Newly appointed Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairman Andres Bautista (left) and commissioner Rowena Guanzon face the media at the COMELEC office in Intramuros, Manila on Monday. Bautista was the chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) prior to his new assignment.  (MNS photo)

Newly appointed Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairman Andres Bautista (left) and commissioner Rowena Guanzon face the media at the COMELEC office in Intramuros, Manila on Monday. Bautista was the chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) prior to his new assignment. (MNS photo)

MANILA  (Mabuhay) – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Saturday announced the final schedule of presidential and vice presidential debates in 2016.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the debates will happen for four weeks next year from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Bautista said the first presidential debate will happen on Feb. 21, 2016 in Mindanao.

The second presidential debate is scheduled on March 20, 2016 in Visayas and the last presidential debate will be on Apr. 24, 2016 in Luzon.

Bautista said three major television networks, including GMA Network, will draw lots and will be assigned a specific presidential debate to sponsor.

The Comelec chief said they will implement a dual-moderator format for the Mindanao leg, panel discussion format for Visayas, and town hall format for the Luzon leg.

“Merong lead stations na maghu-hold, pero lahat open for broadcast,” he said.

Three officials have so far confirmed their intentions to run for president in 2016, including Vice President Jejomar Binay, Sen. Grace Poe and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

Lito Banayo, political adviser of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, said the local official will also run for president.

Bautista, meanwhile, said the vice presidential debate will be held in Metro Manila on April 10.

Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo have announced their vice presidential run.

Sen. Gringo Honasan has yet to accept the United Nationalist Alliance’s offer to be Binay’s running mate.

Meanwhile, Bautista said that the poll body will designate lawyers who will directly communicate with candidates regarding the “three-companioin policy” for the filing of certificates of candidacy (COC) from October 12 to 16.

He said at least four lawyers will join a group of security personnels from Comelec to ensure that all rules for candidates and media, who will cover the filing of COCs, will be strictly followed.

Bautista, meanwhile, did not say if there are penalties for the would-be violators of the three-companion rule.

The poll chief led the inspection of the grounds of the Palacio del Gobernador building in Intramuros, Manila, where the filing of COCs for national elections will take place.

He said the Comelec will set up two to three giant projectors outside the building so supporters can witness their candidates’ filing of their COCs.

Bautista, meanwhile, expectes a festive mood during the week-long filing of COCs.

“It should be a celebration of our democracy,” Bautista said.

He said the Comelec will accept all COCs that will be filed until Friday, including those considered as “nuisance” candidates.

The final list of candidates will be released before December 10 this year, he added.

Meanwhile, the poll chief also announced that the ballot printing will be done from January to April of next year. (MNS)