The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said participation in electoral debates is not mandatory.
“Under the law, participation in the debate is not mandatory. We have no choice. We cannot force them to join the debates,” Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said in a television interview on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
The Comelec is looking to hold presidential and vice presidential debates from February to April ahead of the May 2022 polls.
Although not mandatory, Jimenez said candidates usually participate in the debates that they organize.
“Historically speaking, when the debate is organized by the Comelec or if the Comelec has taken a lead role in organizing the debates, the candidates do come,” he said.
“They don’t have to but they do come because of its massive airtime and they do get massive coverage that they could not get otherwise without pay or possibly running afoul of the time limits for broadcast,” added Jimenez.
“So ultimately, the coverage, the exposure, that is what tips the balance, I think, for candidates,” he said.