#MarcosDuwag trends again after Marcos camp declines Robredo’s debate challenge

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The hashtag #MarcosDuwag (#MarcosCoward) is trending on social media once again after presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. declined Vice President Leni Robredo’s invitation to engage in a debate.

The vice president extended the invitation to Marcos after she, too, had declined to appear at a presidential interview set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP; Filipino for Association of Broadcasters of the Philippines) due to conflicts with her previously set rally schedule.

READ: Bongbong Marcos skipping yet another presidential interview due to ‘tight campaign schedule,’ spokesman confirms

Marcos Jr. has not attended any Comelec-sponsored debate and has cherry-picked his appearances, which included a face-off against labor leader Ka Leody de Guzman in a debate held by the network SMNI, which is owned by Apollo Quiboloy, a pastor who is wanted by the FBI for sex trafficking and smuggling in the United States.

“In a few days, Filipinos will vote. The campaign period has run for almost three months and in many instances I have been able to share my track record, my plans, and my principles. I have given several interviews and all of these recordings may be found online,” Robredo said in a statement in Filipino.

“I have decided not to accept the Comelec’s and the KBP’s invitation in this instance in order to be with our volunteers who have shared their time and resources to be with us.”

Robredo pointed out that there was only one candidate who has not faced the others in a debate, adding that debates are important “so that the public may scrutinize us, as well as listen to and compare our vision and character.”

“I invite Mr. Bongbong Marcos to engage in a debate with me in order to give the public the opportunity to face him and inquire about the controversies that surround him. We owe it to the people and our country. If you will agree to this, I will be there anytime, anywhere,” Robredo said.

A few hours later, Marcos’ spokesperson Vic Rodriguez, a lawyer, responded in a statement by describing debates as a form of negative campaigning that the public didn’t actually want and declaring that Marcos would never debate his rival:

“I understand the chagrin that Mrs. Robredo feels about [being unable to go] argue and squabble face-to-face with presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos.

It is likely that both of them, who both aspire to be the president of the republic, have different beliefs about how they must communicate to the public.

Bongbong Marcos’ UniTeam is guided by positive campaigning and zero smear jobs. His message to the public is clear as well as his calls for unity…

…In times of economic crisis due to the pandemic, it is a great relief to the suffering public to see that those who want to rule the country campaign in a calm manner without maligning each other.

As to the challenge of debating presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos, this will never happen for several reasons. And Mrs. Robredo is aware of these reasons.”

Many netizens were outraged at Rodriguez’s condescending remarks, reviving the hashtag #MarcosDuwag in their ticked-off tweets.

Some took offense at his insistence on referring to the vice president, who is also a lawyer and an economist, as “Mrs. Robredo.”

Meanwhile, others quickly refuted his claims that the Marcos camp has shied away from smear jobs by posting screenshots and videos of Marcos allies and senatorial members badmouthing Robredo and her slate.

Facebook’s parent company Meta announced in April that it had suspended a network of over 400 accounts, pages and groups related to the Philippines elections in order to crack down on hate speech and misinformation. In January, Twitter suspended more than 300 accounts linked to a pro-Marcos network for violating the company’s platform manipulation and spam policy.

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