MANILA -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will sponsor a total of 6 presidential and vice-presidential debates when the official campaign period for national posts begins on Feb. 8.
Speaking at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay on Jan. 26, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, said one “back-to-back” presidential and vice-presidential debate will be staged in the last part of February.
Another set of debates will be held in March, while the final set will take place in April.
“Back-to-back po: today, presidential and tomorrow, vice-presidential - that’s 3 times,” he explained.
The Comelec has yet to release guidelines that will determine the debate parameters, including what candidates are allowed and not allowed to bring to their respective podiums.
These guidelines will be discussed with candidates, then whatever is agreed upon will be written down in a memorandum of agreement.
“For them to agree to, or for them to amend kung kailangan nating amyendahan," Jimenez said.
"But what we want is we want a set of guidelines - a set of rules - that will be acceptable to all candidates para po maiwasan natin yung mga kwesyon na nangyari nung last debate natin (2016)… kung pwede ba magdala ng notes? Pwede ba magdala ng ganyan, ganyan."
"Ngayon po malinaw na kung ano po ang pwedeng dalhin ng mga kandidato, ano ang maaari nilang asahan from the organizers, which is us (Comelec), at ano yung expectations natin sa kanila.”
There will be no live audiences for the debates in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but journalists who are vaccinated or who can submit a negative swab test result will be allowed at the venues.
The poll body is also thinking about holding some of the debates in the Visayas and Mindanao, as proposed by commissioners.
There will be partitions between candidates on stage. They may also opt to remove their face masks.
Candidates are not compelled to attend the debates, but the podiums assigned to them--should they decide not to attend-- will be left empty, said Jimenez.
He added, however, that the commission is "pretty confident they will attend."