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Comelec postpones VP, presidential townhall debates

The vice presidential and presidential townhall debates scheduled for April 23 and 24, 2022, respectively, have been rescheduled, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced on Friday.

At a press briefing, Commissioner George Garcia said the debates have been rescheduled due to some "circumstances."

"We will not be able to proceed with the debate for tomorrow and Sunday. Hindi po natin ito matutuloy pero hindi po siya [but they are not] cancelled. Reset lang po by next week, by April 30 and May 1," he said.

Garcia said the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) will be the poll body's partner in the rescheduled debates. He said the KBP offered to help in conducting the debates "for free." 

The debates were postponed after it was reported on Thursday that Comelec's contractor, Impact Hub Manila, has yet to fully pay Sofitel Garden Plaza, the event's official venue, prompting Philippine Plaza Holdings Inc. (PPHI), Sofitel's owner, to threaten to pull out from their agreement.

PPHI, according to reports, has demanded payment after the checks Impact Hub issued bounced.

According to Garcia, the Comelec learned about the issue when representatives from Sofitel personally went to the Comelec informing them about the bouncing checks from the event partner.

“Nalaman namin yung problemang yan noong mga nakaraang araw lamang. Personal na pumunta rito yung representatives ng Sofitel upang sabihin na may mga tseke nga raw na nag-bounce sa kanila ng aming partner,” he said.

(We just learned about this problem days ago. Representatives from Sofitel personally came here to tell us about the bouncing checks from our partner.)

Garcia said Sofitel representatives sought assistance from the Comelec to collect the payment from their partner.

Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, during the same briefing, said the Comelec is not a party to the contract between Impact Hub and PPHI.

Ferolino said the venue for the next debates would be changed.

Comelec Commissioner Rey Bulay, for his part, apologized to the candidates for the postponement of the townhall debates.

"Humihingi kami ng paumanhin sa mga kandidato. Sa maikli na ngang panahon na allowed mangampanya, hindi pa namin nasabi kaagad na hindi matutuloy ang yung debates tomorrow and Sunday," Bulay said.

"Naintindihan namin na na-set niyo na yan sa inyong kalendaryo sa pangangampanya at humihingi po kami ng paumanhin."

(We apologize to the candidates for not being able to inform them immediately about the rescheduled debates, knowing the already limited time they have for campaigning.)

Garcia said as per agreement with KBP, it will be the Comelec which will invite the candidates to attend the rescheduled debates, which will be the final ones before the May 9 elections.

"Sa kasalukuyan ongoing ang aming pakikipag-ugnayan sa ating mga kandidato sa pamamagitan ng kanilang representante," he said. —KBK, GMA News