Comelec is confident candidates will join debates, says spox
MANILA, Philippines — Political candidates for national positions are not required to attend the debates to be organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), its spokesperson James Jimenez said on Tuesday.
“Under the law, participation in debates is not mandatory. Wala tayong choice (We don’t have a choice). We cannot force them to join the debate,” Jimenez said over ABS-CBN News Channel.
Jimenez, however, pointed out that based on experience, candidates do attend Comelec-organized debates to take advantage of the free airtime.
“However, historically speaking, when the debate has been organized by the Comelec, or if the Comelec has taken a lead role in organizing the debates, the candidates do come.
“They don’t have to, but they do come, because it is a massive airtime, and they do get massive coverage that they could not normally get otherwise without paying, or without running afoul of the time limits for broadcast advertising.
“So ultimately, the coverage, the exposure — that tips the balance for candidates,” Jimenez continued.
Jimenez previously said the poll body will hold a “hybrid” primary debate for national candidates this January, where the candidates will be in person but the audience is virtual, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There will be three presidential debates and three vice-presidential debates, according to Comelec.
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