MANILA - Presidential candidate former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said on Saturday it was better for him to campaign to the masses than participate in debates.
In a Facebook post, his party Partido Federal ng Pilipinas said Marcos believed that listening to supporters was the most effective way to bring his platform to the public. The post was uploaded hours ahead of the first presidential debate organized by the Commission on Elections, which Marcos' camp said he would skip.
“Mas maganda para sa akin, sa kampanya ko na pumunta sa tao, na imbes nakikipag-away ako, nakikipag-debate, ako ay nakikinig ako sa tao at naririnig ko sa kanila kung anong hinaing nila, ano ‘yung pangamba nila sa darating na panahon. Lahat ‘yan, para sa akin mas mahalaga,” Marcos said, as quoted by his party.
(For me, it's better that I campaign, where instead of fighting, debating, I will listen to the people and their sentiments, their concerns. Those are more important to me.)
The party said the Marcos campaign was behind schedule due to a surge in COVID-19 cases that forced them to stop activities for 21 days back in January.
The PFP added its standard bearer would attend a debate if it was productive and gave candidates enough time to talk about their platforms and policies.
Marcos disputed criticism that he was afraid of debating with other candidates.
“Hindi naman problema yon, kahit wala namang debate ganoon naman talaga… Ang problema talaga is if it’s the best use of your time, we have 90 days lang. Ano ba ang pinaka-effective para sa kampanya. Kampanya ito, hindi naman ito kwentuhan," he said.
(It is not a problem, even if there is no debate... The problem is whether it’s the best use of your time, we have only 90 days. What is the most effective way to campaign? This is a campaign, not chitchat.)
"Kampanya ito, kailangan kong makakuha ng boto, kailangan kong mag-organize sa ground level, lahat ‘yan kailangan naming gawin so what is the most important thing at the time."
(I need to get votes, I need to organize on the ground level, all these need to be done, so what is the most important thing at the time.)
Marcos earlier skipped debates organized by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas and CNN Philippines.
But he joined other events such as a presidential interview by DZRH and the debate by SMNI, which was founded by his supporter Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.
Marcos topped Pulse Asia's poll as the most preferred presidential candidate for the third month in a row in February, with 60 percent of 2,400 respondents saying they would vote for him if the May polls were held during the survey period.
The former senator held a campaign rally in Marikina on Saturday with his running-mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who said she would not participate in presidential debates.
About an hour before the Comelec debate, state media network PTV-4 aired a taped interview with Marcos, who said he would continue President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-communist task force.
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) earlier faced calls to be scrapped, following its red-tagging of female celebrities, some lawmakers, and Senate workers, among others.
Marcos in the same interview said he was against death penalty, the revival of which Duterte unsuccessfully sought.
"I think the numbers are clear. It's not [effective]," Marcos said.
"Yung mga heinous crimes, gagawin at gagawin ng kriminal yun eh," he added. "As of now, the best that we can do is to... I think the enforcement is much more important than the actual punishment and rehabilitation."
(Criminals will still commit heinous crimes.)