What to expect from Comelec’s first presidential debate for 2022

No aide-mémoire, no audience, an empty podium, questions around two topics – here are the things to watch out for when the Comelec debate kicks off on Saturday evening March 19

The stage is set for the first presidential debate organized by the Electoral Commission (Comelec) for the 2022 elections.

The televised event, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 19, at the Sofitel Harbor Garden tent in Pasay City, will see 9 of the 10 presidential candidates face off on one stage.

Here are some of the things to expect:

2 problems, 20 questions maximum

Comelec has prepared 20 questions for the 150-minute debate proper, but don’t expect them all to be asked.

The questions revolve around the issues of the pandemic and the economy.

“Those are the two most important things on everyone’s mind right now. We are looking at a persistent problem in the pandemic, and economics is a good framework to discuss the pandemic because of its effect on the economy,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said Friday, March 18.

No cheat sheet

Candidates will not be allowed to bring a cheat sheet with them, but they will be provided with a pen and paper once on the debate stage in case they want to take notes.

These bond papers will be kept by the Comelec afterwards, because as Jimenez said, one of the participants could be the next highest leader in the country.

What to expect from Comelec's first presidential debate for 2022
Deadline for applicants, rebuttals

Candidates will have 90 seconds to answer a question, 30 seconds for a rebuttal and 30 seconds for a reply.

“It’s not a hard and fast rule for everyone. Not everyone is supposed to maximize time. We will be fluid too. That’s just the benchmark,” Jimenez said.

A draw will determine who will answer the first question. The following questions will be answered in alphabetical order.

Senior Journalist as Moderator

Veteran journalist Luchi Cruz-Valdez will moderate Saturday night’s debate. Comelec said it chose someone who has the ability to “steer the course of the debate”.

“Our candidates are very big personalities and they always want to be upfront about everything. What we wanted was a moderator who could steer the debates so walang sapawan (no one will talk to anyone),” Jimenez said.

Empty podium for the skipper of the debate

There are 10 presidential candidates, but only nine hot bodies will be on the debate stage on Saturday night.

Confirmed attendees include former presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, labor leader Leody de Guzman, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, former Defense Chief Norberto Gonzales, Senator Ping Lacson, businessman Faisal Mangondato, Cardiologist Jose Montemayor, Senator Manny Pacquiao and Vice President Leni Robredo.

Dictator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s son opted to skip the debate, with his spokesman saying he will be “on the pitch” on Saturday to be with supporters.

The Comelec has not yet received a written rejection letter from Marcos Jr., but the polling organization has prepared an empty podium for him to symbolize his absence from the highly anticipated face-to-face.

Very small physical audience

There will be no live audience for the debate except for a few companions from each presidential candidate.

But the Pilipinas Debates 2022 will be simulcast on multiple online news and broadcast organizations, including Rappler’s social media channels. Follow Rappler’s coverage of the debate here. – Rappler.com

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