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Presidential bets to be grouped into 3 as Comelec revises debate format

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Presidential bets to be grouped into 3 as Comelec revises debate format
Nine of 10 presidential candidates together in one photo prior to the start of the Comelec-sponsored presidential debate on Saturday, March 19, 2022.
Philstar.com / Deejae Dumlao

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections is adopting changes to its presidential debate format “to give a more substantial debate” through dividing the candidates into groups and by allocating more time for them to tackle debate topics.

“For the upcoming debate [on] April 3, there will be one general question that will be posed for all the candidates to answer and this will happen at the start of the debate,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in a briefing on Thursday.

“But for each succeeding segment, candidates will be divided in groups of three where each group will be given one question essentially to debate on,” Jimenez added

The groups of candidates will be changed per segment. Groups will be determined through a draw lot at 5 p.m. on Sunday, two hours before the debate.

Comelec said there will be four segments in the new format, each with three questions for the presidential candidates.

Under the new format, each candidate will now be given 120 seconds or two minutes to answer the question instead of the previously allotted 90 seconds. Comelec said this would allow candidates to provide more substantial answers.Candidates will still be allowed a  30-second rebuttal.

Meanwhile, each candidate will be given 90 seconds for their closing statements at the end of the debate.

Marcos yet to confirm attendance

Ten individuals are vying for the country’s top post — all but one attended the previous Comelec-sponsored presidential debate. The poll body said it has yet to receive a confirmation from Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. regarding his attendance on Sunday.

READ: Marcos steers clear of Comelec presidential debate 

“In the drawing of lots, pwede tayong maglagay ng sampung pangngalan diyan (we can put 10 names there). But now you’re gonna ask me, are you assuming he’s arriving?,” Jimenez said.

“We don’t know, right now wala naman siyang pasabi kung hindi siya darating o darating man (he has not advised if he will not join or if he will) but right now what we have is his old statements so we can proceed with that,” he added.

Comelec said it is still working with its Law Department and its Education and Information Department in determining what other sanctions the poll body can impose on those who skip Comelec-sponsored debates.

Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said there is currently no law that provides guidelines for election debates. Garcia said whatever sanction they impose "may be questioned as being unconstitutional."

"Patuloy po tayong nananawagan sa ating kagalang-galang na kongreso, after this election, baka pwedeng makapagpasa na tayo ng batas na magkakaroon talaga ng presidential debates sa lahat ng election natin. At the same, ano 'yung mga guidelines, rules," Garcia said.

(We will continue to call on our congress, that after this election, maybe we can pass a law stating that presidential debates will be held during all our elections. At the same time, [it should lay out] guidelines, rules.) — Kaycee Valmonte

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