The Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared that the 2022 national elections would push through despite growing concerns about India being hit by a devastating upsurge of coronavirus cases in the middle of an election campaign that was immediately canceled.
Unlike India, Commission on Elections spokesman James Jimenez said, the Philippines can easily find ways to ensure the conduct of events during the election season.
“More importantly, it is not a consequence of holding an election per se but a consequence of the behavior of politicians participating in the elections,” Jimenez said.
He noted that even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promoted and attended full-scale campaign sorties with blatant disregard for that country’s own Covid-19 health protocols.
Comelec gave the assurance of an all-systems-go for the 2022 elections on May 10, which started the yearlong countdown for the May 10, 2022 polls. That day was marked by a pealing of church bells at noon at the Manila Cathedral, Quiapo Church and the San Fernando de Dilao Parish in Paco, Manila.
The Comelec does not see the need to postpone or suspend the May 10 elections because of the pandemic. Instead, it warned the public against politicians and interest groups who would push for such an agenda.
Jimenez said the public should be wary instead of people pushing for a no-elections scenario. “But whether or not a no-elections scenario is likely to happen, we are very firmly in the it-is-unlikely-to-happen category.”
The Omnibus Election Code states that elections can be postponed, not canceled, “only for any serious causes such as violence, terrorism, or destruction of election paraphernalia or records force majeure, and other analogous causes of such nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election becomes impossible.”
The 1987 Constitution is also clear — unless otherwise provided by law, the regular election for president and vice-president shall be held on the second Monday of May.
Duterte’s allies in Congress have time and again floated a “no-elections” scenario for various reasons, including the supposed fear of Filipinos to vote due to the pandemic.
Critics have warned that no-election proposals only serve to tighten the administration’s grip on power and allow Duterte to extend his presidency. Duterte has insisted however that he is not interested to remain in office after his term ends in June 2022.
Jimenez allayed fears that if the country pushes through with the elections, it could go the way of India where mass gatherings prior to a scheduled election exacerbated the Covid-19 crisis.
Over 60 million people are expected to participate in the 2022 national elections, the first to be conducted in the Philippines against the backdrop of a global health crisis.
For the election to comply with the social distancing protocol, the Comelec announced that voting hours during E-day would be extended by up to four hours.
In an online news briefing, Comelec Commissioner Antonio Kho Jr. said longer voting hours is necessary not only to prevent overcrowding but also because the sizes of the polling precincts will be reduced to keep up with Covid-19 safety protocols.
“Almost sure na iyan na that will be extended. Pag-uusapan pa kung gaano kahaba ang extension. Iyong dating 8-hour elections, hindi na applicable iyon. It will be extended probably up to 10 or even 12,” Kho said.