By Ben Rosario | Manila Bulletin
In the middle of the intense debates on the reported proposal to cancel the 2022 presidential and local elections surfaced one questions that requires immediate response: Did Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo, son of former president and former speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, call for postponement?
The young Arroyo has been receiving flak over news reports that he had proposed what majority of Filipinos believe to be the unthinkable, which is to cancel the 2022 national elections should the COVID 19 continue to threaten public health by May 9 of that year.
However, records of the budget hearing where the story started indicated clearly that the lawmaker merely aired his curiosity if no vaccine or drug against COVID 19 has been approved to save humanity by election time.
Arroyo was dumbfounded when the media started coming up with stories assailing his supposed proposition to Commission on Elections officials who were attending the hearing to defend the constitutional agency’s budget.
“I’ve been doing my share of reading about this pandemic and it seems that, assuming for the sake of argument that nothing goes wrong, the earliest that the vaccine will be available in our country for everybody, may be September or October next year,” the Pampanga solon told poll officials headed by Chairman Sheriff Abas.
“The thought that we will postpone the elections, has that ever triggered in your mind,” he queried.
Instead of simply answering “yes” or “no,” Abas stressed that there is no way Comelec will defer the election, pointing out that Comelec has started planning what to do in case COVID 19 does not fade away as a public health danger by 2022.
Arroyo himself made this clarification but only after he received, albeit “unfairly,” strong censure from many, particularly political leaders and observers.
Abas said that as far as Comelec is concerned, there is no way it will cancel the holding of the national elections.
The Comelec is asking the allocation of P10.04 billion to prepare for the 2022 elections that will open for votation a total 18,084 seats, including those of the next president and the vice president.
“Alam po natin na this is a constitutional mandate (We all know that this is a constitutional mandate),” said Abas.
According to him only Congress and the president can postpone it.
Abas said the poll body has created a special committee to study and propose plans that will be implemented if COVID 19 persists in 2022.
Proposed health protocols have already been submitted to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease to be implemented in the forthcoming plebiscite on the law dividing Palawan into two provinces.
Comelec Executive Director Bartolome Sinocruz Jr. explained that under the Palawan proposal, the plebiscite will be conducted for two days.
“In that way, some precincts will be voting on the first day and some in the second day. We are looking to implement a similar procedure in the 2022 elections,” said Sinocruz.
“We will hold elections on May 9 (2022) and then another day or two to continue with the elections. This extended voting hours is still being studied by the law department (of the Comelec),” Sinocruz told the Lower House.
According to Sinocruz the seat arrangement inside voting precincts will also be reduced from the usual 12 to a maximum of five.
“I-regulate din natin ang pagpasok ng tao. Magkakaroon ng voters assistance desk sa labas at bibigyan na ng sequence number ang mga botante(Entry of people will be regulated. There will be voters’ assistance desk outside and voters will be given sequence number),” he said.