MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to discuss this week other possible sanctions to national candidates who will skip the succeeding episodes of "PiliPinas Debates 2022".
"We will address this particular problem in the en banc session this Wednesday," Comelec chairman Saidamen Pangarungan said in an interview on Sunday night.
Asked if the poll body can impose heavier penalties, Pangarungan said there is no law that mandates aspirants to attend such an event.
"This debate is purely voluntary. We cannot force candidates, who will refuse to participate,” he said.
Meanwhile, Commissioner George Garcia said the possible additional sanction will be on top of the current sanction that forfeits the rights of the debate skippers to air e-rallies in the Comelec’s platform.
"We will discuss in the en banc what more can we do, what further sanctions can we give. In the meantime, we will have to deal with our current sanction," he added.
Garcia said the Comelec can only implement the existing laws against those who refuse to participate in its organized debates.
"The Comelec can only implement the laws that are existing. There should be a law. The punishment must come from the legislature. The Comelec cannot make punishments that aren't provided by law," Garcia said.
The Comelec officials issued the statements after vice presidential bet Walden Bello urged the poll body to do something with the non-participation of the presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and running mate Sara Duterte in the first episode of the presidential and vice presidential debates last Saturday and Sunday.
Bello said the Comelec must impose heavier sanctions against non-attendees of the event.
Earlier, the Comelec said candidates who are not going to attend the PiliPinas Debates 2022 will no longer be allowed to air their e-rallies in their online platform. (PNA)