Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his allies filed a resolution on Thursday, November 11, strongly urging the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to start holding presidential debates before the end of 2021.
House Resolution No. 2346 pushes for an early start to the debates “to uphold the people’s right to information and accord candidates equal opportunity to be heard and to reply, for the proper exercise of the right to suffrage.”
Filing the resolution with Cayetano were Taguig 2nd District Rep. Lani Cayetano, Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund Jr. “LRay” Villafuerte, Batangas 2nd District Rep. Raneo Abu, Laguna 1st District Rep. Dan Fernandez, ANAKALUSUGAN Party-list Rep. Michael Defensor, and Bulacan 1st District Rep. Jose Antonio ‘Kuya’ Sy-Alvarado.
“Holding debates and starting them earlier is key to informed choices as these debates will give the electorate ample opportunity to examine the candidates’ qualifications, track record, platforms, programs, and stand on issues of national concern,” the resolution reads.
Cayetano, who is running for Senate as an independent candidate, has been advocating for presidential, vice presidential, and senatorial debates since the period for filing of candidacies in October.
His aim is for various institutions to hold the debates from December 2021 until April 2022, as these events are the best way for Filipino voters to make fully informed choices.
In October alone, 400,000 new voters registered for the upcoming election, adding to the 5 million voters who registered since the last election. This brings the total number of registered voters to 62 million.
The former House Speaker had suggested that the debates be hosted by the country’s media networks, major universities, and faith-based and business groups.
Proposed topics for the debates include COVID-19 response, health, economy, wages and employment, poverty and hunger, corruption, stimulus measures for displaced workers, law enforcement, values in government, peace and order, environmental sustainability, and foreign relations.
“We keep telling people, let’s be objective, facts tayo, huwag tayo emosyon, but we’re not giving them the venue to do that. So ang nangyayari ngayon, kanya-kanyang kampanya, kanya-kanyang kampihan, but we’re not giving the public the venue na mai-side-to-side ang mga kandidato,” Cayetano previously said during a press briefing in Taguig City on November 5.
(We keep telling people, let’s be objective, let’s stick to the facts, let’s not be emotional, but we’re not giving them the venue to do that. So what happens is the candidates all do their own thing, but we’re not giving the public the venue to compare the candidates side-by-side.)
The aim is to have 15 weekly one-on-one debates among the six leading presidential candidates on a round-robin basis, compared to three presidential debates held during the 2016 presidential elections.
This will give the aspirants ample time to hash out their views on a broad range of topics and voters to familiarize with track records, qualifications, platforms, and programs.
The former Speaker hopes that these topics can be covered without the candidates using the platform to attack each other.
“Masyado nang malaki ang problema ng COVID, hindi naman natin gustong magpalabas ng debate na wala lang ginawa kundi lang mag-disagree for the sake of disagreeing,” Cayetano stated.
(We already have a huge problem with COVID around, we don’t want to come out with debates that do nothing but make candidates disagree for the sake of disagreeing.)
The debates will also serve as a basis for accountability of elected officials.
Cayetano believes that candidates do not need to be the best debater but they should be good communicators as their roles require communicating with the international community, the Cabinet, the military, the police, and the people.
The 2022 National and Local Elections will be held in six (6) months time on May 9, 2022.