By DHEL NAZARIO and JEL SANTOS
True to his word, presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. was a no show at the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec’s) Pilipinas Debates 2022 that kicked off on Saturday, March 19.
The much-awaited event started off with presidential candidates’ debates at the Sofitel Harbor Garden Tent in Pasay City.
All nine presidential bets who have earlier expressed their commitment to participate in the Comelec-organized debates were present except Marcos.
To recall, Comelec Spokesperson James B. Jimenez said the poll body will prohibit candidates who will not take part in the PiliPinas Debates 2022 to use their e-rally platforms.
All presidential candidates, except Marcos, said they will join the debates.
First to arrive at Sofitel for the PiliPinas Debates 2022 was businessman Faisal “Fai” M. Mangondato at 3:27 p.m.
Around 4 p.m., Comelec personnel told supporters of some candidates waiting outside the venue of the PiliPinas Debates 2022 to go to the designated areas for supporters. Policemen surrounded the entrance of the venue.
He was followed by Dr. Jose “Joey” C. Montemayor Jr. as one of the early birds. He said that he did not prepare much for debates since he is a doctor and that he deals with patients everyday. The pandemic and the economy are the topics of for the first leg of the debates.
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson stressed the importance of attending debates for the voters. He arrived at 4:42 p.m.
“Importante para malaman ng mga botante kung ano maiooffer kung anong kakayahan, competence, qualification, para makita (It’s important so that the voters would know what we can offer, our capability, our competence, qualification),” he said.
Leodegario “Ka Leody” Q. De Guzman said that he reviewed a little when it comes to current events but when it comes to the problems of workers, the problems of the country, he stated that he has been discussing these things for 36 years. He arrived at 4:47 p.m.
Meanwhile, former National Security Adviser Norberto “Bert” B. Gonzales arrived two hours before the start of the debate.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso said that his fight will be hard since he considers himself an “outsider” and that he doesn’t belong to “political pedigree”. He arrived at 5:24 p.m.
At 5:30 p.m., Vice-President Ma. Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo arrived at the venue of the debates. Her two daughters—Aika and Tricia.
She went straight to the debate venue as Moreno was still being interviewed when she arrived.
Former Defense Secretary Ernesto “Ernie” C. Abella entered the venue of the debate at 5:30 p.m.
In an ambush interview, Abella told the media that he is not seeking the endorsement of Pres. Duterte, his former boss.
Senator Emmanuel “Manny Pacman” D. Pacquiao, who arrived last also stressed the importance of attending the debates and likened to applying to a job application that requires an interview. He arrived at 6:01 p.m.
The first Pilipinas Debates 2022 started at 7 p.m. and was aired to all channels.
Comelec will hold its second presidential debates on April 3.
Comelec said the Town Hall debates for presidential and vice-presidential candidates, according to Comelec, will take place on April 23 and 24, respectively.