Representatives of candidates for president in the May 2016 elections, except for Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Miriam Santiago, confirmed that their candidates will be participating in the debates to be organized by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), the KBP and the major television networks with their print media partners. In a meeting held January 20, 2016 at the COMELEC, representatives of presidential aspirants Jejomar Binay, Grace Poe, Mar Roxas and Roy Señeres said that their candidates will be participating in the debates scheduled on February 21 in Cagayan de Oro City, March 20 in Cebu City, and April 24 in Pangasinan. The participation of Poe in the debates is premised on the condition that the disqualification cases against her, now being heard by the Supreme Court, will be decided in her favor.
The representatives of Duterte and Santiago were not able to commit the participation of the candidates in the debates, although they said that they will recommend it.
The representatives of all the candidates for vice-president also confirmed that their principals will be participating in the vice-presidential debate to be held in Metro Manila on April 10, possibly in the University of Santo Tomas in Manila or University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.
In the meeting on January 20, the COMELEC, led by Chairman Andres D. Bautista, the KBP, headed by Board Chairman Herman Z. Basbaño, and the representatives of television networks, discussed the proposed debate rules with the candidates’ representatives. The COMELEC, KBP, and GMA Network will meet with the candidates’ representatives on February 5 to discuss in more detail the preparations for the first debate in the series, which will be held on February 21 in Cagayan de Oro City.
The debates will be aired live nationwide on television and radio and will be streamed online for free access by the public. The debates will also be replayed by television stations on different dates.
The debates are being organized under the auspices of Republic Act 9006, also known as the Fair Election Act. Section 7 of the Act authorizes the COMELEC to require national television and radio networks to sponsor at least three debates for presidential candidates and one debate for vice-presidential candidates. The same Act also empowers the COMELEC to promulgate rules and regulations for the holding of the debates. The KBP was tapped by the COMELEC to help coordinate the organization of the debates.