With no law requiring attendance, Comelec to meet on getting bets to go to debates

With no law requiring attendance, Comelec to meet on getting bets to go to debates
“Let’s thoroughly scrutinize our candidates. We still have more than two months to do this,” Commissioner Socorro Inting, Comelec acting chair, said in Filipino during the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with online news website Rappler at the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections will look into introducing sanctions for candidates who continue to snub electoral debates.

For now, opting out of the Comelec debates means candidates will not be able to campaign on the poll body's e-rally online events.

"Sa Miyerkules, pag-uusapan pa namin ano pa ang pwede nating maipatupad na sanction na medyo mas mabigat na hindi naman nagva-violate sa mga umiiral na batas natin at sa karapatan ng mga kandidato," Comelec Commissioner George Garcia told ABS-CBN's "TeleRadyo" on Monday. 

(On Tuesday, we will discuss what other sanctions we can impose that do not violate our current laws and the rights of the candidates.)

Garcia said that if he was already with the commission before the candidates filed for their candidacy, he might have suggested making candidates sign a written agreement to ensure their participation in any Comelec-sanctioned event during the campaign season. Otherwise, non-participating candidates may be disqualified or may face sanctions.

Garcia said, as it stands, the commission cannot force the candidates to participate in the debates.

He said the issue lies in the country not having a law requiring electoral candidates to participate in debates. 

"Kung meron lamang po ‘yang batas tapos may nagsasabi na kapag hindi um-attend, ito ang parusa, disqualification, may election offense pa… Hindi po tayo magdadalawang-isip, ipapatupad po natin ‘yan," Garcia said.

(If only we had a law punishing candidates who do not attend [debates], along with what will be the penalties, disqualification, and a possible election offense… we won’t think twice, we will implement it.)

'Why look for someone who didn't attend?'

This comes after Partido Lakas ng Masa vice presidential candidate Walden Bello called out the commission for not imposing other sanctions on election frontrunners vice presidential candidate Sara Duterte and her running mate, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. 

Neither of the two attended the Comelec-sponsored debates over the weekend.

On Sunday evening, Bello asked Comelec to penalize both candidates “for not showing themselves up to the Filipino people with their programs.” He went on to say that the commission’s current penalty of forfeiting both candidates’ slots in their e-rallies is weak. 

Both Marcos and Duterte led in the election survey done by Pulse Asia Research

"Sabi ko nga po, bakit kasi hinahanap ‘yung wala? Mas maganda po ang i-appreciate natin yung nandyan, ‘yung present at sana po mapagnilay-nilayan natin ‘yung mga binanggit nila, ‘yung sinabi nila, at ‘yung mga plano’t plataporma nila. ‘Yun po ang tutukan natin," Garcia said.

(I asked, why are you even looking for someone who’s not here? It would be better if we appreciated whoever attended, whoever’s present and I hope we think about what they talk about, what they say, and their plans and platforms. That’s what we should focus on.) — Kaycee Valmonte

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