Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — There is now an official platform where Filipino voters can gauge the candidates of this year’s elections.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday (January 13) signed an agreement with various media outlets to host the 2016 presidential and vice presidential debates.
The first presidential debate, hosted by GMA Network Inc. and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, will take place in Cagayan de Oro on February 21.
TV5 and the Philippine Star are set to host another presidential debate on March 20 in Cebu, while ABS-CBN and the Manila Bulletin will head the third and final one on April 24 in Luzon.
The only vice presidential debate will be hosted by CNN Philippines, in partnership with Rappler and Business Mirror, on April 10 in Metro Manila.
Debates to inform voters of candidates
Comelec Chairman Andres “Andy” Bautista said the debates will follow a provision in the Fair Election Act. The goal, he added, is to help voters make informed choices in the upcoming elections by giving them an idea where candidates stand on different important issues.
Bautista, however, explained that the candidates are not required to attend.
“They are free to attend or not to attend but obviously, they will also miss out on a great opportunity to be able to speak to the Filipino people because these debates will be telecast by various media outlets all over the country.”
He added that though the Comelec encourages them to be present at the debates, it has a plan on how to treat no-show candidates.
“We will give them a seat in the debates. If they do not show up, then the seat with their name will be maintained throughout the debate — vacant, but with their name.”
CNN Philippines correspondent JC Gotinga contributed to this report.