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All 10 presidential candidates in the May 9 elections are expected to attend the first debate to be organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) next month.

“The debates are definitely on. The date that we’re looking at for the first presidential debate is on March 19, which is a Saturday. And thus far, we have commitments from all camps that their candidates will be joining us,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in a press briefing.

Jimenez said the debates will be broadcast live “but there will be no live audience and it will be free for everyone to broadcast.”

“We will be producing the show itself including the feed will be coming from the Comelec,” he added.

Jimenez said the first debate will be hosted by a single moderator.

“The moderator will be one asking the questions, the moderator will be the only one who has any knowledge of what questions they will be asked. No one will have any advance information about the questions,” Jimenez added.

Jimenez said candidates will be given an idea of the general topics but they will not be given specific questions.

“One other particularly worthy rule is that we will not allow candidates to bring anything on stage. We will provide them with a pad and a pen on the podium, but they will not be able to bring notes to the debate,” the Comelec official added.

There are no details yet regarding the venue of the debate.

The candidates who are running for the presidential seat are: former presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, labor leader Leody de Guzman, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales, Senator Panfilo Lacson, Faisal Mangondato, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Jose Montemayor Jr., Senator Manny Pacquiao and Vice President Leni Robredo.

However, Marcos’ spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas standard-bearer “has not yet confirmed” his participation in the Comelec-sponsored debate.

“His participation in the said event, which will be held at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan will only be confirmed if his hectic campaign schedule permits,” Rodriguez said in a statement. (PNA)

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