The Commission on Elections on Monday said it would not hold a "one-on-one" debate among candidates in the May 9 elections, noting that all aspirants should have an equal chance to present themselves to the electorate.
Presidential bet Manny Pacquiao earlier challenged rival Bongbong Marcos to a one-on-one debate after the latter did not show up in the March 19 Comelec presidential debate.
Holding a one-on-one debate, however, would be unfair and discriminatory to other candidates, said Comelec Commissioner George Erwin Garcia.
"Ang lahat ng mga kandidato ay may equal chance na mabigyan ng kanilang entablado at kanilang panahon," he said during the Laging Handa public briefing.
"Kami ay Commission on Elections. We should be impartial, neutral, lalo na sa halalan. Kapag nag-require tayo ng one-on-one lamang, parang pinili na natin. Hindi dapat ganun. Lahat ay bibigyan ng tamang pagkakataon," he added.
The Comelec has sponsored a series of debates for presidential and vice presidential bets in the 2022 elections where all candidates are welcome to join even as they are not required to attend, Garcia said.
"Maganda yun, siguro yung ibang network pwedeng mag-hold ng mga one-on-one kahit hindi yung mga nabanggit niyong kandidato. Pero definitely ang Commission on Elections ay hindi gagawin yan," he added.
Garcia also said the Comelec has asked its law and information departments to suggest stiffer penalties for candidates who choose not to participate in the debates without a justifiable reason.
Aside from Marcos, his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio also declined to attend the March 20 vice presidential debates sponsored by the Comelec.
A second round of the Comelec presidential debate is slated for April 3, while a presidential and vice presidential town hall debates are scheduled for April 24 and 23, respectively.