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STAR hosts Visayas presidential debate

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - All is set for the debates of candidates for president and vice president in the May elections.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with The STAR and other media organizations to host the debates.

Associate editor Marichu Villanueva signed the agreement for The STAR, which will co-host the Visayas leg of the debate of presidential candidates together with TV5 and BusinessWorld. The debate will be held at the University of the Philippines in Cebu on March 20.

Disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation, health care, education and fighting corruption are the topics of the debate.

The Mindanao leg of the debate will be held at the Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro City to be hosted by GMA 7 and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The topics are agriculture development, poverty reduction and asset creation and redistribution, Charter change and peace and order.

ABS-CBN and the Manila Bulletin will host the debate in Luzon to be held either in Central or Southern Luzon. The topics are traffic and public transportation, electoral and political reforms, foreign policy, tax reforms and national defense.

CNN Philippines, Business Mirror and Rappler shall conduct the debate of vice presidential candidates in Metro Manila.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the debates are meant to “assist voters in making an informed choice” and encourage candidates to focus on substantive issues and public policy.

The last time the poll body hosted a presidential debate was in 1992.

Bautista said they have prepared a draft of the rules and regulations of the debates and would discuss it with representatives of the candidates.

He said all candidates for president and vice president would be invited.

“We will give them all a seat in the debate. If they do not show up, the seat with their name will be maintained vacant with their names,” he said.

“Their not showing up is already a message in itself. I believe in freedom. They are free to attend or not to attend, but obviously they will also miss out on a great opportunity to speak to the Filipino people because these debates will be telecast all over the country,” Bautista said.

Ready

Vice President Jejomar Binay is ready to face his rivals in the debates.

Binay’s spokesman for media affairs Joey Salgado gave assurance the Vice President would attend all the debates.

Binay had welcomed the debates, saying it would give the people the chance to see who deserves to be the country’s next leaders.

The Fair Elections Act or Republic Act 9006 allows the Comelec to require national television and radio networks to sponsor at least three national debates among presidential candidates and at least one among vice presidential candidates.

Senate probe

Meanwhile, Salgado slammed the plan of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV to resume the Senate investigation into the corruption allegations against Binay.

“He professes that it is not politically motivated, a fantastic claim that no one believes, probably not even Senator Trillanes,” Salgado said in a statement.

“Two of the inquisitors, after vehemently professing last year the absence of political motives, are running for vice president. The third one is backing a presidential candidate,” he said, referring to Trillanes, Sens. Alan Peter Cayetano and Aquilino Pimentel III, respectively.

Binay was accused of receiving billions in kickbacks from various infrastructure projects when he was mayor of Makati City. – With Helen Flores

ACIRC

ALAN PETER CAYETANO AND AQUILINO PIMENTEL

ANTONIO TRILLANES

BAUTISTA

BINAY

BUSINESS MIRROR AND RAPPLER

CANDIDATES

CAPITOL UNIVERSITY

COMELEC

DEBATE

DEBATES

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