Poll watchdogs reject ‘no-el’ scenario amid pandemic

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TWO election watchdogs on Friday, September 25, 2020, strongly rejected the suggestion of Pampanga (2nd District) Representative Juan Miguel Arroyo to postpone the May 2022 national and local elections due to the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

In separate interviews, the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) and the Kontra Daya there is no reason to postpone the elections.

"We do not see any reason to postpone the 2022 NLE," said Lente executive director Rona Caritos.

"Kontra Daya opposes moves to use the pandemic as pretext for term extension," said Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao.

Caritos said having a low number of voters due to Covid-19 fears is not enough reason to postpone the exercise.

"Covid-19 is not the reason for this low number. Filipinos are just like this, waiting for the deadline before taking action," she said.

Arao agreed and said the government should focus on combating the virus instead of putting off the elections.

"There is no reason to postpone it as it is mandated by the Constitution. Is government that incompetent and inefficient that it expects the pandemic to linger until May 2022?" said Arao.

Caritos noted how other countries were able to conduct their elections this year despite the pandemic.

"They did not postpone their elections. So no reason for us, especially we have ample time to prepare for our elections," said Caritos.

Asked whether they believe that the government is using the pandemic as an excuse to extend their terms, the groups gave mixed reactions.

Arao said he believed the government is using the pandemic to perpetuate those in power.

"The Duterte administration has used to pandemic to pass the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and shut down ABS-CBN, not to mention justify increased police and military presence and influence. And now, it is using the pandemic to perpetuate those in power," said Arao.

For Caritos, she said the idea is merely being floated to test how the people would react.

"Right now, given that it is an isolated statement, the statement is more of testing the waters and assessing how the people will react to it. So, people should speak up against this," said Caritos.

During the House of Representatives committee hearing on the proposed Comelec budget Thursday, Arroyo floated the idea of postponing the 2022 national and local elections because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Arroyo said the poll body must have a “Plan B” in the event that the health crisis lingers until 2022. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)


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