Proposed postponement of 2022 polls 'unconstitutional': senators

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2020 10:16 AM | Updated as of Sep 25 2020 11:57 AM

Voters are seen at the Bagong Silang Elementary School in Caloocan City, May 14, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Several senators on Friday described as unconstitutional a proposal to defer the 2022 national elections in light of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

"Any debate or discussion" on the postponement or extension of the 2022 elections is "a waste of time and energy," Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a statement.

"Canceling or postponing the election to pave the way for the extension of the terms of office of the President, Vice-President, 12 senators, district representatives as well as elected local government officials beyond June 30, 2022 is a clear violation of the Constitution," Lacson said.

"Any discussion or debate on this issue is an exercise in futility, if not a waste of time and energy," he said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the proposal also "presents a number of controversial and unconstitutional issues."

"To name a few, who will hold over their positions? If not, who will appoint their replacements?" Sotto said in a text message to reporters.

"It's not only the pandemic to consider kung 'di pati dayaan (but also cheating)," he said.

Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo earlier urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consider pushing back the 2022 national polls for the sake of voters who fear contracting COVID-19 in the country's usually crowded polling precincts.

Several countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Belarus, Singapore, Iceland and Poland have already "conducted elections during this pandemic," Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms chair Imee Marcos said in a statement.

"We abide by the Constitution and proceed with the elections in 2022," she said.

Instead of deferring elections, the Philippines should instead "explore all possible scenarios" such as a "3-day in-person voting, expanded early voting, mail-in ballots and, even in select cases, livestream online voting," Marcos said.

"No doubt there are issues with every mode of voting, but the voice of the people must be heard," she said.

Lacson noted that tinkering with the number of election days may also be unconstitutional.

Under the Constitution, elections for the members of Congress and local positions - except barangay officials - should be held every second Monday of "every third year after May 1992."

Presidential and vice presidential elections should also take place every second Monday of May "every sixth year after May 1992."

"The proposal of the Commission on Elections to extend the May 2022 elections a day or 2 before or after the dates specified under the Constitution may face a constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court," Lacson said.

"This is not to mention valid issues and concerns involving the security of the 'secrecy and sanctity of the ballot,'" he said.

The Comelec has said that there is no need to postpone the national elections in 2022 as the body can craft measures to protect voters from COVID-19.