Lawyers thumb down proposal to postpone 2022 elections over COVID-19 fears
Speaking at the budget hearing of the Commission on Elections, Rep. Mikey Arroyo (Pampanga) said that the general public would still be terrified of the pandemic by then and would result in few people being able to register to vote, along with other possible logistical lapses.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

Lawyers thumb down proposal to postpone 2022 elections over COVID-19 fears

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - September 25, 2020 - 5:03pm

MANILA, Philippines — Veteran lawyers on Friday shot down the proposal to consider postponing the 2022 national elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elections lawyer Romulo Macalintal, in a statement, said on Friday: “Our law is very clear that elections could only be postponed in case of violence, terrorism or destruction of poll records which would make it impossible to conduct a clean and credible election.”

“Thus, it is still very premature to think of postponement of polls with about one and a half years before the election,” he added.

Rep. Mikey Arroyo (Pampanga) raised the idea of pushing back the holding of the elections to the Commission on Elections on Thursday, during the poll body’s budget deliberations at the House of Representatives. He said the public would be terrified of voting in 2022 if there would still be a pandemic.

 Veteran rights lawyer Chel Diokno, however, pointed out that other countries found ways to hold safe elections even in the middle of COVID-19 crisis.

Macalintal said the Comelec may also study and observe how the United States will hold its elections in November despite its rising COVID-19 cases in the country.

Diokno, meanwhile, said in Filipino: “I hope our representatives in the Congress think of solutions, instead of how to prolong their hold on their posts.”

“Election is the foundation of our democracy and this should continue according to the law,” he added.

Drilon: For postponement, law needs amended; Senate will block it

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, pointed out that Comelec cannot postpone the elections if the law is not amended—and if such proposal reaches them at the Senate, he said they would block it.

“The Comelec can only postpone an election in a political subdivision, meaning the provinces, cities or municipalities, as provided for in the Omnibus Election Code,” Drilon, who is also a former justice secretary, explained in an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source.

A postponement can also be done if it is within 30 days within from the time of the cause of postponement will cease, he added.

And even if the elections would be postponed, officials with terms ending on June 30, 2022 would have to step down anyway, Drilon said.

“The Constitution is clear that the term of office of nationally elected officials that began at noon on June 30 of 2016 cannot go beyond noon of June 30, 2022,” the lawmaker added.

“Given all these legal limitations, it will be absurd to postpone the elections. Comelec should be able to come up with adaptive and mitigating measures. We will provide Comelec with sufficient funds to set up mitigating measures in case the pandemic lasts until that time,” Drilon also said.

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan also said they are ways to continue holding the elections while protecting the health of the voters, such as holding the elections for two days instead of one and voting in bigger venues such as basketball courts, plazas, gymnasiums and convention centers so physical distancing would be enforced easier.

Pangilinan’s suggestions are among the measures the Comelec is studying if the Philippines remains in a health crisis in the 2022 elections.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said earlier Friday that they do not see the need of postponing the elections because they are preparing for holding it when there is still the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that they are reviewing expanding alternative voting methods and purchasing more machines for the next elections.

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