MANILA - The Commission on Elections should correct the statement of one of its officials threatening critics of the poll body that they could be arrested, an election lawyer said Monday.
Comelec Commissioner Rey Bulay had said the poll body "will not hesitate to call upon" the military to arrest those accusing the poll body of favoring any candidate.
The Comelec cannot command the Armed Forces and can only deputize it, according to election lawyer Emil Maranon. Only the Philippine National Police can make arrests through a warrant issued by a court, he said.
Bulay should have known this as he was previously a prosecutor, according to Maranon.
"Dapat po i-correct because unang-una po may maling impression sa publiko na bawal nang magatanong o magcriticize sa Comelec. It’s part of our freedom of expression and part of Comelec’s responsibility to answer this," he told ANC's Headstart.
(It should be corrected because there's a false impression to the public that they cannot ask questions or criticize Comelec.)
"Wala pong karapatan sumali ang AFP sa usapin ng eleksyon because election remains a civilian process po. The Comelec can prosecute in terms of propagation of fake information, but in terms of arrest it has to go through a process."
(The AFP has no right to meddle in election issues because election remains a civilian process.)
The cancellation of the Comelec's town hall debates over the weekend also puts into question its ability to hold the upcoming elections, Maranon said.
"Kung di maayos ang pag-organisa ng debate, paano pa kaya ang eleksyon...It will put Comelec into the question kaya niyo bang itawid ang election kung ang mismong debate di maayos-ayos po," he said.
(If the Comelec cannot organize a debate, how much more an election...It will put Comelec into the question if it can handle the elections if it cannot sort out a debate.)
REMINDERS TO VOTERS
Voters are urged to check ahead of time their precinct and voter status, according to Maranon. A person's voter status is deactivated if they were unable to vote for 2 consecutive elections such as the 2018 barangay polls and the 2019 midterm polls, he said.
Voters must wear their face masks and are urged to bring their own pens and maintain physical distancing, Maranon added.
"Bago pumunta sa presinto, dapat po ready na po, 'di po masama na may kodigo po," he said.
(Voters should be ready before going to their poll precinct, they can bring cheat sheets of who they will vote for.)
Upon voting, people must also check and report if their ballot contains missing names of candidates, Maranon said.
"Between May 2 to 7 may final testing and sealing. Lahat ng watchers ng political candidates may karapatan i-check kung tama ba ang pagbilang ng makina, gumagana, atsaka ma-secure ang integrasyon ng makina," he said.
(There's final testing and sealing of automated election machines between May 2 to 7. All watchers of political candidates have a right to check if the machines ar working, counting correctly.)