Can joining debates help candidates win?

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2019 08:49 PM | Updated as of Feb 27 2019 09:33 PM

MANILA - Choosing to join or skip televised debates may have an effect on how voters will decide on their candidates, a Pulse Asia official said.

Speaking on ANC's "Beyond Politics," Pulse Asia Research Director Ana Maria Tabunda said voters may sense something from how some candidates seem to be uncomfortable with the idea of joining debates.

"Given that the candidates of the administration are apparently not as comfortable appearing on debates, I'm sure some of our voters will be sensing something from that, and will be making decisions on the basis of that," she said, referring to candidates endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Of Duterte's 12-man slate, only former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino has attended "Harapan 2019: The ABS-CBN Senatorial Town Hall Debate."

Meanwhile, all eight members of opposition slate Otso Diretso have joined the debates.

Tabunda, however, said it is not yet clear whether participating in televised debates can help increase voters' awareness of a candidate.

"I just don't know whether the debates will help increase awareness of them, given that they do perform well in the debates," she said, referring to Otso Diretso candidates.

"I think, in a way, it's tact for them, in the sense that it's always easy to see something that can be improved, so there's room for them there," she added.

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Earlier this week, the opposition slate challenged candidates from Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), a coalition backed by Duterte's daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, to engage in a public debate. None of the administration bets showed up.

HNP's roster of 13 shares several candidates with the President's list of 12 endorsed candidates. 

On Tuesday, Duterte-Carpio slammed the manner by which Otso Diretso challenged her bets to a debate, saying there was no formal invitation nor guidelines. 

She later on said entering a debate is a personal choice, and it is up to the individual candidates to join one.

In the latest Pulse Asia survey for the May midterm elections, only two candidates from the opposition, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and reelectionist Sen. Bam Aquino, made it to the winning bracket. 

Administration bet Cynthia Villar and reelectionist Grace Poe continued to lead the "magic 12."