CNN PH, UST, Microsoft ink partnership agreement on upcoming debates

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 17) — Top officials from CNN Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, and Microsoft Philippines led the signing of agreement papers on the upcoming presidential and vice presidential debates happening at the end of the month.

CNN Philippines president Benjamin Ramos, UST Rector Fr. Richard Ang O.P., and Microsoft PH Public Sector director Joanna Rodriguez were all present at the signing on Thursday at the Benavides Garden in UST grounds.

"It's all go for this exercise as we expect hundreds of thousands, if not millions of our people, gain access to the debates through broadcast and digital platforms. No doubt this partnership strengthens our common view of the value and relevance of these debates as we approach the day we will choose our president, vice president, and other national and local officials. Through these debates, our electorate will be able to assess whether our candidates are in touch with the lives and outlooks of our people," Ramos said.

"I'd like to thank CNN Philippines for choosing UST as a venue partner. We have been through several presidential and vice presidential elections together, and this MOA signing is a testament to our strong and sustained collaboration towards our shared aspirations for the Filipino nation," Fr. Ang expressed.

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

Former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is the lone presidential bet who turned down the invitiation due to conflict in his schedule.

Meanwhile, ex-congressman Walden Bello, activist Manny SD Lopez, radio commentator Rizalito David, Senator Kiko Pangilinan, lawyer Carlos Serapio, Senate President Tito Sotto, and cardiologist Willie Ong have committed to attending the vice presidential debate to be held on Feb. 26.

Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said he figured in an accident days before their proclamation rally last Feb. 8 so he cannot join the VP debate as he is still recuperating. On the other hand, Marcos' running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte is also skipping the debate. Her camp did not provide a specific reason as to why she can't attend the highly anticipated event.

Moderated by CNN Philippines anchors Pia Hontiveros, Pinky Webb, Rico Hizon, and Ruth Cabal, 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 and can be accessed via livestreaming on website and CNN Philippines official Facebook account.