Presidential Frontier Ferdinand “Bambang” R. Marcos, Jr., rejected the challenge of his closest rival in a debate on Friday, saying Maria Leoner would never face “Leni” G. Robredo and that he would like to communicate directly with the public.
Mrs Robredo, who narrowly defeated Mr Marcos in the 2016 vice-presidential election, challenged the late dictator’s son and name to a debate “anytime, anywhere” so that voters could verify their character and compare their views.
Mr Marcos has competed in only one of four presidential debates since the May 9 election campaign, compared to Mr Robredo’s three.
Mr Marcos led Mrs Robredo by 32 points in the latest poll in March, and there is a bitter rivalry between the two, with Mrs Robredo strongly involved in the movement that toppled her late father in the 1986 “Manpower Rebellion”.
“I invite Mr. Marcos to a debate to give the public a chance to confront him and ask about the controversy surrounding him,” Robredo said in a statement.
“We owe it to the people and to our country.”
Mr Marcos spokesman, Victor D. Rodriguez said, “Bambang,” as Mr. Marcos is known in general, he wanted to continue the civic campaign.
“Bongbong Marcos’s Uniteam is driven by positive publicity, not a bad thing. It sends its message and calls for direct unity to the people, “he said in a statement.
Mr Marcos’ debate has been criticized by opponents and academic groups, who say the public is being denied the opportunity to challenge and verify all candidates.
Earl Pereno, a political analyst, said staying away from the debate was a way to ensure Mr Marcos’ “shallow knowledge of the subject would not be revealed”.
Although the current leader Rodrigo R. Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, has supported Mr Marcos’ running mate and his party, while the president himself has said he wants to remain neutral and not support anyone.
More than 67 million Filipinos have registered to vote in the election, which is historically a high voter turnout.
The contested positions include the presidency, vice presidency, 12 Senate seats, 300 lower house seats and about 18,000 local seats. – Reuters