Santiago supports plan for debates among presidential bets

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Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago expressed her support on Sunday (August 16) for the plan of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to organize debates among presidential and vice presidential candidates.

"Through debates, a well-informed voting population would be able to carefully choose their future leaders. Debates are also opportunities for candidates to squarely face the allegations hurled against them,” Santiago said.

She pointed out that the Comelec the plan is consistent with a measure she filed in October 2103 — Senate Bill No. 1797, or the Presidential Debate Reform Act.

The bill, which is pending at the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms, aims to institutionalize presidential and vice presidential debates through a Presidential Debate Commission.

This commission will have six members from both public and private sectors — two to be chosen by the president and four by the Senate president and the House speaker, along with the majority leaders of both chambers of Congress.

Santiago pointed out he bill will would allow no more than three appointees from any political party. This aims to keep the commission indepedent.

If enacted, the Santiago bill would ask the commission to schedule one preliminary debate, not more than two vice presidential debates, and not less than two but not more than four presidential debates.

Citing Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, Santiago said the last presidential debate organized by the Comelec was during the 1992 elections, the year she ran for president against Fidel V. Ramos.

Santiago, a multi-awarded debater at the University of the Philippines College of Law, is on medical leave from the Senate due to stage four lung cancer. But, she said would continue to file bills and resolutions and would preside over committee hearings on a "priority basis."

In July, she announced that she might run for president with her cancer in check.