Comelec eyes 3 in-person debates for presidential, VP bets for 2022 polls

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 28)— The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday said it will hold three separate in-person debates for the declared presidential and vice presidential candidates ahead of the 2022 polls.

"It will be face-to-face among candidates. Yesterday there was a lot of talk about it being online and people were concerned that online meant the candidates will be virtual as well. They wouldn't be," Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told CNN Philippines' The Source.

Comelec earlier said it was eyeing a "hybrid" debate in the upcoming polls due to the threat of COVID-19. Now, candidates will be gathered in the same place, but the audience can only watch the debate online.

Jimenez said aside from three presidential debates, the poll body will also hold three separate debates for the vice presidential bets, since a vice president is elected independently of the president.

Meanwhile, Jimenez confirmed that Comelec guidelines for the campaign period will be released soon, primarily containing modifications on the capacity of in-person campaigns that will depend on the alert level system in an area.

"The most prominent feature of it, as far as I'm looking at the review of it, is that we will be regulating the number of people who can participate in in-person campaigns. It is likely going to be determined in large part by alert level in a particular place," Jimenez said.

Comelec has yet to declare the official president and vice presidential candidates for the 2022 elections. So far, key aspirants for the posts are the tandems of Leni Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan, Manny Pacquiao-Lito Atienza, Ping Lacson-Tito Sotto, Bato dela Rosa-Bong Go, Leody De Guzman-Walden Bello, and presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos, who has yet to announce his running mate.

Aspirants welcome debates

Some of the aspirants have welcomed in-person debates to allow voters to get to know them better.

"Iba pa rin yung physically engaged ang mga kandidato lalo na sa isang debate na inaabangan ng mga Pilipino para makilatis nila ng husto kung sino ba ang iboboto nila upang mamuno sa bansa, kasama na ang demeanor o kilos ng bawat presidential candidate," Lacson said on Thursday.

[Translation: It's different when a candidate is physically engaged, especially in a debate where Filipinos are waiting to know them better in order to discern who is really fit to lead the country, including seeing a presidential candidate's demeanor or how he carries himself.]

Dela Rosa said he also agrees with the proposal to avoid the possibility of bets "using poor signal as alibi for evading hard questions."

De Guzman backed the face-to-face debates as well.

"Dapat magharap ang mga kandidato para pag-usapan ang mga solusyon sa mga problema ng masa. Mainam na makita ito ng publiko para gabayan sila sa kanilang pagboto," he said.

[Translation: The candidates should go face-to-face to talk about solutions to the people's problems. It's better for the public to see this so they can be guided on who to vote for.]

Pacquiao and Robredo also earlier said aspirants should participate in physical debates to fully express their sentiments on social issues that need to be tackled.