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Robredo challenges Marcos Jr. to a debate, but his spox says it will never happen

By NICK GARCIA Published Apr 29, 2022 2:28 pm Updated Apr 29, 2022 4:56 pm

With just a few days left before the May 9 elections, presidential candidate Leni Robredo challenged political archrival Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to a one-on-one debate—but his spokesman rebuffed the vice president's invite on his boss's behalf, saying it will never happen.

In an April 29 statement, Robredo also confirmed that she won't be attending the Commission on Elections (Comelec)'s panel interview, saying she already gave a lot of interviews, while also noting that the recordings are all available online.

"Sa loob ng ilang araw, boboto na ang mga Pilipino," she said. "Halos tatlong buwan nang tumatakbo ang official campaign period, at naihayag ko na sa maraming pagkakataon ang track record, mga plano, at mga prinsipyo ko."

Robredo then called out Marcos Jr.

"Inaanyayahan ko si Ginoong Bongbong Marcos na makipagdebate," she said, "para mabigyan ang taumbayan ng pagkakataong makaharap siya at matanong tungkol sa mga kontrobersiyang pumapalibot sa kanya."

"We owe it to the people and to our country. Kung papayag po kayo, anytime, anywhere, darating ako," Robredo added.

The late dictator's son and namesake skipped Comelec's first two presidential debates on March 19 and April 3.

Prior to that, Marcos Jr. was also a no-show at the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas Presidential Candidates Forum last Feb. 3 and the CNN Philippines Presidential Debates last Feb. 26. He also skipped the Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews last January, saying that the host was biased. GMA-7 took exception to Marcos Jr.'s statement.

Marcos Jr. only attended the Feb. 15 debates hosted by SMNI—the network owned by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy who's wanted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for sex trafficking of children. Quiboloy has also endorsed him and his running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio for the May polls.

'Never happening'

Hours after Robredo's statement, Marcos Jr.'s spokesman Vic Rodriguez responded, claiming that he "understands" her "predicament."

"Hindi ito kailanman mangyayari sa ilang kadahilanan," Rodriguez said. "At batid ni Ginang Robredo ang mga kadahilanang ‘yan."

Rodriguez also claimed that the Marcos Jr. camp only engages in positive campaigning—while also accusing the "yellows" long associated with the Liberal Party of which Robredo sits as chair, of negative campaigning.

"Pawang mga negatibo, panlilinlang at paninira naman ang sa kampo ng dilawan," he said.

Critics though have noted that though Marcos Jr. the candidate does not engage in such negative campaigning, some have been doing it on his behalf.

At a Senate committee hearing on Feb. 2, fact-checking initiative Tsek.PH reported that based on over 200 fact-checks since January 2022, trends showed that a "substantial volume" of disinformation is largely positive of Marcos Jr. At the same time, Robredo has been tagged as the biggest victim of disinformation or negative messaging.

'Exciting part'

Fellow presidential bet Leody De Guzman, meanwhile, commended Robredo's challenge, but noted that other candidates should be in the mix.

"Pero mas makabuluhan kung isasama tayo sa debate," De Guzman said, "upang masiguradong hindi maisasantabi ang mga batayang isyu ng masa at mga konkretong solusyon para dito."

"Yun ang exciting part para sa simpleng tao," he added.

Pangilinan won't attend Comelec interviews, too; goes after Duterte-Carpio

Robredo's running mate Kiko Pangilinan also challenged Marcos Jr.'s running mate Duterte-Carpio to a debate.

"At susugan ko rin ang hamon ni VP Leni kay Ginoong Bongbong Marcos at sa aking katunggali, kay Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte na dumalo dahil bukod tangi sila sa lahat ng mga kandidato na hindi kailanman nagpakita sa mga debate," Pangilinan said in a statement.

Pangilinan once again used the Filipino practice of courtship as a metaphor he first used during the Comelec vice presidential debates.

"Paalala na tayo ay nanliligaw sa mga botante kaya marapat lamang na harapin natin sila upang malaman nila kung ano ang plano natin para sa Pilipinas," he said.

"Madalas ang mga hindi nagpapakita ay may mga itinatago. Mayroon kayang itinatago ang kampo ng Marcos-Duterte? Patunayan niyong wala."

Duterte-Carpio previously told reporters that she had "already decided" to go on with her campaign without joining debates.

Her spokesperson, Liloan Mayor Christina Garcia Frasco, has yet to respond to Pangilinan's special mention.

Like Robredo, Pangilinan won't also attend Comelec's panel interview, citing his already loaded campaign schedule.

"Konting tulog na lang, eleksyon na at punong-puno na ang schedule natin sa direktang pagharap at pagpapasalamat sa mga volunteer, at sa pagkukumbinsi pa sa mga ‘Andy’ o undecided ⁠— sa lugar mismo nila."

(This story has been updated to include Pangilinan's statement.)