Senators and President Rodrigo Duterte’s men promptly shot down a proposal emanating from the House of Representatives to postpone the 2022 presidential elections due to the flimsy excuse of avoiding coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection.
In separate statements, the public officials chorused that the deferment of elections, as floated by Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Mikey Arroyo, is unconstitutional.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said, aside from being unconstitutional, postponing the polls may spark controversies.
“The idea presents a number of controversial and unconstitutional issues. To name a few, who will hold over their positions? If not, who will appoint their replacements? The tenure of elected government officials is fixed,” Sotto said.
The Senate chief expressed confidence that the conduct of the 2022 polls will be thoroughly reviewed especially the matters of health security and election fraud.
“That should be seriously studied. It’s not only the pandemic to consider,” he added.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the health crisis should not be used as an excuse to reschedule the polls and holding elections is a public service that the government “must ensure to deliver.”
“The idea to postpone the 2022 elections, if and when it happens, presents constitutional challenges,” Roque said.
The Palace official noted that the 1987 Constitution is clear on the fixed date for the national elections, which is the second Monday of May every sixth year after 1992.
“We can learn from the examples of other countries, such as the United States, which will be holding an election later this year, on how they conduct polls during COVID-19 pandemic,” Roque said.
“We must not use the existing global health crisis as a ground to cancel and reschedule the elections as this would not sit well with the public,” he added.
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said postponement of the elections should be “the last resort” and the government should make sure the polls will push through despite the health crisis.
“We still have time to prepare. Let us also study best practices conducted in other countries. Postponing the elections should be a last resort. The government must ensure continuity of delivery of public services, including protecting Filipinos’ right of suffrage, even in times of crises,” he said in a statement.
The government should study alternative ways to conduct safe, clean and credible elections which is in accordance with the law.
Senate electoral reforms committee chair Imee Marcos also opposed the suggestion noting other countries were able to hold the polls despite the pandemic.
“Many countries have held elections during the pandemic such as South Korea, Taiwan, Belarus, Singapore, Iceland, Poland and the US in November,” she said.
Rep. Arroyo has previously urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consider postponing the 2022 polls amid the continuing spread of the dreaded disease.
Comelec chair Sheriff Abas responded by saying that the matter is up for Congress and President Duterte to decide.
The commission also said it plans to conduct the 2022 national elections for two to even three days should the contagion persists.
2-day polls pushed
Opposition lawmaker, Senator Francis Pangilinan, also reiterated that the suggestion is against the 1987 Constitution and pointed out that the pandemic should not be a reason to postpone the polls.
He backed Comelec’s idea to hold a two-day election to prevent flocking of people in voting centers.
He said basketball courts, plazas, gymnasiums, convention centers should be used to ensure social distancing.
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson noted that extension of elected government officials’ term beyond 30 June 2020 is unconstitutional.
“Any discussion or debate on this issue is an exercise in futility, if not a waste of time and energy,” Lacson said.
Lacson also warned the Comelec of future legal challenges if they will push through with their suggestion to hold a two-day election as it goes beyond the day specified by the Constitution.
with MICHELLE R. GUILLANG
and MJ BLANCAFLOR