Comelec presses Congress on 2016 presidential debate
MANILA, Philippines–The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is urging legislators to consider passing this early a bill creating a Presidential Debate Commission in time for the May 2016 polls.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said it was imperative that the lawmakers came up with a decision on such a measure to give the election body ample time to prepare for the debates.
Requiring candidates to participate in public debates would also help the Comelec educate the public to vote wisely, he added.
“It is urgent to pass that law because 2016 is getting closer. We may need about a one-year period to prepare the groundwork for the debates,” Jimenez told reporters in an interview, referring to Senate Bill No. 1797 that was filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
According to the measure that is pending in the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, the debate commission shall be created no later than one year before the presidential elections.
Entity separate from poll body
“We think the best time to pass it is this year so that we can hold the debates after the filing of the certificates of candidacy, which is sometime in October next year,” said Jimenez.
In a minute resolution, the Comelec en banc has approved the purpose of the Senate bill but it said that the measure should comply with existing election laws and commission resolutions.
“The agency resolves to advise the Senate committee that the Comelec interposes no objection to the creation of a Presidential Debate Commission,” the Comelec said in a resolution it issued in February.
The Comelec is convinced that having a separate entity that will oversee the conduct of debates among candidates will be beneficial both to the electorate and the commission, Jimenez said.
“We actually welcome its creation since the Comelec will then be very busy with the nuts and bolts of holding the elections,” Jimenez added, stressing that this would free the commission from the work of having to manage the debates.