Debate fiasco adds to Comelec’s credibility issues — analysts

COMELEC officials discuss issues of the third round of debates during a press conference on April 22, 2022 at the Comelec office in Intramuros, Manila. — PHILSTAR/ RUSSELL PALMA

THE CONTROVERSY over the cancellation of the supposed final round of official debates for the country’s top two positions for the upcoming May 9 national elections has once again put internal Electoral Commission (Comelec) issues in the spotlight, adding to the doubt of the public within the agency, political analysts said over the weekend.

“It looks like something suspicious could have happened, given the amount that would have been spent on big-budget debates,” Gerard V. Eusebio, professor of political science at De La Salle University, said in a statement. facebook messenger chat.

Comelec announced last week that the third round of official proceedings would be changed to a pre-recorded interview format after its private contractor, Impact Hub Manila, failed to meet 14 million pesos in financial obligations to the venue. , the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila.

“Comelec must always maintain its purity at all costs and not allow its credibility to be eroded in any way,said M. Eusebio.

Elections Commissioner Rey E. Bulay, who is leading the investigation into the incident, said in a statement Friday that he recommends temporarily relieving Comelec spokesperson James B. Jimenez and the director of education and of information from Comelec Frances A. Arabe from their media relations functions, as they were the resource persons for the Impact Hub Manila partnership.

Ms Arabe told reporters in a Viber message last Friday that her actions regarding the proceedings were legitimate, but will abide by Mr Bulay’s directive when it is released.

Mr. Jimenez has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

“Given the controversies even before that, I think Comelec’s position remains troubled,” said Hansley A. Juliano, a former political science professor studying at Nagoya University.s Graduate School of International Development in Japan, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

One of the issues recently raised against the electoral body was the delays in resolving the disqualification cases against presidential candidate Ferdinand bong bongR. Marcos, Jr.

Comelec was also criticized for printing a large number of ballot papers without the presence of accredited observers. There was also a confirmed hacking incident involving an employee of Smartmatic, this year’s technology service providers automated elections.

“At the same time, I do feel that the distribution of the issue (of the debate) is technically an internal logistical concern (perhaps involving mistakes or wrong actions on the part of a few people) but because it involves a very public event like that, it’s inevitable it exploded,said Mr. Juliano.

Only six of 10 presidential candidates and four of nine vice-presidential candidates accepted Comelec’s invitation to the modified forum, Elections Commissioner George Erwin M. Garcia told reporters in a Viber message last week. .

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” M. Domagoso and Senator Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson declined the invitation due to prior commitments, Mr. Garcia.

Mr. Marcos, who skipped the first two debates sponsored by Comelec on March 19 and April 3, also declined the format of the interview.

“The only real impact of an election debate/forum is if the favorites are there,” Mr Juliano said. John Victor D. Ordonez

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