Philippine Presidential, VP candidates face off in CNN Debates held at UST

Nine presidential bets and seven vice-presidential candidates clashed in the Debates organized by CNN Philippines, in partnership with Microsoft Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas. The Debates were held at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion from February 26 to 27, 2022.

Former presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, labor leader Leody de Guzman, Manila Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso, former defense chief Norberto Gonzales, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Faisal Mangondato, Jose Montemayor Jr., Sen. Manny Pacquiao, and incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo were present on February 27. The anticipated first-ever CNN Presidential Debates were moderated by veteran journalists Ms. Pia Hontiveros and Ms. Pinky Webb.

The day before, Walden Bello, Rizalito David, Manny SD Lopez, Dr. Willie Ong, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Carlos Serapio, and Senate President Vicente Sotto III showed up for the VP Debates, which were moderated by Mr. Rico Hizon and Ms. Ruth Cabal.

Empty podiums were left for the absent candidates.

Candidates for the top executive positions in the country received questions on pressing national issues, such as corruption, COVID-19 pandemic plans and accomplishments, infrastructure, workers’ welfare, immediate timeline if elected, and global issues such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, among others.

The arena, which could comfortably seat over 5,700 people, only had less than 200 masked people in the live onsite audience, which was mostly composed of the candidates’ close-in staff, CNN’s production team, and some UST officials. Everyone in attendance adhered to strict health protocols. 

An opportunity to be part of the live event was made possible through Microsoft Teams where an audience from the different sectors of society served as virtual spectators of the debates.

While CNN has previously partnered with UST during the 2016 Vice-Presidential Debates and the 2019 Senatorial Debates at the same venue, Microsoft participated in the linkage for the first time this year. CNN, Microsoft, and UST formalized this Debates’ partnership in a Memorandum of Agreement Signing held on February 17, 2022, at the Benavides Garden.

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