Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to reconsider its decision refusing to organize a debate among senatorial candidates in fulfilment of its constitutional mandate to educate the Filipino electorate.
De Lima, a known election lawyer, said she believes that the Comelec is fully capable of organizing senatorial debates even with two months left before the May 13 national and local elections.
“Contrary to its own pronouncement, it is not impossible for the Comelec to come up with the energy and the resources to organize senatorial debates at this point,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 482.
“The constitutional body is composed of hard-working and competent officials and rank-and-file employees who do not usually shirk from the challenges and demands of running nationwide elections,” she added.
The Comelec recently denied Otso Diretso’s request for a televised public debate between them and the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) senatorial candidates, citing time constraints as among the reasons for the said rejection.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez claimed that “it would be practically impossible, logistically, to conduct meaningful debates involving all 62 candidates, without risking allegations of preferential treatment.”
De Lima said she hopes that Comelec would soon realize that organized debates among national candidates are important to expose the lies being peddled in social media by unscrupulous candidates, whom she did not name.
“The Comelec should realize that now, more than ever, organized debates among national candidates are important to expose the lies and fake credentials being peddled in social media by unscrupulous candidates,” she said.
“In the age of fake news and historical revisionism, those with a record of dishonesty, corruption or incompetence, and who have come to rely on the short memories of the Filipinos to forget, should not be allowed to succeed,” she added.
According to the Senator, candidates who lie and fake their credentials should “be exposed, opposed and rejected,” and not be allowed to deceive the Filipino electorate with their skills in singing and dancing, or in making the public laugh.
They must be brought before the people on a national stage, not to sing and dance or act like clowns, but to defend their track records and platforms of government. Each one of them should pass through the proverbial eye of the needle in a competition of integrity and intelligence,” she added.
In facilitating debates among national candidates, the lady Senator from Bicol said Comelec would prevent mass media advertisements and propaganda of the individual candidates from solely dictating the decision of the voting public.
“Such forms of campaigning do not substantially contribute to the education of the voters insofar as the track record, platform, and program of government of the candidates are concerned,” she said. If the debate pushes through, the opposition senatorial ticket earlier confirmed that it will cover some pressing issues in the country – from the TRAIN law, to the unresolved murders in the country under the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, to the foreign incursions in the Philippine waters.