No reason to postpone 2022 polls, says Robredo

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    IF government will allow people to travel and stay in tourist destinations despite the COVID-19 pandemic, then there is no ground to defer the 2022 general elections, Vice President Leni Robredo said yesterday.

    She was reacting to a proposal made last week by Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo to postpone the general elections in 2022, citing persistent concern about coronavirus infection.

    Arroyo later clarified a postponement was only as a “last resort” in case the pandemic continues to 2022 and what he asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is only to consider it in a worst-case scenario.

    Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas has said holding the elections on the schedule fixed by the Constitution is a mandate the poll body must follow.

    Robredo said it is the Comelec which is in the best position to determine the country’s readiness to proceed with the election.

    “The Comelec has already spoken about this issue. It has already shot down any possibility of a postponement as it has factored in precisely this scenario, that in 2022, COVID will still be around,” she said.

    The Vice President added that other countries have likewise decided against postponing elections even in the middle of the pandemic, including the Netherlands, the United States, South Korea, and New Zealand.

    However, she expressed concern over the announcement of Facebook that it has taken down 100 fake locally-based accounts and another 150 FB accounts that are based in China.

    While she welcomed the quick action of Armed Forces chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay in launching an inquiry into the alleged involvement of some military personnel in the operation of fake Facebook accounts, Robredo said it is the discovery of 150 other accounts with implications on the 2022 elections that is a cause for worry.

    “This is the second time that Facebook is doing this (crackdown). The people behind these fake accounts are peddling outright lies designed to influence the Filipino public’s way of thinking. But what we should all be worried about are these 150 accounts based in China,” she said.

    The Facebook statement said the terminated accounts support President Duterte and the possible presidential bid of his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, in 2022.

    “Why is China interfering with our domestic affairs? What is their interest in our elections?

    This matter has implications on our sovereignty. These accounts were flagged for posting fake news targeting me,” Robredo said.

    She appealed to Filipinos to be more discerning and not to buy into lies on social media, and expressed hope that Facebook will continue to be vigilant in cleaning up its platform of fake news peddlers.

    Comelec spokesman James Jimenez urged the public to strongly express their intent to vote in the next elections.

    “Send a message: #iwillvotein2022,” said Jimenez (@jabjimenez).

    This was followed by an infographic stating the same message encouraging the public to manifest their intent to vote in May 2022.

    “To whoever needs to hear it, send a message: #iwillvotein2022,” said the inforgraphic posted by Jimenez. – Peter Tabingo and Gerard Naval