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Vice President Leni Robredo has thrown down a gauntlet to her electoral rival, former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., to engage her in a televised debate.
In a statement on April 29, Robredo said, "Inaanyayahan ko si Ginoong Bongbong Marcos na makipagdebate, para mabigyan ang taumbayan ng pagkakataong makaharap siya at matanong tungkol sa mga kontrobersiyang pumapalibot sa kanya."
(I invite Mr. Bongbong Marcos to a debate to give the people the opportunity to meet him and ask him about the controversies surrounding him.)
The independent presidential candidate continued, "We owe it to the people and to our country. Kung papayag po kayo, anytime, anywhere, darating ako. (If you will agree, anytime, anywhere, I’ll be there.)"
Robredo added that among the presidential candidates, only Marcos had still not faced the people in a debate, depriving the public of the chance to learn about and compare their character and their vision for the country.
Marcos's spokesperson Vic Rodriguez responded to Robredo's challenge, saying the debate will never happen due to several reasons that are known to the vice president.
“Sa debate na hamon kay presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos ay hindi ito kailanman mangyayari sa ilang kadahilanan. At batid ni Ginang Robredo ang mga kadahilanang ‘yan,” Rodriguez said in statement.
(The debate challenge to presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos will never happen for several reasons. And Mrs. Robredo knows those reasons.)
Rodriguez said he can emphathize with Robredo's frustrations but the Marcos camp's campaign emphasis is that of positivity.
“Nauunawaan ko ang kabiguang naramdaman ni Ginang Robredo na makaharap sa isang pagtatalo at bangayan si presidential frontrunner na si Bongbong Marcos. ... Positibong pangangampanya at walang paninira ang gabay ng UniTeam ni Bongbong Marcos,” Rodriguez remarked.
(I understand Mrs. Robredo's frustrations in seeking a public debate against presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos. But the UniTeam is guided by positivity and non-destruction.)
The two presidential candidates, currently the frontrunners in the race, both turned down COMELEC's invitation to individual panel interviews that would have replaced presidential debates, saying that they wanted to focus on their campaigns on the ground in the final leg of hustings.
Only four presidential candidates and four vice-presidential candidates have confirmed attendance for the panel interviews.
Marcos had declined to participate in the two presidential debates that have so far been organised by COMELEC.
The only presidential debates that Marcos attended were those organized by SMNI, the controversial news outlet owned by fugitive pastor Apollo Quiboloy, who has endorsed him and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Marcos rarely takes media interviews, although in a rare TV interview that Marcos gave to CNN Philippines which aired on Tuesday (April 26), he said that, if elected as president, he would face the media and speak to reporters directly and regularly instead of relying on a spokesperson.
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