MANILA - House lawmakers criticized the proposed multi-day voting in next year's elections, which is meant to keep it from becoming a super spreader event during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This came after vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. floated the idea of a multi-day election similar to what other countries did to "prevent the possible conglomerations of thousands of people in the precincts."
In a statement, Caloocan 2nd District Rep. Edgar Erice pointed out how costly it would be for both the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and political parties and their candidates.
The multi-day elections can also "provide avenues for cheating and violence," according to Erice.
"Imagine supporters of warring factions in hotly contested areas spending a night or two in polling places, specially in remote areas," he said.
"Instead of preventing crowds to gather in polling places, it will encourage supporters and watchers to gather around polling places to safeguard the voting machines. Multi-day elections will be a mess!"
House Minority leader Joseph Stephen "Caraps" Paduano called on the Comelec to lay down its contingency plan following the proposal.
“The problem with the Comelec is its failure to present the election plan as to the conduct of next year's polls during previous House hearings,” Paduano said.
PROBLEMS IN FUNDING
The Comelec had lamented that proposals to hold a multi-day voting in 2022 would not be easy to fund given the "64 percent slash" in their proposed budget next year.
The commission had submitted a P41.992 billion proposed budget, but the Department of Budget and Management only recommended P26.497 billion.
House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate called for the restoration of the original amount the Comelec proposed for its election budget, citing increases in honoraria of teachers as well as other benefits.
He questioned the DBM's decision to cut the Comelec's proposed budget by 64 percent "on a very important election year."
"We are puzzled... It is as if they want a super performance car but they only gave enough money to buy a tricycle," said Zarate.
"We are about to hold an unprecedented election next year in a time of pandemic, with the future of our country at stake. The DBM scrimped on the agency that is primarily responsible for the election to be credible," added the Davao-based solon.
"It is as if the Comelec is being set up to fail, or, at the minimum, find it extremely hard to organize and guard the conduct of the elections."
Last week, the Comelec admitted it has no budget for the “worst case scenario” should the pandemic worsen by election day on May 9, 2022.
Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo reiterated to lawmakers that the elections will push through as scheduled even if the pandemic worsens.
"Suspension of elections due to pandemic is not one of our options. The mitigating circumstance or our risk management is also on that, whether to have it extended for another day, that would be part of our recommendation in the event that during election day pandemic is worsened," he said.
"So however postponement of election by reason of that is not one of the options of the Comelec.”
Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga then inferred this means an extension of voting schedules.
Casquejo answered in the negative when asked if the poll body has funds for the worst scenario.
“For now, what was given to us in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) by the DBM is more on the usual, the ordinary pandemic situation. With regards to that extreme condition of what will happen, we have no budget for that," he said.
The Philippines was the first country outside China to report a coronavirus death and has since logged over 2 million cases, including a daily record 22,366 on Monday.
-- with reports from Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News; and Reuters