House members favor public debates among Senate bets

By Ellson Quismorio

Public debates among national candidates are indispensable as far as gauging election aspirants are concerned, several House of Representatives members agree.

“[They] are highly important because it allows the electorate to know each candidate’s merits and knowledge especially on pressing national issues,” said Deputy Minority Leader, AKO-Bicol Party-List Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr.

He gave this comment amid continued talk of public debates between members of opposition slate “Otso Diretso” and that of the administration-friendly Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) party.

“The reason why the Constitution set the 35-year age as the minimum age to run for Senate is that such persons are both mature in age and politically mature to know the pressing needs and issues of the general populace. And that maturity can best be exhibited in a nationwide telecast debate,” explained Garbin, who is a lawyer.

Otso Diretso bets recently took their debate challenge against their HNP counterparts before the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

This, after the Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-backed HNP no-showed a debate dare in Manila last February 25, although it was unilaterally set by the opposition slate.

Referring to public debates, Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) Party-List Rep. Sherwin Tugna said: “It is important because voters can assess and judge what they (candidates) will do when voted into office.”

“The debate is for the benefit of the voters,” added Tugna, who chairs the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms.

Also favoring the conduct of public debates was House Committee on Dangerous Drugs chairman, Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers.

“To me it’s a way where we can inform the people of our opinions and advocacies, so I fully support that,” the Mindanao lawmaker said.

Based on survey numbers, HNP bets have a better chance of landing a Senate seat compared to Otso Diretso candidates. The midterm elections will take place on May 13.