Comelec sets debates among presidentiables

At least three presidential and one vice presidential debates in preparation for 2016 elections have  been prepared by the Commission on Elections, Chairman Andress Bautista said on Wednesday.

At the sidelines of the budget deliberations of various agencies of government, including the Comelec, at the House of Representatives,   Comelec chairman Andres Bautista said the debates are being organized by the poll body in coordination with several media organizations headed by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas.

“We will be meeting the KBP   on Friday   and then again will be meeting all the networks on   Tuesday, October 6, to talk about the rules and regulations for us to finalize the guidelines,” Bautista told reporters.  

“But basically, we agreed that there will be four debates—three presidential and one vice presidential. The three debates will be held in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon in that order and then the vice presidential will be held in Metro Manila,” Bautista added.

Bautista said the presidential debates in Mindanao will be conducted between Feb. 8 and 22; in Visayas, between   March 8 and 21; and in Luzon, between April 12 and 15.

On the other hand, the debates for vice presidential candidates will be between  April 4 and 8.

“There will be a lead organizer [for every presidential debate] and these three groups include ABS-CBN with Manila Bulletin, GMA7 with Philippine Daily Inquirer and the TV 5 with the Philippine Star and then CNN Philippines and BusinessMirror will be the lead organizers for the vice presidential debate. But all debates will be opened to all media,” Bautista added.

Bautista said among the possible issues that will be covered during the debates include “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.”

Bautista maintained that the holding of presidential debates is prescribed under the law.      He cited Section 7 of the Fair Election Act, which states 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.”

The Comelec chief was quick to say however the presidential and vice presidential debates are on a voluntary basis.

Bautista  also said that the Comelec would draw  up guidelines on  who  nuisance candidates are.

The guidelines, he said, will be made to  keep  the integrity of the elections, particularly during the filing of the Certificate of Candidacies. 

“It is the responsibility of the Comelec to make sure that elections are done properly. We don’t want it to   become a mockery. We should disallow candidates that would impact the solemnity of Comelec proceedings, and  the conduct of the general elections,” the poll chief said.

Prior to the May 2013 polls, the Comelec already thought of requiring those who plan to run for national positions to post a P1 million “candidate bond” in their bid to discourage nuisance bets.

A pending measure Senate Bill 2930  aims to slap election offense cases  against   candidates, who file their COCs only to obtain money, profit, or any other consideration as well as those that have no genuine intentions to run for public office. 

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