THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday shot down Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo’s idea of postponing the 2022 national and local elections to prevent the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from further spreading, saying it’s a constitutional mandate that the body must follow.
During the budget briefing on the proposed P14.34 billion budget of the Comelec for 2021, Arroyo asked Elections Chairman Sheriff Abas if the poll body is considering postponing the next national elections if the pandemic reaches the election year.
Arroyo said going back to the old normal is still unlikely, as he noted that it may take another year before a vaccine becomes available in the country.
“The thought that we will postpone the elections, has that ever triggered in your mind?”
Arroyo asked Abas who replied: “Hindi po talaga (not really) because alam naman natin na this is a constitutional mandate at fixed ‘yung inilagay ng batas (we know that it’s a constitutional mandate and the law provides for a fixed schedule).”
The lawmaker, who is a son of former president and speaker Gloria Arroyo, said that while the Constitution is clear that local elections should be held every three years and national elections, every six, the pandemic has made it dangerous to participate in the national elections on May 9, 2022.
“Because I’ve been hearing in my district, the businessmen, the old people, they’re saying maybe they just would not vote because they’re scared to vote during that day. That’s just food for thought, Mr. Chair. The Comelec may choose to answer that or not,” he said.
Abas however said that since the Comelec cannot go against the constitutional provision, postponing the elections is the “call of both chambers of the Congress and the President.”
Postponing the elections will require constitutional amendments or Charter change, an initiative that many administrations have tried but failed to pull off, including the Duterte administration.
Arroyo said the Comelec should at least consider the idea to which Abas replied: “Well-taken ‘yung comment ni Cong Arroyo. But sabi ko nga, this is a medyo mabigat na usapin ‘yan but rest assured (titignan) natin kung paano mag-develop itong sitwayson natin sa health (Cong. Arroyo’s comment is well-taken. It’s a difficult issue but rest assured that we’ll monitor how this health situation will develop).”
Comelec executive director Bartolome Sinocruz said the Comelec is eyeing to hold the elections in two days to give the people more time to vote and observe physical distancing.
For his part, Director James Jimenez said the Comelec is looking into purchasing additional vote-counting machines, too, so the people will not gather in crowds to register their votes.