TU accept debate challenge vs GO

PHILIPPINES NEWS SERVICE — ADMINISTRATION officials yesterday said they were ready to debate the economy and other issues with the opposition to take the election campaign to a higher level and avoid mudslinging.

“We welcome the debate between the candidates of the administration and the opposition under rules that are mutually agreed upon,” Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said in a statement.

Team Unity senatorial candidate Prospero Pichay said the administration party was ready to face the Genuine Opposition in a debate at the historic Plaza Miranda in Manila or in any other venue.

“We challenged them and yet they failed to respond until now,” Pichay said, adding Team Unity challenged the opposition to the debate two weeks ago.

The proposal for a public debate cropped up after the opposition took out full-page advertisements saying the administration’s claim of improving economic conditions in the country was illusory.

GO spokesman Adel Tamano said the opposition wanted the debate to focus not only on the economy but also on extra-judicial killings, human rights violations and criminality.

“We want to see if the administration’s senatorial ticket can look the average Filipino in the eye and say in all honesty that Juan dela Cruz’s life has improved under the present administration,” Tamano said on Wednesday.

He said Team Unity candidate Ralph Recto should join the debate to defend his support for the raising of the value added tax on goods and services.

“Let’s see if [Recto] can stand before the crowd at Plaza Miranda and ask the people to vote for him because their lives have improved because of the higher [value added tax],” he said.

Administration lawmakers said the opposition should brush up on economics to avoid humiliation in any debate.

“We insist that the debate should center on the country’s economic gains, which have been the target of GO’s newspaper ads,” Rep. Federico Sandoval II said.

Bunye said a televised public debate would give candidates from both sides an opportunity to prove their mettle.

“We are for political maturity and responsible voting among the Filipino electorate and we look forward to this opportunity for both sides to bring the issues before the people without undue grandstanding and personal attacks,” Bunye said.

“Let the people decide which group has a clear plan to move our country forward,” he said.

Over at the Commission on Elections, agency spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body would have to approve the rules for any debate between the contending parties for the May elections.

“If they hold it in a controlled environment, then the Comelec should be the one to organize it,” he said. “If they want to hold it in Plaza Miranda, then I recommend that they come to the Comelec and ask us to organize it.”

Jimenez said the Comelec just wanted to make sure that the debate would be conducted professionally and not used by any party to gain an undue advantage over another.

“In practical terms, you might say that the rules will have to be approved by the Comelec,” he said.

“In the end, whoever makes the rules, as long as these are approved by the Comelec, then they may use those rules [for the debate].”