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Eleksyon 2022 bets not required to attend Comelec debates — Jimenez

Candidates for president and vice president are not required to attend the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) debates, which are due to begin next month, the poll body said Tuesday.

In a television interview, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez explained that the law does not require candidates' participation in public debates, and that the Comelec cannot oblige the candidates to show up.

However, candidates often participate in this kind of public forum due to "massive airtime," he said. 

“Under the law, participation in debates [is] not mandatory. Wala tayong choice (We have no choice). We cannot force them to join the debate. However, historically speaking, when the debate has been organized by the Comelec, or if the Comelec has taken a lead role in organizing the debates, the candidates do come,” he said on ANC.

“They don’t have to, but they do come, because it is a massive airtime. And they do get massive coverage that they could not normally get otherwise without paying, or without running afoul of the time limits for broadcast advertising. So ultimately, the coverage, the exposure, that tips the balance for candidates,” he added.

In another television interview, Jimenez said the Comelec is planning to conduct one public debate per month for presidential and vice presidential candidates starting in February until April.

With the finalization of Eleksyon 2022 candidates, Jimenez said they will start the signing of memoranda of understanding (MOU) with each candidate so they can agree on the rules of the debates.

“It is good that we have the final list of candidates now and we will begin the process of negotiating with the candidates. We have to secure a memorandum of understanding with them so that they will agree to the rules of the debate,” he said.

“We hope to stage the debates starting February then we will have one set of debates per month—February, March, April. We will have back-to-back debates, presidential and vice presidential debates, one after the other,” he added.

The campaign period for candidates for national posts starts on February 8. The campaign period for local candidates, on the other hand, begins on March 25.

The 2022 national and local elections are on May 9. — VBL, GMA News