#TheFilipinoDecides2016: On COMELEC’s 1st nationwide and televised debates

Five presidential candidates will face the first COMELEC-sanctioned and administered debate series.

Five presidential candidates will face the first COMELEC-sanctioned and administered debate series.

THE CAMPAIGN SEASON has just begun and numerous gimmicks kick in their own caravan on their respective locations.

In the Philippine television environment, this means traditional segments during the election season comes back again from Unang Hirit’s Hiritan (GMA) in the mornings to Bandila’s Hot Seat (ABS-CBN) in the late nights. However, the broadcast climate seems to have been discordant through the years and it felt that no one could have an equal balance on the political matter of Juan and Juana de la Cruz, due to the slant of the news presenters and/or the network they represent.

Have no fear; the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is here. COMELEC stepped right in to hold its first presidential debate series that will help the electorate know the issues better, deeper and uncut. The said debates will fulfill the minimum requirement of Section 7.3 of the Fair Elections Act (Republic Act 9006) after exactly 15 years of enactment.

The three-part debates in summary

According to GMA News Online, in just nine days from now — on February 21 — the first debate will take place in Mindanao, particularly at Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro. Sponsored by their network and Philippine Daily Inquirer, of which their election media tie-up is well respected since the 1990s, they will tackle four topics:

  • agricultural development,
  • poverty reduction/asset creation and redistribution,
  • charter change, and
  • peace and order.

The second debate will take place on March 20 (Palm Sunday) at the University of the Philippines Cebu in Cebu City (sponsored by TV5 and Philippine Star) and will tackle the following topics:

  • disaster preparedness/climate change adaptation
  • health care
  • education
  • fighting corruption

The third and final debate to take place on April 24 at the University of Pangasinan, Dagupan (sponsored by ABS-CBN and Manila Bulletin) will tackle on five topics:

  • traffic and public transportation
  • electoral and political reforms
  • foreign policy
  • tax reform
  • national defense

Each debate lasts two hours, including commercial breaks. There will be five to six rounds of questioning, with each round to focus on a main issue or topic.

Each candidate will be given one minute for opening statement, two minutes for closing statement, one minute and 30 seconds to answer a question, one minute for rebuttal, and 30 seconds for counter-rebuttal.

COMELEC Chair: Candidates “not required” to attend any debate

According to a CNN Philippines report dated last January 13, COMELEC Chairman Andres “Andy” Bautista did not require all five candidates to attend the debate but it would obviously “miss the opportunity to be able to speak to the Filipino people.”

That quote being said would mean that one presidential candidate can go away and continue with his/her own campaign caravan with their gimmicks of panem et circensis, instead of facing the camera vis-a-vis his/her opponents to tell the stances and concrete actions if elected and seated in Malacanang.

Insights of the COMELEC-sanctioned presidential debates

Broadcasting the first official Commission-sanctioned series will be difficult, given the familiar hostile broadcast industry environment — a sort of “tribal mentality.” Whenever they mention a debate on other network on their news item, they don’t usually mention the name of the program and the broadcaster and usually don’t air the excerpt from other’s network.

Meanwhile, in the United States, as this year marks also their presidential election year, they feel no threat to cover other network’s debates of their Democrat and Republican candidates, their primary projections and results, their party’s national convention, the general campaign period and the general projections and results. They knew not only that competition exists but also they knew how to get along with them respectfully and to agree contractually.

Maybe the Big 3 should learn from the election coverage in America right now.


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Photos courtesy of:

  • Manila Bulletin: Jejomar Binay, Mar Roxas and Miriam Defensor Santiago
  • The Summit Express: Rodrigo Duterte
  • WikiPipinas: Grace Poe
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