Press Release
August 16, 2015


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, one of the most popular choices for president in 2016, on Sunday rallied support for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) plan to organize debates among those joining the presidential race.

Santiago said the plan is consistent with Senate Bill No. 1797, or the Presidential Debate Reform Act, which she filed in October 2013. The bill, pending at the committee on electoral reforms, seeks to institutionalize presidential and vice presidential debates through the Presidential Debate Commission.

"A debate format among presidential and vice-presidential candidates would test who among these candidates is most fit for the position they are running for," the senator said.

The last presidential debate organized by the Comelec was during the 1992 elections, poll chief Andres Bautista said. This was the same year that Santiago ran for president against Fidel V. Ramos.

"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.

The senator's proposed Presidential Debate Commission shall be composed of six members from the public or private sector. Commissioners may be from government offices, the academe, and non-profit organizations, among others.

The president will appoint two members from a list of nominees submitted by the two dominant political parties. The four other members will be chosen by the Senate president and the House speaker, as well as the majority leaders of both houses.

For the commission to be independent, the Santiago bill stresses that no more than three appointees shall come from any political party, and the appointees shall as much as possible come from different sectors.

If enacted, the bill shall mandate the Commission to establish a schedule for one preliminary debate, not more than two vice presidential debates, and not less than two but not more than four presidential debates.

Santiago, a multi-awarded debater at the UP College of Law, is known in the Senate as the most forceful debater, commanding full attention of the halls when she takes the rostrum to sponsor a bill, to interpellate, or to deliver a privilege speech.

She is on medical leave from the Senate due to lung cancer, stage four, but she continues to file bills and resolutions, and presides over committee hearings on a priority basis. In July, she announced that she might run for president with her cancer in check.

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