SENATOR Miriam Defensor Santiago said Thursday that she would not attend the next presidential debate scheduled for Sunday, March 20, after being accepted as fit to undergo a clinical trial for a new anti-cancer pill.
Santiago said she joined the international clinical trial to gain free access to the medication, which would otherwise cost reportedly half a million pesos every three weeks. The trial requires Santiago to report for outpatient radiation treatment at the hospital daily for a short period.
"I am very sorry to miss out on the debates, but it would be a disservice to the country if I forego the opportunity to get rid of my cancer completely and strengthen myself further to serve the Filipino people," the senator said in a statement.
The People's Reform Party standard-bearer, who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in June 2014, joined the 2016 presidential race after claiming that her cancer cells have already regressed.
Despite her absence in the next debate, Santiago said she would try to participate in the third and last presidential debate to be held in Luzon, if the ongoing treatments do not inhibit her.
Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista said that as part of the rules, the name of a candidate who failed to attend the debate would still be present on stage together with his or her fellow candidates.
"Ang aming napagkasundunan dyan, kung hindi makakadalo ilalagay pa din ang kanilang lugar at kanilang pangalan at mananatili 'yun doon," he said.
The second presidential debate will be held at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu on March 20 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The hosts of the Cebu leg are TV5 and Philippine Star.
All the five presidential candidates namely: Senator Grace Poe, Manuel Roxas II, Davao City Rodrigo Duterte, Vice President Jejomar Binay and Santiago were present during the first presidential debate, which was held in Cagayan De Oro City last February 21. (With FP/Sunnex)