Comelec OKs CNN PH presidential, vice presidential debates

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 23) – It's all systems go for the CNN Philippines Vice Presidential and Presidential Debates on Feb. 26 and 27, respectively.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) approved during its en banc session on Wednesday the staging of the historic debates set this weekend at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila.

The CNN Philippines management assured the poll body that it has invited all candidates and complied with the health guidelines set by Comelec and Inter-Agency Task Force.

The network will also submit all documents necessary for the accreditation of the highly anticipated debates.

Also on Wednesday, representatives of the candidates attended the pre-event briefing at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion where they were briefed on the health and security protocols, and podium assignments to be observed during the debates. 

Comelec also said the appearance of candidates in the poll body-accredited debates will not be counted against their airtime.

Seven out of the nine vice presidential bets will participate in Saturday's debate: former party-list representative Walden Bello, radio commentator Rizalito David, activist Manny SD Lopez, Dr. Willie Ong, Senator Francis Pangilinan, religious group leader Carlos Serapio, and Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

Presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte did not give a reason for skipping the debate while former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza is not attending as he is scheduled to undergo a knee replacement surgery.

In the presidential debate on Sunday, only former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos will not be present.

Former presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, former Defense chief Norberto Gonzales, labor leader Leody De Guzman, Senator Panfilo Lacson, Muslim leader Faisal Mangondato, physician-lawyer Joey Montemayor, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Senator Manny Pacquiao, and Vice President Leni Robredo have all confirmed their attendance.