However, it has not yet been announced when and where these would take place.

“It’s important that candidates take the opportunity to speak to the public, to present their plans for government in public… especially now that there is a lack of in-person opportunities,” Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said in January.