Democracy Watch Philippines said the proposal to postpone the May 2022 polls is “alarming.”
The civil society organization said the COVID-19 pandemic has already caused a slowdown, if not a regression, of democratic processes across the world.
“It has triggered widespread militarization, stoppage of court processes, excessive control over the press, and passage of questionable legislation. Given this sweeping global trend, delays and alterations in electoral processes are a clear and pressing threat to the core of Philippine representative democracy,” the group said in a statement.
The group stressed democracy cannot go on hold, adding that other countries such as South Korea and Singapore, have given the country opportunity to adopt best practices and continue to pursue the elections while maintaining public health and safety.
“For example, in South Korea, all voters have had their temperature checked on arrival and have been required to wear masks and gloves. In Singapore, the Election Department invested in additional voter registration machines to implement better physical distancing,” said Democracy Watch.
“We would do well to adopt these practices. Investing in more vote counting machines (VCMs), proper personal protective equipment (PPEs), and temperature scanners is no doubt more cost-effective than the projected P24 billion that an overhaul would cost,” added the group.
While it was contended by some that the country must make the hard choice between democracy and health, Democracy Watch Philippines said this need not be the case, saying with proper coordination, transparent policies, and the use of appropriate technology, the nation can have both.
The group also believes that democracy will not only survive the pandemic, but is necessary for the successful hurdling of this multifaceted crisis.
“Entire economies, educational systems, and daily customs have gone on pause because of the pandemic. We cannot afford to let the same happen to elections, the cornerstone of our democratic governance,” said Democracy Watch Philippines.
“Democracy must go on,” added the group.