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Comelec's Bulay agrees there's something questionable with debate deal with Impact Hub

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rey Bulay on Tuesday said  there was something questionable about the deal with its debate contractor Impact Hub Manila, after the poll body’s presidential and vice presidential town hall debates were canceled due to financial issues.

Asked in an ANC interview if he feels that there was a lack of wisdom or something questionable on the Comelec’s part regarding the process of the debate deal, Bulay said, “I agree with you. Definitely. It was done in the past with not so much ruckus and everything. It was done for free as well.”

The poll official said he already questioned why the Comelec did not follow the same debate format as before where it usually partnered with the mainstream media for the conduct of the election-related debates.

“It’s just unfair that I should talk about this in the middle of my investigation,” he added.

The town hall debates, supposedly to be held on April 30 and May 1, were scrapped after the cheques issued by Impact Hub Manila worth P14 million to supposedly pay Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, the debates venue, bounced.

Based on the memorandum of the agreement, the Comelec does not have financial liability for the staging of the event. Impact Hub Manila, however, is allowed to seek advertisements to earn revenues.

Impact Hub Manila, in a statement issued over the weekend, said there were “misunderstandings” in the talks with Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila.

“Unfortunately, the initiative between the two private companies encountered some misunderstandings. While there have been incomplete reports as to the cause of the miscommunication, Impact Hub Manila will refrain from publicly divulging these matters and will endeavor to discuss them with Sofitel and other stakeholders privately,” it said.

Due to the changes in schedule, Comelec changed the debates into taped interviews slated from May 2 to 6. It has partnered with the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas for it.

Bulay earlier said charges should be considered against persons who will be found liable for the cancelation of the debates.

‘Warning’ vs. those messing with elections

Further, Bulay reiterated that he was just merely stating a “warning” and not threatening those who are messing with the electoral process considering that there were at least 115 areas tagged as election areas of concern under the highest red category.

“We are mandated to hold a clean, honest, peaceful, credible elections. Now, those people na mangugulo sa eleksyon (who are messing with the elections) are not helping us do our work,” he said.

Last Friday, Bulay said that the Comelec would seek the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to arrest people who are causing disorder in the elections.

He later on clarified that the remark was just a warning, pointing out that some of the headlines that came out because of it could be libelous.

“I never said anything wrong. I’m not taking anything back. It was the spin on my statement that made everything wrong and it was done with malice and publication and my identity was posted all over the news because of that,” he said.

Asked if he considers himself as a victim in the issue, the poll official said, “Of course. Am I not? My heart is with the people.” —KG, GMA News