MANILA, Philippines – The debate-averse Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., cannot commit yet to the debate organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for presidential candidates, which is happening in three weeks, on March 19.
The Marcos camp made the clarification shortly after Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez announced on Thursday, February 24, that all 10 presidential candidates had confirmed to join the first debate that the commission will organize.
“His participation in the said event, which will be held at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan will only be confirmed if his hectic campaign schedules permit,” said Marcos’ spokesperson Vic Rodriguez.
Marcos has skipped the two prior major presidential interviews, one by GMA News and the other by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP). He will also skip the CNN Philippines debate on Sunday, February 27.
On Twitter, Jimenez showed a letter sent by Marcos’ campaign manager Benhur Abalos saying the son of dictator “has expressed his readiness to join.” In the letter dated February 14, Abalos requested that the candidates be able to discuss with Comelec the format, and “the issues to be discussed.”
Jimenez said “if more confirmation is needed, the Comelec awaits the same with bated breath.”
In an earlier interview with ANC, Rodriguez said Marcos will join debates on two conditions: that the format is not used for mudslinging, and if their schedule permits it. Rodriguez said debate formats do not give their candidate the sufficient time to discuss his platforms. Marcos has yet to present a detailed platform.
For the Uniteam’s Ilocandia leg on the week of Valentine’s Day, Marcos left Sara Duterte to campaign by herself in Isabela to be able to attend the debate organized by SMNI. SMNI is owned by self-styled pastor Apollo Quiboloy, who is wanted in the United States for sex trafficking of children. Quiboloy has also already endorsed the Marcos-Duterte tandem.
The SMNI debate was accommodated in that Ilocandia campaign week for Marcos: he went to Cagayan on February 14, attended the SMNI debate on February 15 while Duterte did her motorcade there, and returned to Ilocos Norte on February 16. They finished in Ilocos Sur on February 17, as Duterte went to La Union on February 18.
One of the panelists in the SMNI debate, political analyst and University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman [rofessor Clarita Carlos told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo that the organizers had asked her for a copy of her questions in advance, but that she refused to give such.
Marcos is the current frontrunner based on surveys. Analysts say his controlled media exposure, shunning institutional media and opting for the friendly outlets like SMNI, contributed to this boost.
In Cagayan, a local town mayor said Marcos’ non-participation in debates have disappointed some of his supporters. – Rappler.com