No Marcos confirmation in Comelec-sponsored debate in March

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 24) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) confirmed on Thursday that it is sponsoring presidential and vice presidential debates next month.

Just hours after Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez announced the commission received "commitments" that all 10 presidential candidates will participate, the spokesperson of Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. issued a clarification that his attendance is not yet certain.

"His participation in the said event, which will be held at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, will only be confirmed if his hectic campaign schedules permit," Vic Rodriguez said in a statement.

Jimenez then posted a document, signed by Marcos' campaign manager Benhur Abalos on Feb. 11, of the presidential candidate's "readiness to join" the debate.

"If more confirmation is needed, the COMELEC awaits the same with bated breath," the poll body official tweeted.

Marcos only attended one group event so far — the debate conducted by SMNI, the network owned by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy who endorsed his candidacy.

The survey frontrunner skipped the KBP forum and begged off from the upcoming CNN Philippines presidential debate on Feb. 27.

The Comelec event is set for March 19 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. It will be broadcast live with no audience in the venue, which has yet to be finalized.

Jimenez said no questions will be given in advance to candidates, and they will not be allowed to bring notes on stage.

Comelec will also host a vice presidential debate on March 20. Jimenez said all bets confirmed except for Rep. Lito Atienza who will undergo knee replacement surgery this week.

CNN Philippines correspondent Melissa Lopez contributed to this report.