(File photo)

MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) remains hopeful that the tandem of presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, will participate in its Pilipinas Debates 2022 which starts on March 19.

“We think that some people will take a little longer to come to a decision. We are willing to wait,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in an interview before the walkthrough of the vote counting machines (VCMs) and consolidation and canvassing system (CCS) at the poll body's warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna Monday.

“It will be very interesting to see if they will be there,” he added.

However, Jimenez said it is fine if the tandem decides to skip the debate.

“But, if they don’t want to avail of these opportunities, that's fine. If they come on the day of the debate, then good. Come on, let’s have a debate,” he added.

As of Monday, nine out of the 10 presidential bets have expressed their intentions to join the event on Saturday, they are Ernie Abella, Leody de Guzman, Isko Moreno Domagoso, Ping Lacson, Norberto Gonzales, Faisal Mangondato, Jose Montemayor Jr., Manny Pacquiao and Leni Robredo.

For the vice-presidential aspirants, those who are set to join the debates are Walden Bello, Rizalito David, Manny Lopez, Doc Willie Ong, Kiko Pangilinan, Carlos Serapio, and Vicente 'Tito' Sotto III.

Former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza has formally declined for medical reasons while Marcos and Duterte-Carpio have yet to formally confirm their attendance.

The March 19 presidential debate will be followed by a second and third debate on April 3 and April 24, respectively.

Meanwhile, the first VP debate will be held on March 20 and will be followed by the second debate on April 23. (PNA)