CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 18 Feb) – All the presidentiables have signified they will be attending the presidential debate dubbed as “Pilipinas Debates 2016” at the Capitol University this coming Sunday, the Commission on Elections said.
Comelec Misamis Oriental acting director Joseph Cuevas said they have already received confirmation from all the presidential candidates.
“This is the first of a series of debates. We are inviting the people to watch or listen to the debate,” Cuevas said over Magnum radio here.
Local journalists led by the Cagayan de Oro Press Club have expressed indignation over the guidelines imposed by organizers of the debate – GMA 7 and Philippine Daily Inquirer – limiting their access to the venue.
Non-government organizations and politicians have supported the call of the press club with many of them saying they would also not be attending the debate.
Reports said GMA 7 is scrambling to persuade the NGOs and politicians to attend.
Charlito Manlupig, chairman emeritus of Balay Mindanaw Foundation, said they received a call from GMA 7 asking them to change their mind not to attend the debate.
Manlupig and Balay Mindanaw earlier issued a statement supporting the position of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club, saying they would not attend the debate and are giving up the 15 slots allotted to them by the organizers.
“We hope that you understand that our decision is in solidarity with the local groups who we believe represent the legitimate concerns of communities in Mindanao,” Manlupig wrote.
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd district, Cagayan de Oro) said giving only 25 slots to local journalists is a gross discrimination against the local press community.
“All Kagayanons should join hands to protest this arbitrary and unjust treatment of our local media,” Rodriguez said.
Earlier, presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City threatened to boycott the debate if local journalists will be discriminated by organizers.
Veteran anchors Mike Enriquez and Jessica Soho of GMA7 network will host the presidential debate.
In his column on Feb. 16, John Nery of the Philippine Daily Inquirer described the setup of the incoming debate.
“A candidate is given 90 seconds to answer a question, the candidate he or she is paired with in that round has 60 seconds to offer a rebuttal, then the first candidate has 30 seconds to issue a counter-rebuttal and close the argument,” Nery said.
Nery said the questions to be fielded were derived from three “town hall meetings” conducted by the Inquirer in three different places in Mindanao to get the so-called “Mindanao agenda.”
Rodriguez, who attended one of the town hall meetings, said some of the questions they wanted the candidates to answer are about agricultural development, peace process and the Mindanao railway project.
Nery also explained the setup of the media center where journalists, accredited by Comelec, will be stationed.
“All the presidential candidates have agreed to go to the media center after the debate to meet with the media present there,” he said.