Moving an Elections amid a pandemic?

COVID-19 will continue to have lasting effects in the way we live for the next two to three years. But this will not deter our people from eagerly exercising their right to vote.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only suppressed our fundamental right to freedom of movement but may also effectively interfere in the exercise of our right to vote in the forthcoming 2022 National Elections (Right to Suffrage).

During the 2021 budget deliberations of the Commission of Elections (COMELEC), Pampanga 2nd District Representative Mikey Arroyo raised the possibility of postponing the 2022 Presidential elections. His inquiry and proposal were prompted by fears raised by his constituents, particularly by senior citizens and vulnerable individuals, of being infected with the virus should they physically cast their ballot. The proposal has been met with severe criticism from prominent pro and anti-administration personalities.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution is very in clear in saying that elections for President and Vice President shall be held on the second of Monday of May and that they shall only serve a term of six years. The decision to move or postpone elections falls on the lap of Congress and ultimately the President. Based on its programmatic and policy history, there is reason to believe that the current crop of legislators and even the President are considering Rep. Arroyo's proposal.

The current administration has postponed the conduct of Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls twice within a span of four years. On December 2019, the President signed Republic Act (R.A) No. 11462 which postponed the holding of Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections from May 2020 to 5 December 2022. Similarly, the President signed R.A No. 10952 which moved the conduct of Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections from October 23, 2017 to the second Monday of May 2018.

What would be the impact of moving the 2022 Elections?

First, a delay in elections may cause political chaos and sow further division between pro and anti-administration parties. This will give the opposition an ammunition to claim that the current administration is perpetuating its stay in power, similar to the years of the Marcos dictatorship. Furthermore, this will fuel talks that a revolutionary government will be declared to establish a new constitution and extend the current term of the President.

Second, the postponement of elections may disrupt the economy, with investors potentially holding off on investment decisions which will have far-reaching economic consequences. The economy could not afford another shock considering that the country may be in a period of prolonged recession due to the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic.

The COMELEC is currently studying options on how to conduct the elections with the COVID19 pandemic in mind. This includes proposals such as extending the elections to two/three days and allowing vulnerable individuals to vote by mail.

COVID-19 will continue to have lasting effects in the way we live for the next two to three years. But this will not deter our people from eagerly exercising their right to vote. The elections are critical to our recovery as a nation post-pandemic. Hence, moving the Presidential Elections should be considered as the court of last resort.

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About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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