MANILA (UPDATE) — The final leg of the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) series of debates has been postponed, the poll body announced Friday, amid the controversy over its contractor's failure to pay Sofitel for hosting the events.
Commissioner George Garcia in a press conference said the last 2 debates would be held on April 30 and May 1, instead of April 23 and 24.
Garcia said Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) would be their new partner in mounting the last 2 debates.
Meanwhile, Comelec commissioner Rey Bulay apologized to the candidates for the resetting of debates, adding that the poll body would carry out an investigation to get to the bottom of the incident.
"Humihingi po ako ng paumanhin sa mga kandidato. Kami po ay magsasagawa ng pagsusuri tungkol sa bagay na ito kung ano ang naging problema," he said.
In a document obtained by ABS-CBN News, Sofitel Philippine Plaza said it will "suspend all its remaining deliverables under the event contract" unless organizer Impact Hub pays up the remaining P14 million for their services.
Impact Hub is the company tapped by Comelec to mount its series of debates dubbed as "PiliPinas Debates 2022: The Turning Point."
Sofitel Philippine Plaza was the venue for the March 19 and 20 and April 3 debates.
In its demand letter dated April 20, Sofitel said Impact Hub's Celeste Eden Rondario repeatedly issued them bouncing checks.
Sofitel gave Impact Hub an ultimatum of until 12 noon Thursday to settle its P14 million dues or else it will be "constrained to suspend all its remaining deliverables under the event contract."
WHY IMPACT HUB?
In a press conference Friday, Comelec commissioners admitted they were unaware of Impact Hub's financial woes up until a few days ago when Sofitel reached out "for help" in collecting the bill.
"Wala kaming alam... Nalaman namin ang problema [just days ago]. Personal na pumunta dito ang representatives ng Sofitel. They are just asking our assistance para makakolekta," Garcia told reporters.
According to Garcia, he immediately asked Rondario to fix the mess because the credibility of the Comelec was also at stake.
Garcia said Impact Hub failed to satisfy their dues to Sofitel up until the last minute, forcing them to ask other partners to conduct the last leg of the debate.
The Comelec said Impact Hub was chosen to organize the Comelec debates due to the success of its previous partnerships with the poll body, particularly in the voter registration campaign last year.
"Wala kaming duda na kaya nila... It was only until now na may lumabas na problema," commissioner Aimee Ferolino said.
This, even if Impact Hub had no prior experience in mounting events of such scale.
Comelec also distanced itself from the contract between Sofitel and Impact Hub, saying the poll body was merely an "end user" or beneficiary in the deal.
The commissioners also clarified that no public funds were used in the debates.
Rondario and Impact Hub have yet to issue statements on the matter.