Certain issues on the venue for resumption of its debates have forced the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to postpone by a week the conduct of the last leg of its 2022 PiliPinas debate series.
At a news conference on Friday, Comelec Commissioner George M. Garcia announced they decided to reset the day on the last two parts of the debates to April 30 and May 1, 2022.
The events were supposed to be held on April 23 and 24, 2022, but Comelec opted to defer to a latter date after its partner in organizing the event, Vote Pilipinas, allegedly failed to pay over P14 million worth of dues to Sofitel Hotel, the supposed venue for the five-part 2022 PiliPinas debate series.
Garcia said they only learned about the financial settlement issue last Thursday when the Sofitel management approached them for their help in collecting the unpaid dues from Vote Pilipinas.
He noted Sofitel was still willing to host their debates once they are paid by Vote Pilipinas, but he said they opted to find a new partner to conduct the last two debates until the issue is resolved.
The poll official said the Kapisanan ng Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) agreed to host the last two debates on the condition that Comelec helps them ensure all presidential and vice presidential candidates will attend both events.
Garcia thanked KPB for its assistance and, at the same time, apologized to the affected candidates, especially with only a few days before the 2022 polls..
The venue and other details of the deferred debate is expected to be released by this weekend.
For his part, Comelec Commissioner Rey E. Bulay said he will investigate the issue with Vote Pilipinas, including how it was selected to become the official partner of Comelec in organizing the debate series through a signed memorandum of agreement.
Bulay said he would release details of his probe by next week.
Pending the result of the investigation, he declined to comment on the matter.
Both Garcia and Bulay stressed that Comelec did not spend any of its funds for the conduct of the election debates since it is prohibited under their existing rules.
Bulay said Vote Pilipinas was able to get compensation from organizing the Comelec debates from the ad placements for the events.
Comelec has yet to determine if it will retain its partnership with Vot Pilipinas after the incident with Sofitel.