2022 poll postponement over pandemic threat up to Duterte, Congress – Comelec

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 24) — President Rodrigo Duterte and Congress can decide to postpone the 2022 general election if the pandemic lasts until that time, a poll official said Thursday.

Commission on Elections Chairman Sheriff Abas made the remark during the House budget hearing where Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo asked whether Comelec has considered such a scenario by then.

Arroyo said a vaccine may still be unavailable by then, which mean the risk of infection will be high on those going out to vote.

“Come elections, I'm sure that if there is no vaccine yet, there will be so many contaminations during that [election] day,” he said. “Has the thought that you'll propose to postpone elections, has that triggered in your minds?”

Abas said this has not been considered since the election is a constitutional mandate.

Unless otherwise provided by law, the Constitution sets dates for the regular election of congressmen, senators, the vice-president and president.

Arroyo said concerned agencies should recommend any possible poll postponement to avoid speculation that incumbent officials would just like to extend their terms..

Abas said they will assess how the health crisis will pan out.

“It is a call of both [legislative] chambers, the House [and Senate], and the President but rest assured titingnan namin ang kanyang mungkahi (we will look into his suggestion),” he said.

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ News Night, Arroyo said he was just asking Comelec to consider the matter, especially if their safety measures are still risky since by 2022, the situation that time remains unknown and if a vaccine is already available.

He added that filing a measure that would postpone the 2022 elections is still far from his mind, Arroyo said.

In a separate interview with CNN Philippines’ News.PH, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the poll body is not considering the proposed scenario since “elections are essential.”

Former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal also said there is no justification to reschedule the upcoming elections. He said that if other countries, like South Korea, can push through then the Philippine can do it as well.

Meanwhile, Jimenez assured that all their preparations are based on the assumption that the pandemic will continue until 2022, thus, they have several suggestions lined up to make sure that elections will push through.