Comelec: Presidential debates not mandatory

By Ferdinand G. Patinio

MANILA, Sept. 21 (PNA) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that would-be candidates are not mandated to attend the presidential debates it will organize next year.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said that the debates to be held during the campaign period for the May 2016 national and local elections are on a voluntary basis.

“Wala tayong pinipilit dito. Kung gusto or ayaw, okay lang,” he said in a press briefing on Monday.

However, Bautista said that those who will not attend the debates might send a message to the electorate.

“Kung ayaw nila pumunta e yung kanilang pagpunta or hindi pagpunta ay mensahe na din e,” he said.

The poll body is looking to hold three presidential debates, one in Mindanao (between February 8-22); Visayas (between March 8-21); and Luzon (between April 12-15).

Among the possible issues to be debated upon are agricultural development, poverty reduction, charter change, peace and order, disaster preparedness, healthcare, education, corruption, public transportation, traffic, electoral reforms, foreign policy, tax reform, and national defense.

On the other hand, would-be vice-presidential candidates will have their chance to present their platforms as the Comelec is also looking to hold vice presidential debate in Metro Manila between April 4-8.

Bautista explained that holding such discussions, is their way of helping the candidates in presenting their platforms and for voters to know more about the candidates who are running in the highest post in the land.

“We are doing the candidates a favor by providing a venue, a free venue where they can ventilate their arguments, where they can discuss their platforms of government,” he said.

Section 7 of the Fair Election Act states that the Comelec “may require national television and radio networks to sponsor at least three national debates among presidential candidates and at least one among vice presidential candidates”.

So far, three politicians have expressed intentions to run in the presidential post they are: Vice President Jejomar Binay, Sen. Grace Poe, and former Interior and Local Government Secretary and administration bet Mar Roxas. (PNA)