Solon proposes option to extend elections by one day if COVID-19 still a serious threat in 2022

Published September 27, 2020, 1:10 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

Maintaining that the postponement of the May 2022 polls is unconstitutional,  Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez proposed Sunday (Sept. 27) that the national and  local elections in May 2022 be extended for one more day if the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over by then. 

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez

“We follow the Constitution,  May 9. Now kung talagang mahigpit pa rin at nandyan pa rin ang COVID- 19 , puwede naman natin ilagay ng another day, May 10. (Now if the strict health security protocols are still in place and that the COVID-19 still lingers, we can have it extended for another day, May 10). So that the distancing and the number of people going to the poll center will be divided,” he told the DZBB in an interview. 

He explained that currently,  the allowed number of people in the precinct is only 12 people. 

“If nandyan pa ang COVID (If COVID,  let’s make it five. Voting will be from six o’clock to 3 o’clock or to four o’clock, May 9 and then we go to May 10. We divide them by alphabetical arrangement. These are the possibilities. We cannot postpone them (elections) so we have this social distancing,” Rodriguez pointed out. 

He also urged the government to allot a budget for a provision of personnel protective equipment (PPE), face masks and gloves for election officers like public school teachers. 

Rodriguez warned his colleagues against filing any measure seeking to postpone the  elections in May 2022, saying that his panel will shoot it down. 

“Wala talagang chance ‘yan (It has no chance). We will hear the resolution if there is one filed but so far,  nothing is filed in my Committee.  My Committee will hear [it],  but I am sure we are going to deny that,” he said. 

He maintained that any deferment will violate the Constitution, which sets the elections for the second Monday of May.

“Every country has a regular election.   We should be able to face the judgment of people every three years,” the House leader pointed out. 

During House deliberations on the proposed 2021 budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) last Thursday, House Deputy Majority Leader and Pampanga 2nd Dist. Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo questioned Comelec officials about the possibility of postponing the 2022 polls if the pandemic crisis is not yet over by then.

Rodriguez also rejected the proposal authorizing Comelec to allow the senior citizens to vote by mail, saying that some unscrupulous individuals may take advantage of it.

“Yung voting by mail, hindi applicable sa atin yan. Sigurado ako na ang unscrupulous people will print ballots,” he said. 

(The voting by mail is not applicable to us. I am sure that there would be unscrupulous people who will print unauthorized ballots.)

He said his measure providing for early voting for senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs)  should be instead pursued. 

Marikina 2nd district Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo had filed House Bill No. 7572, which allows Comelec to conduct postal voting for the elderly. 

“We cannot allow the disenfranchisement of our elderly population just because there is an ongoing pandemic,” Quimbo said, noting that for the 2019 elections, 9.1 million of the 61.8 million registered voters are senior citizens. 

The economist-turned-lawmaker said her proposal is not new, citing that several countries such as United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Switzerland, and New Zealand have their own postal voting.