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Comelec: Candidates skipping debates, forums a red flag for voters

The decision of of certain Eleksyon 2022 candidates from various pre-election forums may be a "red flag" for voters, Commission on Elections spokesman James Jimenez said on Thursday.

Jimenez said the Comelec could not care whether or not they attended.

“It could be a red flag for the voters. Absolutely, not for the Comelec. Comelec does not care either way if they come or not,” Jimenez told reporters in a virtual press conference.

He said the Comelec’s main concern was whether the public would have the chance to screen candidates for their beliefs, opinions, among others.

“Ultimately, what Comelec cares about is whether or not the public will have an opportunity to interrogate the candidate, so to speak, to interrogate their positions, to interrogate their beliefs and so on,” Jimenez said.

“Whether or not they come to the debate does not matter to Comelec it matters to the people. And I think it’s very important in recognition of how important it is with the people, that we acknowledge that they fail to show up," he added.

"It’s not going to be glossed over, it’s not going to be ignored, there’s gonna have a podium right there, with their name on it and no face above it,” Jimenez said.

In January, Jimenez said candidates for president and vice president were not required to attend the Comelec-organized debates.

However, he warned the Eleksyon 2022 candidates that the poll body would “make a big deal” out of their absence.

Jimenez said the Comelec would leave the podium assigned to a specific candidate empty to highlight his or her absence.

The Comelec will stage the debates starting in the last week of February.

Debates will also be conducted in March and April, covering the entire campaign period for the 2022 elections.

Earlier, the Comelec official said they are considering three “massive” venues for the event and they are eyeing to conduct it in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. —NB, GMA News