2022 Philippine Elections

What to expect in Comelec’s first presidential debate for 2022

Dwight de Leon
What to expect in Comelec’s first presidential debate for 2022

STAGE IS SET. Comelec officials inspect the venue for the Pilipinas Debate 2022 at the Sofitel Harbor Garden tent in Pasay City on March 18, 2022.


No cheat sheets, no audience, an empty podium, questions revolving around two topics – here are the things to watch out for when the Comelec's debate kicks off Saturday night, March 19
What to expect in Comelec’s first presidential debate for 2022

The stage is set for the first presidential debate organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the 2022 elections.

The televised event, scheduled 7 pm on Saturday, March 19, at the Sofitel Harbor Garden tent in Pasay City, will see 9 of the 10 presidential candidates face off on one stage.

Here are some of the things to expect:

2 issues, 20 questions at most

The Comelec prepared 20 questions for the 150-minute debate proper, but don’t expect all of them to be asked.

The questions revolve around issues on the pandemic and the economy.

“These are the two biggest things on the minds of everyone right now. We’re looking at a continuing problem in the pandemic, and the economy is a good frame with which to discuss the pandemic because of its effect on the economy,” Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said on Friday, March 18.

No cheat sheet

Candidates will not be allowed to bring with them a cheat sheet, but they will be provided with a pen and paper once they are on the debate stage in case they want to take down notes.

These bond papers will be kept by the Comelec after, because as Jimenez said, one of the participants could be the next highest leader of the land.

What to expect in Comelec’s first presidential debate for 2022
Time limit for candidates, rebuttals

Candidates will be given 90 seconds to answer a question, 30 seconds for a rebuttal, and 30 seconds for a rejoinder.

“This is not a hard-and-fast rule for everyone. Not everyone is expected to max out the time. We will be fluid also. That’s just the benchmark,” Jimenez said.

There will be draw lots to determine who will answer the first question. The succeeding questions will be answered in alphabetical order.

Veteran journalist as moderator

Seasoned broadcast journalist Luchi Cruz-Valdez will moderate Saturday night’s debate. The Comelec said it chose someone who has the ability “to direct the flow of the debate.”

“Our candidates are very big personalities and they always want to be upfront about everything. What we wanted is a moderator who will be able to guide the debates so walang sapawan (no one will talk over someone),” Jimenez said.

Empty podium for the debate skipper

There are 10 presidential candidates, but only nine warm bodies will be on the debate stage on Saturday night.

The confirmed participants are former presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, labor leader Leody de Guzman, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, former defense chief Norberto Gonzales, Senator Ping Lacson, businessman Faisal Mangondato, cardiologist Jose Montemayor, Senator Manny Pacquiao, and Vice President Leni Robredo.

Dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. chose to skip the debate, with his spokesperson saying he will be “on the field” on Saturday to be with supporters.

The Comelec has yet to receive a written refusal letter from Marcos Jr., but the poll body has prepared an empty podium for him to symbolize his absence from the highly anticipated face-off.

Very small physical audience

There will be no live audience for the debate except for a few companions of each presidential candidate.

But the Pilipinas Debates 2022 will be simulcast across several broadcast and online news organizations, including Rappler’s social media channels. Follow Rappler’s coverage of the debate here. – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.