Comelec Presidential, VP Debates: What You Need to Know

It's a 'high-stakes' event, says the poll body.

The Commission on Elections said Saturday it would host at least two rounds of presidential debates and back-to-back town hall debates as part of its voter information activities for the May 9 elections.

The poll body and its official voter information campaign partner, Vote Pilipinas, will formalize the agreement for the Pilipinas Debates 2022 in a signing ceremony in Pasay City on Monday.

"We are very excited to have the agreement signed so we can finally share the details and mechanics of this much-awaited Comelec organized debates," the poll body's spokesperson James Jimenez said.

"This is a high-stakes event that the voting public has been fervently looking forward to, so we expect all candidates to be on deck and ready to demonstrate why they deserve our vote," he added.

When will the debates be held?

According to Comelec, the first presidential debates will be held on March 19, followed by the vice presidential debates on March 20. Another presidential debate is slated for April 3.

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In an advisory to the media, the Comelec said the first presidential and vice presidential debates would be held in Philippine Arena, the world's largest indoor venue, which has a seating capacity of up to 55,000.

The Philippine Arena also hosted the campaign kick-off of presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, last Feb. 8.

What are the mechanics of the debates?

Each debate is anchored on a set of predetermined topics involving the country's most pressing concerns, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy, with the questions coming from the concerned sector groups, the Comelec said.

The debates are expected to last for three hours with only a single moderator and no live audience. The first candidate to answer will be determined through draw lots and the succeeding questions will be answered by the candidates in their alphabetical order.

Jimenez earlier told reporters that candidates will be given the general topics that may be asked but not the specific questions.

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Aside from these debates, the Comelec said it would also organize back-to-back town hall debates which will have both remote and in-person audience, and a post-debate roundtable.

The presidential and vice presidential town hall debates are set for April 23 and 24, respectively, and will follow a double-moderator format.

Who will attend the debates?

Jimenez earlier said that all 10 candidates for president have "signified the commitment to attend the first debate," which is set to take place on March 19.

Marcos' spokesperson Vic Rodriguez, however, said the son of the late dictator has yet to confirm his attendance in the said debate, adding that his participation will only be confirmed if his "hectic campaign schedules permit."

Marcos previously declined to attend a forum organized by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas and the debate hosted by CNN Philippines last Feb. 27.

He last attended the presidential debate of SMNI, owned by religious leader Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.

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