Business Mirror – Comelec draws ‘new normal’ scenario for May 2022 polls in Senate hearing

By Butch Fernandez | Business Mirror

Longer voting hours and fewer voters per precinct are seen to be the likely contrasting norm in the upcoming 2022 elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) told senators on Wednesday.

This was conveyed by Comelec spokesman James Jimenez to lawmakers during a Senate hearing convened by the Committee on Electoral Reforms chaired by Sen. Imee Marcos to ensure the scheduled national and local polls will push through as scheduled in May 2022, following President Duterte’s reminder to avert any postponement.

Marcos indicated at the outset of the Senate hearing she took the cue from Mr. Duterte’s disapproval of any postponement of the scheduled 2022 national and local polls.

She assured that despite the onslaught of the deadly Covid-19 contagion postponing elections worldwide last year, the Philippine Senate’s Electoral Reforms and Peoples Participation Committee that she chairs “remains undeterred in finding the right pandemic-related measures to ensure next year’s elections will be safe for voters and poll watchers.”

Marcos remains undeterred, even as she recalled that as of January 19, the International Foundation for Election Systems had recorded 116 election events postponed in 69 countries and eight territories.

The lawmaker listed Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom as among the countries that decided to call off local, municipal or legislative elections in 2020 and rescheduled them for this year.

“We must strive to be like South Korea which succeeded last April in holding elections that were safe even with a higher voter turnout,” Marcos said, suggesting that “early planning and preparation for the elections with a pandemic scenario in mind will prevent a super spreader event and minimize challenges to the legitimacy of election results.”

Marcos also aired concerns that the lack of election infrastructure and planning to ensure the health and safety of voters remain “worrisome,” citing the predicament of senior citizens, persons with disability, pregnant women and Indigenous Peoples.

Moreover, Marcos said that many teachers who will serve as poll inspectors are above 60 years old and are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19.

“We can’t wait for vaccines to arrive and mass immunization to begin before planning for crucial elections. Sourcing additional funding and putting in place pandemic-related measures will take time,” she added.

At the same time, the senator observed the “weak registration” of new voters as reported by the Comelec, indicating a likely low voter turnout “due to fear of viral infection, or confusion about new voting procedures that may put the legitimacy of elections into question.”

“Add to that the likelihood of election results being announced later than usual,” Marcos added.

Under consideration in the Marcos-chaired Senate Electoral Reforms Committee are: Senate Resolution 412 on Preparation for 2022 Elections Amidst Covid-19 Pandemic; and Resolution 542 on Effective Tool to Detect and Repel Potential Foreign Interference in Elections via Social Media Platforms, among others.

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