Solon seeks 2022 elections postponement over pandemic fears

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 24 2020 02:46 PM | Updated as of Sep 24 2020 08:02 PM

Quezon City maintenance personnel fix old ballot boxes, in preparation for the national and local election, at the Quezon City Hall on Sunday. The boxes will be used as drop box for voters’ receipts issued from the vote counting machine (VCM) on election day this coming May 9, 2016. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA (2nd UPDATE)— Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo on Thursday urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consider postponing the 2022 national polls, saying voters are afraid of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The matter is not a call of the poll body, but rather, up to Congress and President Rodrigo Duterte, said Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas. 

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The poll body is looking at best practices in South Korea and the US to keep the elections safe, he said. 

Comelec Executive Director Bartolome Sinocruz said the poll body was looking to allow online filing of certificates of candidacies, with positions staggered on different days. The law does not prohibit online filing, but they will also have to consider internet connectivity, he added.

Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun pushed for a 3-day election as he asked poll executives to give lawmakers a scenario of how the campaign and voting would work out under a pandemic.

Sinocruz said there may be more than one election day, in effect extending voting hours. The precedent for this is overseas absentee voting, which currently is held over a span of 30 days, he said.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez called on Congress to restore the budget that was cut from their original proposal so the poll body could acquire more voting machines so there would be fewer voters per machine.

The Comelec is looking to reduce the number of voters inside a precinct from 12 to 5, Sinocruz said.

The poll body is also hoping Congress could pass pending bills expanding the coverage of alternative modes including voting by mail, Jimenez added.

Abas said the poll body has created a special committee to prepare for 2022, studying what needs to be done in case the pandemic persists. 

The poll body is prepared to hold an election even if its budget was short by P16 billion, according to Abas.

Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Paul Daza said pushing ahead with the campaign and elections during the pandemic would favor incumbents and disadvantage newcomers because it would be harder to campaign. 

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., meanwhile, lambasted Arroyo's proposal and said, "You don't cancel elections for any reason. That's treason."

"We are a democracy or a s*** slave colony. Hold elections period. Those brave to stand in line & vote—even if only 12—decide the next President. Elections=democracy or F*** U. You fucking s***," he said in an expletive-laden tweet. 

Former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, meantime, said there was "no reason to postpone the elections," pointing out that in order to extend the term of elected officials set to step down on June 30, 2022 is to have a constitutional amendment and ratify it through a plebiscite. 

"So you’re going to have an electoral exercise, to postpone an electoral exercise? There is no reason to postpone the elections. Other countries have had elections already," he said.

— Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News