READY. The nine presidential candidates pose for posterity before the start of the Commission on Elections' "PiliPinas Debates 2022" at the Harbor Garden Tent of Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel in Pasay City on Saturday (March 19, 2022). They are (from left) Ernesto Abella, Leody de Guzman, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Norberto Gonzales, Senator Panfilo Lacson, Faisal Mangondato, Dr. Jose Montemayor Jr., Senator Manny Pacquiao, and Vice President Leni Robredo. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – The nine presidential aspirants who committed to attend the "Pilipinas Debates 2022" of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) showed up at the Harbor Garden Tent of Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City on Saturday for the first of the five-series event.

The first to arrive at about three hours before the 7 p.m. start was Dr. Jose Montemayor Jr., who said he is confident that he will be able to answer all the questions.

Next was Faisal Mangondato, followed by Senator Panfilo Lacson who said he is always ready for a debate.

Labor leader Leody de Guzman said he reviews current events before a debate while former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales admitted it is hard to prepare since they have no idea on what questions will be asked.

Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said every candidate must have concrete plans on how to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vice President Leni Robredo and former spokesperson Ernie Abella were also in attendance while Senator Manny Pacquiao was the last to arrive.

In an interview, Pacquiao downplayed survey results that showed he is not a preferred candidate in Mindanao even if he hails from General Santos City. He said he is counting on the votes of the D-E class or the poor sector.

Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. through his spokesperson Vic Rodriguez, declined the Comelec invitation.

Marcos and running mate Sara Duterte were in Marikina City for a campaign rally.

Duterte also previously said attending debates is not part of her campaign strategy. (PNA)