By Lance Arevada

PHOTO: Rappler

As far as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is concerned, the absence of candidates for the 2022 Elections from debates and forums held by various organizations is a “red flag” for the Filipino voters, according to Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez.

“Not a red flag for the Comelec, but it could be a red flag for the voters, absolutely. But not for the Comelec. Comelec does not care either way whether they come or not,” Jimenez said in a press briefing.

The spokesperson also said that the Comelec’s concern is for the public’s opportunity to question the candidates in the upcoming polls.

 “Ultimately, what Comelec cares about is whether or not the public will have an opportunity to interrogate the candidates, so to speak, to interrogate their positions and beliefs,” he added.

Jimenez’s label of “red flag” comes as presidential bet and frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr. declined once again to participate in a nationally broadcasted presidential pre-election event.

Due to a conflict in schedule, Marcos Jr. was the only one absent among the six major presidential aspirants in the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) Presidential Forum which aired on over 300 KBP member-stations, including ABS-CBN, TV5, Manila Broadcasting Company, and Bombo Radyo.

As for the expected return of the Comelec-organized presidential and vice-presidential debates, Jimenez said that candidates who will not attend will be given an empty podium with their name attached.

“I think it is very important that in recognition of how important it is to the people, that we acknowledged that they failed to show up. It’s not going to be glossed over, it’s not going to be ignored, they’re gonna have a podium right there with their name on it but no face above,” he added.

Starting this February, the Comelec will hold a back-to-back monthly debate for candidates running for president and vice president, which will again be televised nationwide.

Edited by Quian Vencel Galut