The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that it is already preparing for the conduct of the national elections in 2022, saying that it sees no need to postpone the elections because of the coronavirus disease pandemic.
“As far as Comelec is concerned, given na by 2022 may pandemya pa rin. Iyan ang pinaka-basis ng aming paghahanda—na kailangan nating mag-ingat kasi sa 2022 sa panahon ng halalan, meron at meron pandemya. And in fact, ine-expect natin na wala pa dyan effective distribution ng vaccine [As far as the Comelec is concerned, given that by 2022 there is still a pandemic. That is the very basis of our preparation — that we need to be careful because during the 2022 elections there will still be a pandemic. And in fact, we also expect that there is still no effective distribution of vaccine by that time],” said Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez during a radio interview on Thursday.
“At this point we don’t see a need for it (postponement), hindi nakikita yung pangangailangan [At this point we do not see a need for it (postponement), we do not see the need],” he added.
Jimenez said that they are currently studying proposals on how to safely conduct the elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. These include expanding the “alternative voting method” and the online filing of Certificates of Candidacy.
The poll body is also looking for ways on how to avoid crowding in polling places. “May mga suggestions nga na huwag sa maliliit na classroom gawin, gawin sa malalawak na gymnasium—-yung mga covered court [There are suggestions not to use small classrooms but instead move the voting proper in gymnasiums or covered courts],” said Jimenez.
Health protocols such as wearing a face mask, face shield, and maintaining physical distancing would also be enforced, said Jimenez.
“Kinokonsidera din ng Comelec ang pagi-spread out ng halalan over may be two to three days instead of just one day [The Comelec is also considering of holding the election for two to three days instead of just one day],” said Jimenez.
“All of these are being considered by the Comelec,” he added.
Former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said that “there is no reason to postpone the elections,” adding that “other countries have had elections already.”
“Added to this, the term of office of all elected officials will end on June 30, 2022, as mandated by the 1987 Constitution. You cannot extend the term of office of elected officials,” said Larrazabal in a Twitter post.
“Cancellation of an election rests with the people. No official, not the President, not Congress, not any other office can cancel an election. Only the people via a national electoral exercise can cancel an election,” he noted.
To note, Pampanga 2nd District Representative Juan Miguel Arroyo on Thursday proposed the postponement of 2022 national elections over health and safety concerns brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
Views of poll watchdogs
Poll watchdogs also disagree with the proposal to postpone the national elections.
“We do not see any reason to postpone the 2022 national and local elections (NLE)” said Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) Executive Director Rona Caritos.
“Also, other countries have conducted their elections this year. They did not postpone their elections. So no reason for us, especially we have ample time to prepare for our elections, if COVID will still be a problem by then,” she added.
The Kontra Daya group also strongly rejected the idea of postponement.
“Kontra Daya opposes moves to use the pandemic as pretext for term extension. There is no reason to postpone it as it is mandated by the Constitution. Is the government that incompetent and inefficient that it expects the pandemic to linger until May 2022?,” said Kontra Daya Convenor Danilo Arao.