Presidential contender Ferdinand Marcos Jr. turned down the last-minute challenge of his closest rival Vice-president Leni Robredo to a one-on-one debate, prompting one political analyst to say that this was Marcos Jr.’s way of ensuring that his “shallow knowledge of issues would not be exposed.”

Robredo, who narrowly beat Marcos Jr. in the 2016 vice-presidential election, challenged the son and namesake of the late dictator to a one-on one debate “anytime, anywhere” so voters can scrutinize their characters and compare their visions.

Marcos Jr. has attended just one of four presidential debates since campaigning for the May 9 election began, compared to Robredo’s three.

“I am inviting Mr. Marcos to a debate to give the public a chance to face him and ask him about the controversies surrounding him,” Robredo said in a statement. “We owe it to the people and to our country.”

But Marcos Jr.’s camp said the face-off with Robredo would never happen as Marcos Jr. “prefers to communicate directly with the public.” Marcos’s spokesman Victor Rodriguez, said his candidate wanted to keep campaigning civil.

“Bongbong Marcos’s Uniteam is guided by positive campaigning, no badmouthing. It sends its message and call for unity directly to the public,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
Marcos’s ducking of debates has been criticized by opponents and academic groups, who say the public is being denied the opportunity to see all candidates challenged and scrutinized.

Political analyst Earl Parreno said shunning debates was Marcos’s way of ensuring his “shallow knowledge of issues will not be exposed.”

Though incumbent President Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is Marcos’s running mate and his party has backed Marcos, the President himself said he wants to be neutral and has not endorsed anyone.

More than 67 million Filipinos have registered to vote in the elections, which would potentially have a high turn-out.

Posts to be contested on May 9 include the presidency, vice-presidency, 12 senate seats, 300 lower House seats, and about 18,000 local positions.

Marcos Jr. was also skipped the final Commission on Elections (Comelec) debate, though he considered it important. However, Rodriguez said Marcos opted “to conclude the entire 90-day campaign period with visits to his supporters, and compliance with previous commitments for political events like town hall meeting and political rallies.”

As this happened, the youngest daughter of the late Maj. Gen. Fabian Ver, formerly the dictator’s henchman and former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff and National Intelligence and Security Authority adviser, punched holes in the Marcos Jr. campaign propaganda of the martial law era as the country’s golden age by coming out with an opposing account.

In a newspaper article, Wanna Ver acknowledged the atrocities of martial law and apologized to its victims who “had been harmed and continue to suffer from the abuses of my father’s regime.”

“It was the human rights survivors that made me finally realize that the Marcos’ Gold Age history was a fabrication,” Wanna said.

The article chronicles the many cases and lawsuits filed before different federal courts in the United States against the Marcoses, and how, to this date, many victims have yet to receive compensation because the Philippine government’s Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board is still not being given enough time to conduct a thorough investigation.

“We need to listen to each other and acknowledge wrongs done before our country and people can heal and move forward. When my daughter grows up, I want her to be able to know her history and lineage without avoiding it, like I did. The shame I’ve carried for years can be debilitating,” Wanna Ver said.