MANILA, Philippines – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has threatened not to attend the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) first presidential debate in Cagayan de Oro City on Sunday, February 21, following allegations of discrimination in the media coverage for the event.
On Sunday, February 14, the Cagayan de Oro Press Club had released a statement, saying that the organizers of the first debate were limiting the number of slots for local media.
The February 21 debate will be mounted by GMA-7 and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, along with the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) as debate coordinator.
According to the memorandum of agreement (MOA) that the Comelec signed with media outlets, meanwhile, the poll body "shall provide guidelines for media coverage of the debates in accordance with election laws" and the MOA.
"I will not go there also," a press statement from the Duterte camp quoted the candidate as saying on the sidelines of an event late Sunday.
"[I am running for] president because I want people from the provinces to be given equal treatment," Duterte said, as quoted in the statement.
The mayor also urged the poll body to hold a dialogue with local journalists in cities which will be hosting the debates.
Aside from the February 21 debate in Cagayan de Oro City, there will also be a March 20 debate in Cebu, and another one in Manila on April 24.
"It would be unfortunate ... if the local media will feel they are being treated as second-class citizens in the press community," Duterte said, adding that he will discuss the matter with Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, president of their political party, PDP-Laban.
A vice-presidential debate, to be mounted by Rappler, CNN Philippines, and BusinessMirror, is also set for April 10.
In a letter submitted to Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista on January 22, Rappler asked the poll body to equalize access to coverage of the presidential debates that other networks are organizing.
Rappler stressed that the debates, which have the official stamp of the poll body, are imbued with public interest. – Rappler.com