9 presidential candidates, 7 VP bets confirm attendance to CNN Philippines debates

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 14) — Nine presidential candidates and seven vice presidential bets running in the May 9 polls have confirmed their attendance to the debates hosted by CNN Philippines on the last weekend of February.

Nine of the 10 presidential bets - labor leader Leody de Guzman, ex-presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, Jose Montemayor Jr., former defense chief Norberto Gonzales, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Faisal Mangondato, Sen. Ping Lacson, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, and Vice President Leni Robredo - are attending the Feb. 27 debate.

Former Senator Bongbong Marcos is the lone presidential hopeful who will not attend the debates for now due to conflict of schedule.

"Due to the schedules we have already confirmed for the UniTeam's campaign commitments, we are unable to accept this additional engagement at this time," the Marcos camp said.

Marcos also skipped the Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews and Kapisanan ng Brodkaster ng Pilipinas Presidential Forum.

The Marcos camp previously said he will not join forums or debates if it will lead to "bickering" with other bets.

Meanwhile, ex-congressman Walden Bello, Manny SD Lopez, Rizalito David, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, Carlos Serapio, Senate President Tito Sotto, and Willie Ong have committed to attending the debate on Feb. 26.

Marcos' running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte is not attending, but her camp did not provide a reason. The invites were sent separately to Marcos and Duterte, who are the current survey frontrunners.

Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza committed to participate, but he begged off at the last minute as he will undergo a knee replacement surgery.

The absence of Marcos, Duterte, and Atienza will be felt as CNN Philippines will leave empty podiums on the stage.

CNN Philippines will host the presidential debate on Feb. 27, while the vice presidential debate will be held on Feb. 26. Moderated by CNN Philippines anchors, both debates will be held at the University of Santo Tomas from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with the candidates attending live in front of a virtual audience.

The debates will air live on CNN Philippines Free TV Channel 9, cnnphilippines.com website, and CNN Philippines' official Facebook account.