A House bill was created to require all national and local candidates to participate in Comelec-initiated debates.
Under House Bill (HB) No. 8549 authored by Siquijor Representative Ramon Rocamora, failure to join debates hosted by Commission on Elections will soon be considered an “election offense” and may be disqualified.
The bill created roughly 6 months before the May 2019 midterm polls will allow voters to know more about the candidates and the quality of leadership they could offer. Rocamora was quoted by Manila Bulletin saying, “I believe the bill, if approved, will be a major piece of legislation, which will enhance our democratic election process. By requiring election debates, we afford the voting public the chance to scrutinize the candidates. This is part of ushering in better quality of elections, from the campaigning down to the vote itself.”
Under the bill, the Comelec is mandated to organize pre-election debates with the participation of at least three civic organization or people’s organizations. Candidates who fails to join the debates and without acceptable reason will be disqualified to run.
“The right of the people to be officially informed of the qualifications of a candidate to allow them to make the proper choice is important. Making refusal to participate a ground for disqualification and an election offense ensures that candidates will take the voters seriously,” Rocamora said.
Rocamora added that the bill is the “perfect vehicle” for voters to make informed choices on election day. The debates should include topics such as priority projects and programs of the candidates and their stand on the most pressing local and national issues affecting their constituencies.