Otso Diretso laments Comelec’s ‘cop-out’ on its debate request
DIGOS CITY, Philippines — Senatorial candidates of Otso Diretso have lamented the decision of the Commission of Elections (Comelec) denying their request for the enablement of a debate with rival bets.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez announced Friday that the Comelec en banc rejected Otso Diretso’s request due to logistical issues and time restraints.
Jimenez said the poll body denied Otso Diretso’s request due to following reasons: 1) granting Otso Diretso’s request would be tantamount to giving preferential treatment to some senatorial candidates or slates; 2) it would be practically impossible, logistically, to conduct meaningful debates involving all 62 candidates, without risking allegations of preferential treatment; and 3) there are considerable time constraints, with only about 2 months remaining.
For former Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada, Comelec’s decision as a “cop-out.”
“Ito ay cop-out para sa akin. Cop-out para sa Comelec. Ayaw nilang tulungan ang tunay na debate na kung saan tinatalakay ‘yung issues ng ating bansa,” Tañada told reporters Friday.
Tañada believes Comelec can still facilitate the debate if it really wants to.
“Ang tanong, para sa amin, kung talagang gusto nila ng debate, may iba’t-ibang panig naman ‘yan eh. Kunwari, grupo ng HNP, kumuha sila ng dalawa. Sa Otso Diretso, kumuha sila ng dalawa, sa PDP, kumuha sila ng dalawa. Sa iba’t-ibang kandidato, kanya-kanyang partido din ‘yan,” he pointed out.
This way, Tañada said, there will be no “preferential treatment” to any candidate.
“We will not be giving any preferential treatment to any candidate. Two candidates per party. That will lessen the number of participants,” he noted.
“Kasi ang gusto nga natin, hindi personality-oriented ang ating halalan. Kailangan issue-oriented,” he added.
Meanwhile, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said Comelec’s denial of their request could be tantamount to “abandonment” of its duty to ensure a credible election.
“For the Comelec to deny the request of Otso Diretso, I think is, well, abandonment of their duty to conduct fair, free, and honest elections.”
Hilbay also believes Comelec still has enough time to conduct the debates.
“Malinaw na meron pang panahon para magkaroon ng debate. We still have more than two months to go. And so I cannot imagine na kulang ‘yung panahon,” he said.
Reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino, on the other hand, stressed that the debate they are requesting is not for Otso Diretso but for the public.
“Sa totoo lang po hindi naman po pabor sa Otso-Diretso ang pagkakaroon ng debate, pabor po ito sa taumbayan,” Aquino said in a statement.
“Sa debate po, taumbayan ang panalo dahil mas makakapili ng mga kandidatong tunay na maglilingkod at maninindigan para sa kanila,” he added.
Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc shared Aquino’s view. She said Comelec’s decision is a loss for the Filipino people and a blow to voters’ education advocacy.
“The decision of the Comelec is very unfortunate, and the biggest loser in this case is the Filipino people, especially those who will vote on May 13. This is a sad day for the voters’ education advocacy,” Gutoc said in a statement.
Gutoc said debates should be a requirement by the poll body.
“Dapat po, ilagay sa batas na responsibilidad ng Comelec na ipakilala ang bawat kandidato sa pamamagitan ng debate sa mga isyu imbes na hayaang ang pera at yaman ng bawat isa ang kumilos upang makilala ang isang kandidato,” she noted.
Regardless of Comelec’s decision, Gutoc still urged other senatorial candidates to push through with the debate.
“Even with this setback, I ask all the candidates, including those from the administration, to agree to push through with the debate and agree on an independent third party to undertake the event,” Gutoc said.
For veteran election lawyer Romy Macalintal, who is also running for senator under Otso Diretso, it is time to ask the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) to facilitate debates.
“Then it’s time for us to request the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) to take up the cudgels for the people’s desire to hear candidates from the administration on various issues alongside with the opposition in an open public debate,” Macalintal said in a statement.
According to Macalintal, what Otso Diretso was asking Comelec was for it to “officiate” over the debate.
“We did not ask Comelec to conduct the debate. We merely asked Comelec to ‘officiate’ (over) a debate between Otso Diretso bets against the Hugpong ng Pagbabago and suggest possible terms and conditions,” he explained. /kga
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