MAYORALTY candidate Vice Mayor Sara Duterte has declined to appear in a forum set on Thursday.

The forum, organized by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) among others, said the vice mayor gave no reason for her choice not to appear opposite political rival House Speaker Prospero Nograles.

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Sun.Star also tried to ask for her reason, but the vice mayor refused to give comment.

IBP president lawyer Pinky Cabreros however said they remain optimistic.

"We made it sure to impress on her that the offer is standing. We still hope she will come through," Cabreros said Monday during Kapihan sa SM media forum.

Cabreros said two of five mayoralty candidates have given their confirmation to appear, including Nograles.

With this, Cabreros said she has no intention to call off the forum.

"It would be unfair for those who have given their word to appear," Cabreros said.

Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCII) president Engineer Robert Quinto said the forum will give mayoralty candidates the chance to speak their stand on issues involving the city.

The candidates will be given the same questions and will answer under time limit. Their panel will be representives from the sectors of religion, education, public service, peace and order, urban poor, and housing.

The forum will take place at the Ateneo de Davao University (Addu) Finster Hall at 2 p.m., said lawyer Manuel Quibod, dean of the College of Law.

"We can accomodate 600 people. It will be for free but there will be ticketing to secure the people going in. You can secure tickets from the organizers," Quibod said.

In addition, Cabreros said the organizers have also arranged for a presidential forum in Addu come March 9.

Asked whether the presidential forum will be a litmus test for the candidates, Cabreros concurred.

"If they won't take heed to our invitation it would show they're not serious about us at all. Given there have been presidential forums in Luzon and Visayas, the organizers think it is about time we too should hear answer specifically to issues involving us here in Mindanao," Cabreros said.

"The questions which will be asked in the presidential forum won't be the same as those asked in Luzon and Mindanao, rather it would be involving issues concerned with Mindanao," Quinto said.

Quinto said the presidential forum will pose issues on agri-business, environment, peace and order, indigenous peoples, energy, and mining.

Given that it is the first time for IBP to sponsor and organize a mayoralty forum, Cabreros said, "it is time to deal with issues rather than personalities."

"We think it's about time for the people, especially the youth, to know what can the mayorial candidates can do and what they are expected to do," Cabreros said. (JCZ)