MANILA (2nd UPDATE) – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday said it is changing the format of its last presidential and vice presidential debates, following their postponement amid the controversy over a contractor's failure to pay Sofitel for hosting the events.
In an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Commissioner George Garcia said the poll body would instead hold panel interviews with the candidates.
“Hindi na po ito yung debate na nakita natin dati o 'yung mga tinatawag na townhall type of debate. Ito po’y magigi pong parang personal interview ang dating, na may panel, and therefore mabibigyan po sila lahat ng isang buong oras upang ipahayag nila or kung matanong sila patungkol sa kanilang mga plataporma at saka mga nais nilang sabihin,” he explained.
(This is will no longer be a so-called townhall type of debate. This be a personal interview with a panel, and therefore they will all be given a whole hour to relay or be asked on their platforms and what else they want to say.)
Garcia said the interviewers will meet the candidates where they are on the homestretch of their campaign.
“Kahit nasaang area sila susundan na lang natin sila doon, papadala yung pinakamagagaling natin na mga panelist. At pagkatapos ay pupuwedeng pong dalawa po sila, yung mag-tandem, kakausapin natin, iinterviewhin natin,” he explained.
(Wherever they are, we will just follow them. We will send our best panelists, and we can interview them with their running-mate.)
Interviewers may also speak with the candidates virtually, Garcia said.
The conversations will be aired on Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) member stations from May 2 to 6, the poll official said.
Garcia said he hopes all presidential and vice presidential candidates would take part in the panel interviews.
PROMDI standard bearer Sen. Manny Pacquiao said that since a number of debates have already been held wherein candidates were able to address some issues, both personal and of the country, he is appealing to Comelec that for the last time, all of them will be given enough time to present their platforms before the public.
"Sa pamamagitan nito ay mas mabibigyan ng kaalaman ang mga botante para makapagpasya nang tama sa araw ng halalan," he said.
(Through this, voters will get more information that will help them decide wisely on Election Day.)
Aksyon Demokratiko presidential candidate Isko Moreno Domagoso said he would be "happy to join" the panel interview if his schedule permits.
Malacañang said that while it is "unfortunate" that the debates are scrapped, the interview "is a welcome opportunity for candidates to explain their intention and agenda to the Filipino electorate."
"Informing and educating our people on the candidates vying for the presidency and the vice presidency in whatever platform is crucial in a vibrant democracy such as the Philippines. The Filipino people deserve no less," acting Palace spokesman Martin Andanar said in a statement.
— TeleRadyo, 25 April 2022