Group hits Marcos-Duterte’s no-show at debates: Crucial for public to know platforms

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 19) — The Philippine Debate Union called out presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos and his running mate Sara Duterte for their refusal to participate in debates sponsored by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

In an official statement released on Saturday—signed by alumni, affiliate members, and institutions—the group expressed their dismay and concern over Marcos' constant skipping of such events.

“This is not the first time the said candidate refused to engage in interviews and participate in debates with majority of his opponents present. The constant refusal is a deprivation of the Filipino people’s right to gain knowledge on the Presidential aspirant’s vision for the country,” the statement read.

The group also slammed Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte's decision to skip the COMELEC debates, calling her behavior ‘alarming’ when she chose to be represented by an empty podium at the debate conducted by CNN Philippines last February 26.

Marcos and Duterte previously skipped the vice presidential and presidential debates hosted by CNN Philippines in February. Marcos also rejected an interview with veteran journalist Jessica Soho, saying she is 'biased.'

Neither candidates will be attending COMELEC's PiliPinas Debates 2022 happening on Saturday and Sunday (March 19 and March 20, 2022).

The Marcos camp earlier said the presidential candidate will continue with their preferred mode of directly communicating and engaging with the people.

Duterte's camp also confirmed earlier that she will not participate in the upcoming COMELEC-sponsored debate, but offered no explanation.

The group called the tandem's deliberate choice not to show up in the events as severely 'disconcerting' as it “denies individuals the opportunity to know their candidates, as well as the future that said candidates intend to create for them.”

It said it is crucial for the public to know the platforms, values, character, and stances of the candidates vying for the highest government positions, and debates are considered avenues for the public to ask questions, and scrutinize and evaluate the candidates’ standpoints and performances.

"We are concerned that this pattern of behavior of Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte-Carpio may become the norm. Our country does not deserve leaders who claim to be brave, but are, in truth, frightened of debates—frightened of the voices of the Filipino people. Leaders who withdraw under pressure and dodge dialogue with their constituents are no leaders of the Filipino; they are cowards," the statement concluded.