MANILA - Re-electionist Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III has filed a bill making electoral debates mandatory every campaign season.
Pimentel's Senate Bill No. 2147 seeks to institutionalize the conduct of electoral debates which Republic Act No. 9006, the Fair Elections Act, allows the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to require media networks to undertake.
The lawmaker seeks to amend Section 7.3 of the existing law that says Comelec may require national television and radio networks to sponsor at least three national debates among presidential candidates and at least one national debate among vice presidential candidates.
“While the Fair Election Act included a provision on the holding of electoral debates, the same was merely permissive. This bill seeks to institutionalize the holding of electoral debates by amending the Fair Election Act to make this important activity mandatory,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel said the debates should be scheduled on three different days within the campaign period.
He said each debate should "include a discussion of the candidate’s program of government and their stand on the most pressing issues affecting their respective constituencies."
Networks must, meanwhile, be banned from "selling airtime for commercials and advertisements to interested advertisers and sponsors during the debate," he said.
The Comelec implemented a similar format in 2016 in the run-up to the presidential elections.