Some House members oppose Mikey Arroyo’s idea of 2022 polls deferment
MANILA, Philippines — Some lawmakers in the House of Representatives have opposed the idea of postponing the national and local elections in 2022.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who chairs the House committee on constitutional amendments, said that any deferment will violate the Constitution, which sets the schedule of national and local elections.
“The nation has to elect its next president and vice president. The top two leaders have a fixed term of office of six years, which cannot be extended,” Rodriguez said in a statement Friday.
“Also, the Senators, Representatives, and LGU elective officials must all face the crucible of facing the judgment of our people in regular elections as mandated by our Constitution,” he added.
Rodriguez said that should the pandemic still persist by 2022, Comelec should prepare for methods to observe social distancing and other health measures for the voters.
“The next elections are still more than one-and-a-half years away. We hope that by the time we choose our next set of national and local leaders, the pandemic has gone away or there is already a vaccine against the new coronavirus so that we can freely go to the polling precincts and cast our votes,” Rodriguez said.
Meanwhile, Agusan del Norte 1st Dist. Rep. Lawrence Fortun said the postponement of the 2022 national and local elections “should be the last in our minds,” saying that it will be met with “serious constitutional challenges.”
“Elections are essential to our democracy. Instead, Congress should seriously scrutinize the proposed 2021 budget and identify sources to fund the requirements of Comelec to introduce new procedures, mechanisms, technologies, and equipment in the light of strict health protocols and the crowd-drawing nature of electoral activities,” Fortun said.
While the likelihood of the pandemic persisting by 2022 is high, Fortun said it should not mean elections should be postponed.
“May 2022 is 20 months away. There should be ample time to put in place the necessary safety measures. What the Comelec needs is a commitment of support from Congress and the DBM [Department of Budget and Management],” Fortun said.
“If the objective is to decongest the polling centers to ensure public health and safety, then one effective solution is to have more polling centers aside from the schools, military camps, and authorized malls,” he added.
Further, Fortun said that convenience stores that already have internet connection can also serve as special polling precincts.
“This is being done in many countries around the world. Also present in many strategic locations nationwide are networks of gasoline stations and banks that have internet access,” he said.
“There are many ways to make the elections happen in May 2022. These measures do not need legislative action. Comelec can do all of these under existing laws,” he also said.
Members of the Makabayan bloc such as ACT-Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro, Gabriela Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas, Bayan Muna Representatives Carlos Zarate and Eufemia Cullamat, also opposed the postponement of the 2022 elections.
“Hindi dapat gawing excuse tong pandemyang ito. In fact, ang Sri Lanka, Belarus, Singapore, South Korea, matagumpay na nakapaglunsad ng elections sa gitna ng COVID-19,” Brosas said in an online press briefing.
The United States and Venezuela are also set to conduct their elections this year, Brosas added.
During the House deliberations on the proposed 2021 budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday, House Deputy Majority Leader and Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo floated the idea of postponing the 2022 elections.
This came about as he asked the poll body regarding its plans for the forthcoming presidential elections if the health crisis lasts even by 2022.
In a radio interview Friday, however, Arroyo clarified he did not want the national elections postponed immediately. He explained that he only raised the idea as a “last resort” in the event that the pandemic cannot be controlled by 2022 and if Comelec’s safety nets would not be enough by that time.
“Kung saka-sakali na sa 2022 ay itong ating pandemya ay hindi natin ma-control, at wala pang vaccine, at kung saka-sakali naman ay ‘yung safety nets ng Comelec sa tingin natin ay hindi sapat, isipin man lang na i-postpone muna ‘yung election. Hindi ko sinabi na i-postpone kaagad,” Arroyo said.
(In case that in 2022, the pandemic still cannot be controlled and there is no vaccine yet, and if ever that Comelec’s safety nets are not enough, let’s think about postponing the elections. I did not say that we postpone the elections right away.)
“Sa ngayon, we don’t know kung ano ang sitwasyon ng Pilipinas by 2022 ng May. Sana po wala nang problema sa pandemya, pero mayroon ding posibilidad na baka mas lubusang mag-grabe. Nakakatakot din sa mga tao kung sila’y isusugal nila ang kanilang kalusugan upang makaboto,” the lawmaker added.
(Right now, we don’t know what the situation will be in the Philippines by May 2022. Hopefully, we no longer have a problem with the pandemic, but there is a possibility that it will get worse. It is scary for the people if they will gamble their health to vote.)
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