Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. will skip another major presidential forum for the third time due to "conflict of schedule," but will attend a "debate" where all the presidential bets, save for one at least, will not take part in.
CNN Philippines on Feb. 14 announced that Marcos Jr.'s camp declined its invitation for "The Filipino Votes: Presidential Debate" on Feb. 27.
He's the only presidential aspirant who will be a no-show, as nine of the 10 bets have confirmed, namely: Leody de Guzman, Ernesto Abella, Jose Montemayor Jr., Norberto Gonzales, Manny Pacquiao, Faisal Mangondato, Ping Lacson, Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso, and Leni Robredo.
Marcos Jr.'s spokesman Vic Rodriguez also confirmed his non-attendance, as they're "unable to accept this additional engagement at this time" due to the UniTeam’s campaign commitments.
His running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, will also skip CNN Philippines's vice presidential debates on Feb. 26. The network said she didn't provide a reason.
Like Marcos Jr., Duterte-Carpio is the only VP bet who would be absent in the forum.
Other candidates—Lito Atienza, Walden Bello, Manny SD Lopez, Rizalito David, Kiko Pangilinan, Carlos Serapio, Tito Sotto, and Willie Ong—will be present.
Marcos Jr. to attend SMNI debates, others back out
While Marcos Jr. is skipping the CNN Philippines presidential debates, he would attend one that's 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 Marcos Jr., son and namesake of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, for the May polls.
SMNI's presidential debates will be held on Feb. 15, while its vice presidential debates will be held on Feb. 22.
Lacson, in a tweet on Feb. 14, announced that he and Sotto would skip the SMNI debates "with all due respect and giving regard to common sense."
With all due respect and giving regard to common sense, SP TIto Sotto and I are skipping the SMNI debates. The network’s chairman, Pastor Quiboloy has already openly endorsed his preferred presidential and vice-presidential candidates.— PING LACSON (@iampinglacson) February 14, 2022
Lacson also pointed out that Quiboloy has "already openly endorsed" his preferred candidates.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, said that as much as he would like to participate in every debate and public forum, he's "compelled" to decline SMNI's invitation.
"I cannot, in good conscience, be part of any activity organized by a man wanted for detestable crimes and who unconscionably used the name of the Lord in vain for religious scams," Pacquiao said in a statement.
Pacquiao also noted that the cyber-libel case he filed against Quiboloy remains pending in court. The case was filed in 2021 by Pacquiao and seeks P100 million in damages over Quiboloy’s claims that he misused funds while he was a congressman for Sarangani.
Robredo's spokesman Barry Gutierrez also announced that she and Pangilinan won't attend the SMNI debate, even if she has a "proven track record of attending debates and interviews regardless of the personal histories or affiliations of its sponsors."
"Unfortunately, the VP already has a long standing commitment to meet with leaders and supporters in Panay Island on the date this event was scheduled," Gutierrez said in a statement.
"She will be unable to attend this privately sponsored event," he added, noting that Robredo "will definitely be present" for all upcoming Comelec-sponsored and -accredited debates.
Domagoso will also follow suit, with his campaign manager Lito Banayo telling PhilSTAR L!fe that they're "on a swing of the Samar provinces today and tomorrow, returning on Wednesday the 16th."
"Yes, he is not going to the SMNI debate," Banayo said, adding that Domagoso is "also on a nostalgic visit to his late mother's hometown of Allen in Northern Samar."
De Guzman to attend Marcos Jr.'s 'home court'
De Guzman's camp, meanwhile, said he will still attend the SMNI debates.
"Tutuloy ako sa SMNI debates kahit tila dumadayo ako sa home court ni Marcos Jr.," De Guzman said in a statement, adding that it's his responsibility as a candidate to present his platforms to everybody, "kasama ang mga nanlalait sa pagtakbo ng isang labor leader sa pagkapangulo."
"Kailangan nilang marinig ang lahat ng panig para sa kanilang mas maayos na pagpapasya sa Mayo," he added.
Marcos Jr.'s presidential forum attendance history
Marcos Jr. had declined GMA Network's "The Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews," with his camp accusing Soho of being "biased" against the Marcoses.They also claimed that her questions "will just focus on negativity about BBM." GMA has issued a statement taking exception to the accusations.
After that, Marcos Jr. attended a number of interviews in the succeeding week.
These included the pre-recorded one-on-one interview with entertainment host Boy Abunda, live interviews with One PH and DZRH, as well as a recorded panel interview with Trixie Cruz Angeles and the ALC Media Group, which comprised CNN Philippines, DWIZ, Philippines Graphic, Business Mirror, and Pilipino Mirror.
Last Jan. 28, he was supposed to give an interview with DZBB, but wasn't able to do so citing connectivity issues while he's in Davao.
Marcos Jr. also turned down the presidential forum organized by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas on Feb. 4, citing "conflict of schedule" as excuse. During that day, he was with Korina Sanchez-Roxas for her presidential interviews. Earlier in the day, a RatedKorina staff posted an Instagram Story showing Marcos Jr. cooking on the set with Sanchez-Roxas.
In an interview with ANC on Feb. 9, Rodriguez said Marcos Jr. won't attend presidential debates where candidates would be pitted against each other.
"Pagod na ang sambayanang Pilipino sa bangayan. Pagod na ang tao sa awayan," he said. "Ngayon kung tayo ay maglalagay lang ng forum para mag-enjoy at makitang nag-aaway si 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 candidates, hindi kami sasali diyan."
Rodriguez also compared the presidential campaign to a job application, noting that it's an "interview" that takes place, not a debate.
"Hindi ba kapag nag-a-apply ka diyan sa inyong istasyon, hindi ka naman para makapag-debate sa management kundi magpapa-interview ka?" he told ANC. "It should be a presidential interview, other than a debate."