Duterte threatens to boycott Comelec debate in Oro

PRESIDENTIAL candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte may not attend at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) presidential debate scheduled on February 21 in Cagayan de Oro City in support to the Cagayan de Oro Press Club's call for a boycott.

In a released statement Sunday, the CDO Press Club's president Monsignor Elmer Abacahin said that their call for a boycott is due to the organizer's move to exclude the provincial press from covering the first and only presidential debate in Mindanao. The debate is to be held at the Capitol University.

Abacahin said there is a clear discrimination towards the province-based media.

"Respect the local press community. There have been many instances in the past when Manila-based media organizations have condescended (sic) on the provincial press. The Presidential debate in the city is no exemption," said the press club.

Excluded

They claimed that organizers of the event (Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, GMA7, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer) have made it clear in a letter to the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) that they have allotted only five slots for local editors/publishers as debate audience and five slots for newspaper reporters, but these reporters will only be allowed access to the event's media center -- a separate venue where a video monitor will broadcast feeds of the debate.

"It is our position that the Presidential debate is far too important, and should be beyond corporate media’s quest for higher ratings and wider readership. Further, it is an affront to the local press community to limit the number of newspaper reporters to only five slots, and for the rest to be stifled into covering the event from a widescreen monitor. Why hold the debates here in the first place when the organizers can just as easily broadcast the debate from their studios in Manila?" asked the press club's president.

"The organizers further stated that they are allowing PPI to choose who to shortlist so as to ensure that ‘only legit local press’ are allowed to cover the event. But who would know better than the press community of the host city?" The CDO press club asked the organizers to lift this "exclusivity clause" in the coverage of the presidential debate to be held in their city.

"This early, there have been suggestions for a Cagayan de Oro media boycott of the debate but we still trust that, in the end, reason will prevail, and that the organizers would reconsider their position and right this wrong. Stop this discriminatory and condescending attitude towards the local press community," said Abacahin.

When informed of the threat to boycott the debate, Duterte said that the problem must be remedied immediately otherwise he would be joining the boycott as well.

He said he will discuss the matter with his team before coming up with a final decision.

Others supports

The PPI, in a short statement released with regards the issue, called on organizers of the presidential debate to “to accommodate considerable slots for the local media who want to be part of the audience in the debate. Because this is a historical and significant event, we deem important the participation of media.”

Balay Mindanaw Foundation Inc., a non-government organization based in Cagayan de Oro recognized as one of the key civil society groups there, has likewise decided to support the CDO media’s call for a boycott.

Balay Mindanaw, a 2015 Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. Triennial Awards finalist, is among the civil society groups invited to the debate.

In its message of support, Balay Mindanaw Chairman Emeritus Charlito "Kaloy" Manlupig wrote: “Considering the position of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club as well as communities who feel marginalized by the exclusivity of this Sunday's Pilipinas Debate 2016, we have decided this morning to politely decline the offer to sit in the event. We are sit from our homes (sic). We hope that you understand that our decision is in solidarity with the local groups who we believe represent the legitimate concerns of communities in Mindanao.”

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