PRESIDENTIAL candidates would face each other in a debate being organized in Cagayan de Oro three Fridays from now.
Organizers said the April 23 engagement would be the only presidential debate that would be held in Northern Mindanao before the May 10 elections.
So far, former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, the administration Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer, has confirmed that he would be participating in the debate, said Zara Cabanlet, chairperson of the organizing committee of the Junior Chamber International (JCI) 24K Macajalar.
Organizers said they were expecting other presidential candidates––Sen. Manuel Villar, ex-president Joseph Estrada, Sen. Jamby Madrigal, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas and JC delos Reyes––to confirm.
One presidential candidate, Liberal Party standard bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino, declined. Cabanlet said Aquino claimed that he has a speaking engagement in Bicol on April 23.
The venue for the April 23 debate is the Xavier University gym which can accommodate a crowd of some four thousand. It is scheduled from 9 am to 11:30 am.
“Once the candidates or their camps find out that the capacity of Xavier University gym is four thousand, I’m sure they will confirm their attendance,” Cabanlet said.
There are talk that Aquino and Villar are avoiding each other. With Aquino begging off, it is expected that Villar would face his other rivals during the scheduled Cagayan de Oro debate.
One of the candidates, Sen. Madrigal, sent word that she would confirm her attendance or beg off when she returns from Malaysia.
Cabanlet said organizers and the Xavier University Governance and Leadership Institute (GLI) would strictly not allow any of the candidates and their camps to campaign, let alone put up streamers and distribute pamphlets and other political materials inside Xavier University gym during the debate.
“It will completely be a non-biased event,” Cabanlet said.
All the candidates would only be provided with 100 seats for their staff. Cabanlet said, “This is to prevent hakot for the candidates’ supporters who will cheer and jeer as seen in other debates.”
In a statement, JCI 24K Macajalar said the goal for the presidential debate is to listen to candidates’ plans to address Mindanao problems and opportunities and what kind of leadership and policy solutions they offer.
The aim is to elevate the standard for as political dialogue to freely explore scenarios, educate voters and help chart a new direction for the next period in history, JCI 24K Macajalar stated.
article by Mark Francisco of Gold Star Daily; photo from www.inquirer.net