By William Depasupil | The Manila Times
THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) over the weekend dismissed speculations of low voter turnout or even postponement of the 2022 synchronized national and local elections due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said there was no reason to stop the poll body's ongoing preparations for the first parliamentary election in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) even as there is a move in the Senate to have it postponed.
The national and local elections and the BARMM polls will be held simultaneously on May 9, 2022.
Jimenez gave his assurances that the poll body was up to the challenges posed by the health crisis, citing as an example the preparations made by the Comelec in the recent plebiscite in Palawan, where voters' turnout was high despite the pandemic and the bad weather condition on the day of the electoral exercise.
"We would like to assure the senator and the public that the Comelec is doing anything it can to make sure that the elections are safe. Remember the Comelec controls certain areas of the elections, particularly filing of the certificate of candidacy, the conduct of the campaigns, the conduct of the election day, and the counting and canvassing as well as the national board of canvassers," he added as he referred to Sen. Francis Pangilinan.
Pangilinan had questioned the government's response to the health crisis, pointing out that 7 out of 10 people still fear to be vaccinated, an increase from the 6 out of 10 last December.
"The election 2022, yes we should talk about it. Yes, there should be preparations but unless we manage this Covid response effectively - worse case, people will not come out because they are afraid. Baka merong adventurist sabihin 'wag na muna mag-eleksyon (There might be an adventurist who would call for no election)," Pangilinan said in a television interview.
"Itong mga brownout, prelude ba ito or laying the premise para masabi that magiging magulo ang election (These brownouts, are they prelude or laying the premise to say the election would be chaotic). They are speculations of course but I would like to focus on ensuring a vaccine rollout effectively undertaken," added Pangilinan.
'Postponement not in the cards'
Jimenez assured that the 2022 elections would push through, saying that "postponement of elections is simply not in the cards."
'[A]s far as the Comelec is concerned, there is no reason to postpone."
"We might see depression in terms of voter turnout but [it] will not conceivably result in postponement," he said, adding that "postponement is not a viable alternative."
Jimenez pointed out that the 2022 polls cannot be simply postponed unless the Constitution is amended.
As for the BARMM, Jimenez said Comelec was not "jumping the gun" and still continuing with its preparations even as there is an ongoing discussion in the Senate to postpone the region's parliamentary elections.
"Sa BARMM elections, ongoing ang pag-uusap tungkol sa postponement ng BARMM elections (talks on the postponement of BARMM elections are ongoing). I think there are some very critical matters being discussed, particularly 'yung (the) availability ng Bangsamoro Electoral Code as well as the completion of the districting of the Bangsamoro," Jimenez said.
"Since the issues have not been resolved, kami sa Comelec, tuloy-tuloy ang paghahanda natin (the Comelec continues to prepare). We cannot jump the gun. So, tuloy-tuloy lang po tayo," he added.
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal had said postponing the elections was unconstitutional and ran counter to the government's claim that it was winning the fight against Covid-19.
"Our law is very clear that elections could only be postponed in case of violence, terrorism or destruction of poll records that would make it impossible to conduct a clean and credible election," Macalintal said.