Comelec: Expect ‘improved’ 2nd presidential debate

Rappler.com
The Comelec says it has 'made conscious efforts' to address concerns raised in the first debate in Cagayan de Oro City

DEBATE VENUE. UP Cebu's Performing Arts Hall. Photo by Raisa Serafica/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) promised an “improved” second presidential debate in Cebu City on Sunday, March 20, where candidates will have more time to speak on their platform.

“The voting public can definitely look forward to an improved presidential debate,” Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said in a statement on the eve of the debate.

He said that while GMA-7 and the Philippine Daily Inquirer “did well” in the first debate held in Cagayan de Oro City, the Comelec “took note of the areas for improvement and…made conscious efforts to address them in the second presidential debate.”

There were complaints from both the public and the candidates themselves that the first presidential debate did not give enough time for candidates to explain their views, with a lot of time devoted to advertisements, including political ads.

Mindanews reported that 48 minutes or 35.5% of the entire 135-minute first presidential debate on February 21 were spent on advertisements, spread across 6 commercial breaks of 8 minutes each. 

Modified format

The second presidential debate will air live from University of the Philippines-Cebu (UP-Cebu) and will feature a modified panel format​. (READ: IN PHOTOS: UP Cebu, venue of the 2nd presidential debate)

Bautista said the debate will be broken into two parts.

In the first part of the debate, a panel of journalists will ask questions; in the second part, the candidates will ask each other.

“The primary rule is that all questions will fall under the agreed themes for this debate, which include among others, corruption and ​climate change adaptation,” Bautista said.

To accommodate more questions and allow candidates to substantively present their positions on issues, the second presidential debate will run for 3 hours, longer by 45 minutes compared to the Cagayan de Oro debate.

Candidates will also be allowed to wear campaign or casual clothes so they can be more at ease on stage and bring supporters to Cebu, while UP students can watch from big screens set up in the university open field.

“I think a 3-hour program run is indeed an improvement​ and we have made adjustments in the allocated time for responses and rebuttals in consultation with the representatives of the campaign teams,” the Comelec chief said.

Malacañang has also urged the public to tune in, saying the debates will provide a chance to scrutinize each of the candidates’ platforms.

“Sana nga magtabi ng oras ang ating mga kababayan para manood…It’s important that we all have a chance to study the different candidates, pag-usapan nila ‘yung mga plataporma nila,” said Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.

(I hope the public will set aside aside time to watch [the debate]….It’s important that we all have the chance to study the different candidates as they will discuss their platforms.)

In an interview with radio dzRB, Quezon also hoped that the longer time allotted for the debate will be put to good use. “Sana maging masustansya ito at maging paraan para talagang mapag-aralan natin lahat ng mga kandidato,” he said.

 (I hope this debate will be substantial and will be a way to really scrutinize all of the candidates.)

Of all the candidates, only Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago will not be participating in Sunday’s debate due to health reasons. 

The debate will be held from 5 pm to 8 pm on Sunday, and will be aired on TV 5. Voters can also view live updates and full coverage of the debate on Rappler.

The last two debates are scheduled in April – the third presidential debate on April 24 and a vice presidential debate on April 10. – Chris Schnabel/Rappler.com