MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Saturday announced the first presidential debates scheduled this month will be a three-hour event.

“The 3-hour debates will follow a single-moderator format, with no live audience," Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in a statement.

“Draw lots will determine to whom the first question will go. Succeeding questions, however, will be answered by the candidates in their alphabetical order,” he added.

The first debate will be held on March 19 while the second debate is set for April 3.

A vice-presidential debate is scheduled for March 20.

No announcement yet as to the venues where the events will be held.

“Each debate is anchored on a set of predetermined topics on pressing concerns of the country, such as pandemic and the economy, and the pool of questions will come from the concerned sector groups,” Jimenez added.

Meanwhile, Comelec and Vote Pilipinas are set to formalize the agreement to stage the Pilipinas Debates 2022.

According to Jimenez, the signing ceremony will be held on March 7 at the Sofitel Hotel, Pasay City.

"We are very excited to have the agreement signed so we can finally share the details and mechanics of this much-awaited Comelec-organized debates," he said.

“This is a high-stakes event that the voting public has been fervently looking forward to, so we expect all candidates to be on deck and ready to demonstrate why they deserve our vote,” Jimenez added.

He said there is a unique component of the Pilipinas Debates 2022 which is the back-to-back town hall debates, which will have both remote and in-person audiences, and a post-debate roundtable.

The presidential and vice-presidential town hall debates will be held on April 23 and 24, respectively. Both will follow a double-moderator format.

"Vote Pilipinas, the Comelec's partner for voter education and information, has previously demonstrated its capability to mount successful campaign drives during the voter registration period. We are confident of their readiness and capacity to help ensure the success of this elections' debates series," Jimenez said.

The organizers, among all other logistical and administrative tasks, are going to work closely to undertake a rigorous selection process for the moderators and to exercise the utmost confidentiality in sourcing debate questions from the different sector groups. (PNA)