THE CANCELLATION of the final round of official debates among the country’s top two positions casts doubt into the capability of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to manage the May 9 national and local elections, one of the vice-presidential candidates said on Tuesday.
“There is something very fishy about what is happening in this whole affair that needs to be clarified by the Comelec because every statement it comes out with deepens the mystery of why this debate was canceled,” Partido Lakas ng Masa vice presidential bet Walden F. Bello said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
“It calls into question the capability of the Comelec to manage the elections, it can’t even manage a simple debate like this, or it was not coincidental but was planned? I need more facts,” he said.
Comelec on Monday said that the supposed final round of debates would be changed into a panel-interview format following Impact Hub Manila’s failure to fulfill part of its financial obligations to the venue, Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila. The private contractor allegedly owes the venue P14 million.
Ang Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters ng Pilipinas (KBP), a non-profit organization of Philippine broadcast media, will be Comelec’s new partner in organizing the forum, which will be taped and edited by the election body.
Nonetheless, Mr. Bello said he and his running mate, labor leader Leodegario “Ka Leody” Q. de Guzman, will still participate in the modified forum, noting that they appreciate every opportunity to speak to the Filipino people.
Election Commissioner George Erwin M. Garcia told reporters in a Viber message on Monday that in consideration of scheduling conflicts, it will adopt a pre-recorded single candidate, one-hour panel interview, which will be aired between May 2 to 6.
“This (format) is really a poor substitute because we know from the Comelec e-rallies were barely attended, and they would be lucky to get 50 people watching,” Mr. Bello said. “What we have is an event that will be hardly watched by anybody, and what worries me is this cancellation falls into what the Marcos and Duterte camp wanted.”
The tandem of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio skipped the first two Comelec-sponsored debates.
Comelec is currently investigating the Impact Hub Manila fiasco, including its departments that were involved in organizing the debates. — John Victor D. Ordoñez