SunStar CEBU : Espinoza: Elections during a pandemic

News & Interviews
3 August 2021

By ELIAS L. ESPINOZA | SunStar CEBU

AMONG the wannabes in the presidential race comes May 9, 2022, only presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s desire to run for president has not been dampened by the Covid-19 pandemic because in the previous weeks, she already toured the metropolitan areas in the country. Last month, Sara visited the Cebu City officials and Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia.

The probable opposition candidates like Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Ping Lacson and Senate President Tito Sotto are only visible in the mainstream and social media. Aside from the fact that efforts to unite the opposition is still dim, their movement is perhaps inhibited by the recent surge of the Delta variant of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

The end of Covid-19 pandemic is nowhere in sight yet despite the availability of the vaccines now and our country is still reeling from its dire effect. So, what would it be like for our country to hold the elections next year while Covid-19 is still around us and this Delta variant that experts claim spread fasts like the chickenpox?

The metropolitan areas, like Metro Manila, Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City, are swarmed with the new cases of Covid-19 believed to be the Delta variant and the patients are overflowing in the city's big hospitals. Latest news show that Covid-19 patients who cannot be accommodated in the Covid wards are being attended inside their cars parked beside the hospital. Yet, some demagogues still disparage the present health crisis and careless about the health protocols.

Talking of the forthcoming general elections on May 9, 2022, which is going to happen because the Constitution says so and observing how the elections in USA was conducted in November 2020 even when the Americans were not yet vaccinated, I believe it's about time that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should come up now with measures on what to do or how to hold the elections while we are still in the health crisis.

Resetting the elections next year until after the Covid-19 pandemic is over is farfetched despite the clamor of some sycophants to extend the term of President Rodrigo Duterte because of the present health crisis. More so, that we now have the vaccine against the virus although the number of the vaccinated persons has not yet reached the desired percentage of the population to claim a herd immunity.

In my previous columns, I suggested that the Comelec could follow the lead in the US elections on early voting, perhaps to start seven days before election day, in order to impose social distancing at the polling places. Experience tells us that in the past elections, voters crowd the polling places. The qualified PWD and senior citizen voters would be at a disadvantage if measures that would prevent the spread of this dreaded virus on election day are not in place this early.

I also suggested the e-voting for PWDs and senior citizens in the metropolitan areas since most, if not all, households are already internet connected. The e-voting could tremendously reduce the crowding of voters in the polling places and provide ease for PWDs and senior citizens. Since we are now in the IT age, it's about time that we adopt this mode of voting that highly developed countries are already practicing.

That the e-voting could be manipulated by the influential and mischievous politicians is remote. All that the Comelec should do is engage the services of the company that has been rendering the same services in countries that is already practicing e-voting. The cost may be high but that is the price of development.