PRESIDENT Duterte is not interested in extending his term of office after June 30, 2022, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday as he dismissed the idea of postponing the next presidential and local elections because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as floated by Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo.
Besides, Roque said, moving the date of the election to another date or period is against the Constitution.
Stressing that the idea was never an option, Roque said: “Wala po. Walang usapin na ganiyan dahil iyan po ay labag sa Saligang Batas, imposible po (None. There was never a discussion of that because it is against the Constitution. That is impossible).”
In a media briefing, Roque said the postponement of the 2022 elections, if it ever becomes necessary, would require an amendment of the Constitution, which he said specifies the period or date when regular presidential elections are held.
Amending the Constitution would be up to Congress and the public if they would support such a move.
“The only thing that Congress can postpone is the elections not stated in the Constitution, including the barangay elections. The President is not interested in extending his term. And he leaves it to the Filipino people, the sovereign people to decide if they want to amend the Constitution to postpone the elections,” Roque said.
Roque noted the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already kicked off activities related to the conduct of the 2022 elections, including modifying way how campaigns and vote casting would be carried out amid new normal protocols, such as less physical contact between and among voters, candidates and election officers.
He said among those that are being considered by the poll body are the use of postal or mail-in voting, especially for elders and persons with disability, which is already exercised in other countries.
Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas said rescheduling the 2022 polls is possible if Congress passes a law mandating its postponement.
In a televised press briefing, Abas said they are not prepared to totally rule out a change in the date of elections because “the Constitution itself has a provision of ‘unless otherwise provided for by law’.”
“As to extending it, yes, it is possible because, under the Constitution, it is allowed, if provided by law,” he added.
In a separate interview, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez explained that Abas is referring to the “rescheduling” of the May 2022 polls.
He said this is because the Commission is mandated to implement whatever is provided for by law.
“The Chairman is saying it would be hard to absolutely say that there will be no rescheduling because if Congress decides otherwise, we have to follow. It is not our call,” said Jimenez.
“Postponement is rescheduling of elections, not cancellation. So, I think, the Chair is saying rescheduling is possible because it is in the law,” he added.
Abas, however, warned that postponing an election would be a highly complicated process as it will have to be approved through a plebiscite.
“In order to be able to amend the Constitutional provision, it has to be approved by two-thirds of our congressmen and will need also for a plebiscite to be held,” said Abas.
This was seconded by Jimenez, who said holding a plebiscite would be an ironic move if the solons would really push for the rescheduling of an electoral exercise.
“If you go through all of that, you will also need an election in the form of a plebiscite.
You’re going to hold an election (plebiscite) to postpone an election. That would really be ironic,” he added.
Article VII, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution states that: “Unless otherwise provided by law, the regular election for President and Vice-President shall be held on the second Monday of May.”
For the moment, the poll chief stressed that they are focused on preparing for the next presidential polls.
“On the part of the Comelec, the postponement of the 2022 elections is not in our plans,” said Abas. – With Gerard Naval