MANILA, Philippines – The camp of Sen. Manuel Villar accepted on Monday an invitation from Sen. Benigno Aquino III to have a one-on-one debate, after the Liberal Party standard-bearer posed the challenge to his primary rival at the sidelines of a presidential forum.
Villar and former president Joseph Estrada were absent from the presidential debate of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) held Monday.
Villar was on the way home from Hong Kong where he attended an El Shaddai event, while Estrada was coming from Davao from a sortie.
Present in the FOCAP forum were Aquino, former defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Senators Richard Gordon and Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, Nicanor Perlas, JC de los Reyes and Eddie Villanueva.
During an interview at the sidelines of the FOCAP presidential forum, Aquino issued a challenge to his toughest rival.
Aquino said he believes candidates cannot discuss their platforms in depth when many aspirants participate in a forum.
If a one-on-one format is not possible, Aquino prefers that the number of guests be limited to only four candidates at a time.
Villar's camp accepted Aquino's challenge.
They said they were the ones who first invited Aquino to a debate, but he did not respond.
They asked why Aquino is challenging Villar only now that the Nacionalista Party standard-bearer has statistically tied with Aquino in the surveys.
Villar’s acceptance, however, had a caveat.
He said that public debates are an opportunity “to present plans and programs of government to the general public.”
“If such were the purpose of the challenge, I will gladly accede. Name the place, name the time, I will be there. If however, it is the intention of anyone -individual or party - to find a platform for senseless argumentation and mudslinging with the hope of calling attention unto oneself, then I will have to decline,” the NP presidential candidate said in a statement.
In the FOCAP forum, candidates were asked if they believe government should distribute artificial contraceptives like condoms.
Everyone answered 'no' except for Aquino.
The aspirants were also asked about their stand on the Visiting Forces Agreement.
All candidates wanted the VFA revised, instead of the agreement being repealed.
On the issue of nuclear power, all candidates rejected the revival of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. With reports from Ces Oreña Drilon, ABS-CBN News, and the ABS-CBN News Channel