President Rodrigo Duterte has nominated lawyer Rey Bulay, his fraternity brother, to fill up one of the four vacancies in the Commission on Elections’ seven-man en banc.
“We are confident that Atty. Bulay will ensure the conduct of honest, orderly, credible and peaceful elections,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.
If appointed, Bulay will serve as commissioner until February 2, 2027. He will have to go through the Commission on Appointments first.
Bulay, a graduate of San Beda Law and member of Lex Talionis Fraternitas just like Duterte, previously served on the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). He was later appointed as Manila’s chief prosecutor.
Meanwhile, the Comelec announced Thursday that it will organize “hybrid debates” which will consist of one primary and three presidential debates, as well as three vice presidential debates for the 2022 national elections.
The poll body will be the one to organize the debates, which may start with the presidential debates as early as January next year, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said.
Jimenez said private entities may also hold the senatorial debates as he expressed his support for it.
“We are looking at one primarily debate, three presidential debates, and three vice presidential debates. It will be in hybrid, the candidates will be in person, they will be debating face to face, but the audience will be virtual,” he said at a press conference.
Asked who will be present in the one primary debate, Jimenez said: “That’s the one probably early of the year sort of a teaser for the debates just for president… probably January.”
“Again, all of these are still in the planning stage but yes January is probably gonna be presidential,” he added.
Reps. Alan Peter Cayetano, Maria Laarni Cayetano, Lray Villafuerte, Raneo Abu, Dan Fernandez, Michael Defensor, and Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, meanwhile, filed a resolution urging the Comelec to start holding debates before the end of 2021 among the presidential, vice presidential, and senatorial aspirants.
“Debates will further serve as basis for accountability of elected officials, and allow for a safer way of information dissemination during this pandemic since television, radio broadcasting, as well as the internet, will be maximized to provide as much relevant information to the voters as possible,” House Resolution 2346 stated.
The lawmakers urged the poll body to hold monthly debates beginning in November or December 2021 until April 2022, “where all candidates for president shall be invited to participate in a total of at least five debates.”
The Comelec may also hold weekly debates or a total of at least 15 debates, where two presidential candidates shall be invited to participate in each debate, the measure proposed.
The Comelec earlier said it has received 91 petitions for the cancellation of certificates of candidacy (COCs) of current aspirants for the national posts in the May polls.
Asked for the full list of the 91 petitions filed for the cancellation of the COCs in the national post, Jimenez said, “I will clear it with the clerk of the commission if it’s shareable, I’ll share it.”
The resolution pushes for an early start to the debates “to uphold the people’s right to information and accord candidates equal opportunity to be heard and to reply, for the proper exercise of the right to suffrage.”
“Holding debates and starting them earlier is key to informed choices as these debates will give the electorate ample opportunity to examine the candidates’ qualifications, track record, platforms, programs, and stand on issues of national concern,” the resolution authored by Cayetano of Taguig City reads.
Cayetano, who is running for the Senate as an independent candidate, has been advocating for presidential, vice presidential, and senatorial debates since the period for filing of candidacies in October.
His aim is for various institutions to hold the debates from December 2021 until April 2022, as these events are the best way for Filipino voters to make fully informed choices.
In October, 400,000 new voters registered for the upcoming election, adding to the 5 million voters who registered since the last election. This brings the total number of registered voters to 62 million.
The former Speaker suggested the debates be hosted by the country’s media networks, major universities, and faith-based and business groups.
Proposed topics for the debates include COVID-19 response, health, economy, wages and employment, poverty and hunger, corruption, stimulus measures for displaced workers, law enforcement, values in government, peace and order, environmental sustainability, and foreign relations.
“We keep telling people, let’s be objective, let’s stick to the facts, let’s not be emotional, but we’re not giving them the venue to do that. What happens is the candidates all do their own thing, but we’re not giving the public the venue to compare the candidates side-by-side,” Cayetano said during a press briefing in Taguig City.
The aim is to have 15 weekly one-on-one debates among the six leading presidential candidates on a round-robin basis, compared to three presidential debates held during the 2016 presidential elections.
This will give the aspirants ample time to hash out their views on a broad range of topics and voters to familiarize with track records, qualifications, platforms, and programs.
Cayetano hopes these topics can be covered without the candidates using the platform to attack each other.
“We already have a huge problem with COVID around, we don’t want to come out with debates that do nothing but make candidates disagree for the sake of disagreeing,” Cayetano stated.
The debates will also serve as a basis for accountability of elected officials.
Cayetano believes that candidates do not need to be the best debater, but they should be good communicators as their roles require communicating with the international community, the Cabinet, the military, the police, and the people.
The national and local elections will be held on May 9, 2022.
“I don’t think we can organize debates for the Senate, but I think there are a lot of private efforts to organize senatorial debates and we are very eager to support those,” Jimenez said.
He said the commission is set to release guidelines on how the debates would be safely conducted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections.