By Ben Rosario
Hugpong ng Pagbabago chairperson and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte is willing to debate with the eight-man Otso Diretso senatorial team single-handedly.
“Kami na lang, Inday Sara versus 8,” Duterte said after learning that the Commission on Elections thumbed down the opposition Otso Diretso’s request for the holding of debate among senatorial candidates in the May polls.
However, Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano rejected the challenge hurled by the presidential, daughter, saying that she cannot face them in public discourse because she is not a senatorial candidate.
“Her challenge is futile,” stated Alejano.
“She should let the senatorial candidates of Hugpong to speak for themselves and explain their stand on different issues affecting our country and the Filipino people,” stated Alejano, a member of the Otso Diretso senatorial slate.
Alejano described the mayor’s dare as a “diversionary tactic” that “highlights the cowardice of her senatorial bets.”
“Huwag niyong takbuhan at pagtaguan ang taumbayan na nais malaman ang inyong mga plataporma at kapasidad para maging mambabatas,” said Alejano. (Don’t run away and hide from the people who want to know your platform and capability to become a lawmaker.”)
Duterte, who heads the Hugpong ng Pagbabago national campaign, has been quite receptive at Otso Diretso’s debate challenge but wants her candidates to decide for themselves.
Among the Hugpong candidates, former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino and re-electionist Sen. JV Ejercito have indicated willingness to face the opposition in a debate.
“Hinarap ko na naman ang marami sa mga kandidato,” said Tolentino.
On the other hand, JV welcomes public debates as a golden opportunity to explain to the voters their stand on national issues and their legislative platform.
However, the Comelec rejected the Otso Diretso petition asking the poll body to draw rules for the debate and schedule them.
“Granting Otso Diretso’s request would be tantamount to giving preferential treatment to some senatorial candidates or slates,” said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.