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Comelec rejects Otso Diretso’s request for debate

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PHILSTAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has dismissed the request of the Otso Diretso slate for a debate against the Hugpong ng Pagbabago candidates.

Comelec spokesperson James B. Jimenez on Friday said the Comelec En Banc junked the petition of the opposition candidates after deliberations.

“(G)ranting Otso Diretso’s request would be tantamount to giving preferential treatment to some senatorial candidates or slates,” he said in a message to reporters.

Last week, Otso Diretso candidates Samira A. Gutoc, Romulo B. Macalintal, Florin T. Hilbay, Lorenzo R. Tañada III, and Gary C. Alejano personally gave a letter to Comelec Chairman Sheriff A. Abas at the Comelec headquarters in Intramuros requesting the poll body to set upa a debate between Otso Diretso and HNP after the latter didn’t show up to a debate organized by Otso Diretso.

Also under the Otso Diretso slate are former senator Manuel A. Roxas II, lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” I. Diokno, and reelectionist Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV.

Mr. Jimenez added that the Comelec En Banc rejected the request due to time constraints, considering there are only two months left before election day on May 13.




“It would be practically impossible, logistically, to conduct meaningful debates involving all 62 candidates, without risking allegations of preferential treatment,” he said.

Most of the Otso Diretso candidates on Friday expressed their disappointment over the Comelec’s decision. Mr. Macalintal said the party will ask the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) to organize the requested debate.

“[W]hat is saddening is that the debate could have been an opportunity for Comelec to exercise one of its primary functions as guardian of the people’s right of suffrage to educate our electorate to vote wisely, to gauge the qualifications of the candidates, and not to vote on mere popularity but to examine closely the character and last actions and positions of the candidates on various issues affecting our country and our people. Hence we will try our luck this time with PPCRV,” he said. — GMC

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