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Candidates' reps spar, agree, trade jokes on debate format.

Byline: Kristine Angeli Sabillo

How much time should the presidential candidates have for their opening statements? Will Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago become the fifth candidate to confirm her participation? How many campaign supporters can accompany the candidates inside the venue of the debate?

Representatives of the five presidential candidates met with election partners Philippine Daily Inquirer and Commission on Elections chair Andy Bautista on Friday to resolve key questions related to the first presidential debate on February 21 in Cagayan de Oro City.

Vice President Jejomar Binay was represented by Cavite Gov. JonVic Remulla, Santiago by lawyer Abelardo Maglanque, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte by lawyer Antonio Kho, Senator Grace Poe by lawyer George Garcia, and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas by Akbayan party-list Rep. Barry Gutierrez.

All candidates have pledged to attend the debate, which will be held at Capitol University in the Northern Mindanao hub of Cagayan de Oro and aired live on www.inquirer.net.

In a friendly, joke-filled but sometimes pointed discussion, the campaign representatives themselves debated aspects of the first presidential debate. In one instance, when consensus was no longer possible, a vote was taken to determine the answer to the question about the length of the candidates' opening statements. Three campaigns voted to stick with the original one-minute limit, while two others voted to lengthen the opening statement to either 90 seconds or two minutes.

Other matters resolved: Maglanque confirmed Santiago's participation. Media and Inquirer agreed to increase the number of campaign supporters inside the debate venue to 35 per candidate. Another meeting to fix security protocols was set. The alphabetical order of seating was retained for all four rounds of the debate, but the order of speaking for the third and fourth rounds was determined by lottery.

Also in attendance were Media, who will serve as moderator, and INQUIRER.net editor-in-chief John Nery, who will serve as co-host. Media will also serve as moderator.

Questions that the moderators will ask are based on the following themes: development, peace and order, track record, constitution, and Mindanao issues.

Besides the candidates' supporters, civil society and sectoral groups will be invited to watch inside the university's main hall, which can seat 500 people. The rest of the supporters will be allotted seats in the nearby gymnasium, which can accommodate 2,000.

Leading to the debates, the Inquirer Group will hold a series of town halls to promote the event and generate questions for the debate.

Dubbed Inquirer Town Hall: The Mindanao Agenda, the series of discussions is co-organized by local networks such as LIHUK 2016 and the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines.

The first Town Hall is on Feb. 15 at the VIP Hotel in Cagayan de Oro, the second in Pagana restaurant in Cotabato City onFeb. 18, and the third in Cagayan de Oro again, at the Xavier Estates, on Feb 19.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Feb 12, 2016
Words:478
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