Comelec: Nat'l poll debates to start by February

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 18 — The Commission on Elections intends to stage the national debates as early as February, ahead of the upcoming elections.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday that they are just securing the memorandum of understanding with aspirants to establish the ground rules in the debates.

"It’s good that we have the final list of candidates out now. We will begin the process of negotiation with the candidates," Jimenez said. "We have to secure MOUs with them so they will agree to the rules of the debate."

"We hope to stage the debates starting February, then we’ll have one set of debates per month, for February, March and April," he added. "We will have back-to-back debates — presidential and VP debates, one after the other, once a month."

Jimenez said that even if they are not organizing debates among senatorial aspirants, they are preparing a set of certification rules to be followed by media outlets that will independently hold the debates.

The Comelec earlier said the debates they will hold will be done under a "hybrid" setup, where candidates can attend in-person while the audience would stay at home and watch virtually, to observe health protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic.