Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate challenged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to punish presidential and vice presidential aspirants who skip debates.

“As a constitutionally constituted body, we submit that it is empowered to penalize these debate skippers who are openly defying the Comelec’s processes. We make this challenge to the Comelec: just penalize them now,” Zarate said in a statement.

Zarate added that Bayan Muna is “seriously studying” the filing of a measure which plans to categorically disallow, penalize, and/or disqualify candidates who refuse to attend debates organized by the Comelec.

“In this proposed bill, we may also include as ground for disqualification those aspiring candidates or candidates with final conviction for non-payment of taxes and the non-filing of the mandated income tax return (ITR) and the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN),” said Zarate.

Both presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte refused to join the Comelec-sponsored debates.

The Uniteam tandem explained that they prefer to campaign instead of attending debates. Ronald Espartinez