By Zacarian Sarao | Inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines — Only the Commission on Elections (Comelec) can stop the conduct of polls even if under a pandemic.
This was the firm stance of veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal after the poll body cautioned against using lockdowns due to COVID-19 transmissions to postpone the holding of the election.
“Only the Comelec en banc can order the postponement, suspension or declaration of failure of election in case any type of lockdowns is enforced on election day due to pandemic,” stressed Macalintal.
“No agency of the government, be it the IATF or the [Department] of Health can stop [the] election without any authority from the Comelec,” he added.
According to Macalintal, any “stoppage” due to lockdowns is equivalent to postponement or suspension of election which is within the exclusive power and jurisdiction of the Comelec en banc under the Omnibus Election Code and Republic Act 7166.
Macalintal said agencies tasked to enforce lockdowns should first get the authority or order from the Comelec en banc “which can issue such order motu propio or on its own discretion or upon a verified petition by any interested party after due notice and hearing.”
“Thus, the DOH, IATF and other [government] agencies in charge of COVID cases [should] be on the guard to properly monitor areas which might need to be locked down to prevent the spread of the COVID virus and get appropriate action from [the] Comelec En Banc,” he also said.
Earlier, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the poll body would not push COVID-positive voters to participate in the May 2022 elections and reiterated that elections next year would neither be postponed nor canceled.
He then reminded that the newly implemented granular lockdowns should not be used as an excuse to prevent people from voting, or force the suspension of the elections.
Metro Manila was placed under the pilot general community quarantine or GCQ Alert Level 4 from September 16-30. The new COVID-19 alert level system includes the imposition of granular lockdowns.
The alert level is based on the area’s case data and healthcare utilization rates while granular lockdowns refer to localized community lockdowns where residents will not be allowed to go in and out of their homes.