PRESIDENTIAL and vice presidential debates will be held live on national television in the rundown to the 2016 local and national elections, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said on Monday they are preparing for the holding of three presidential debates that will be held in separate dates in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and a vice presidential debate in Metro Manila.
Presidential debates were tentatively scheduled on February 9-22, 2016 in Mindanao, March 8-21in Visayas and on April 12-25 in Luzon. The vice presidential debate was set on April 4-8 in Metro Manila.
Bautista said they are scouting for possible debate venues, preferably in a university or school or convention center.
According to Bautista, they wanted the presidential and vice presidential debates to be replicated in the local level.
The holding of debates is provided for under Republic Act (RA) 9006 or the Fair Election Act, specifically Section 7.3, which states that the first presidential debate shall be held within the first and second week of the campaign period; the second within the fifth and sixth week; and the third within the 10th and 11th week of the campaign period.
It also provides that the Comelec may require national television and radio networks to sponsor at least three national debates among presidential candidates and at least one national debate among vice presidential candidates.
Bautista said the debates will give the public an idea of the candidates’ platforms and programs of government.
“We will not oblige candidates to participate (in the debates) but their attendance or non-attendance will already convey the message the people. We will leave their chair vacant if they don’t participate,” he said.
The airtime that will be allotted for candidates in the debate will not be deducted from their campaign airtime under the election law.
During the debates, candidates will be allowed to throw questions at each other and to bring in their followers subject to rules and regulations and code of conduct.
“We would like to promote this kind of activities because we believe our voters should be educated and informed. We are trying to veer away from personality politics, towards platform and principle politics,” Bautista said.
“The beauty of it is that their promises will be on nationwide television and will be easier for the people to remember. We can hold them accountable to their campaign promises,” the Comelec chief added.
The last presidential debate organized by the Comelec was during the 1992 elections, which was won by Fidel Ramos. The other contenders then were Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and the late Speaker Ramon Mitra Jr.