Sara Duterte: Joining election debates is a 'personal choice'

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Hugpong ng Pagbabago's leader Sara Duterte-Carpio says election debates between the two major opposing slates must have a third-party organizer.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 27) — Joining an election-related debate is a "personal choice," Hugpong ng Pagbabago leader and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said Wednesday.

Duterte-Carpio told reporters in San Juan that she cannot assure the public that all candidates under her ticket will join the debate challenge posed by opposition slate "Otso Diretso."

"A debate is a personal choice. Ikaw magde-decide as a candidate kung gusto mo sumali o hindi. Meron kaming candidates na hindi talaga sila interested makipag-debate because they base their candidacy on their track record," Duterte-Carpio said.

[Translation: A debate is a personal choice. You decide as a candidate if you want to join or not. We have candidates who are not interested in the debate because they base their candidacy on their track record.]

She added many of those running for national posts are supportive of fora and debates.

However, Duterte-Carpio said the debate with Otso Diretso must have a third-party organizer.

"Mag-identify ng organizer. Dapat merong third party organizer para sa debate, then we will, HNP kasi is only the organizer of candidates of different parties, so we will ask them kung sino sa kanila ang interested na sumali sa [who are interested to join the ] debate," she said.

The Hugpong bets were absent when they were challenged to a debate on February 25. Duterte-Carpio said they would only attend a debate with formal rules, reports said.

Otso Diretso campaign manager and Senator Francis Pangilinan said he will coordinate with incumbent senators from HNP to discuss the rules and format of the debate, according to a statement from Vice President Leni Robredo's office on Wednesday.