Lawyer denies seeking Duterte term extension in poll postponement plea

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 13 2021 11:04 AM

People line up at the Commission on Elections in Pasay City on the first day of voter’s registration, Sept. 1, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File
People line up at the Commission on Elections in Pasay City on the first day of voter’s registration, Sept. 1, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — A lawyer whose coalition is seeking the postponement of next year's polls denied Monday that his group's petition was intended to keep President Rodrigo Duterte in office.

The Coalition for Life and Democracy (NCLD) last Friday asked the Commission on Elections to delay the May 9, 2022 national and local elections, citing the continued threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Teleradyo interview, NCLD legal counsel Francisco Buan Jr. rejected speculation that his group's appeal was meant to extend President Rodrigo Duterte's term.

Buan once served a spokesperson for the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee. He also said "some members" of the pro-Duterte group believed in the NCLD's advocacy.

"This is altogether different. Ang aming layunin dito ay proteksiyunan ang buhay ng tao (our objective here is to protect people's lives)," Buan said, referring to the petition.

Should Comelec favor the NCLD's petition, the extension of Duterte's term as president will only be a "consequent effect," Buan said.

The lawyer expressed frustration that some aspirants in next year's elections have been going around the country conducting motorcades, which he described as a potential COVID-19 super-spreaders.

The lawyer also clarified that they are not supporting any aspirant, stressing that the NCLD was an "apolitical" group.

Despite the decline COVID-19 cases, the NCLD anticipates that there will be a surge in infections due the highly infectious omicron variant, Buan said.

But the new variant has yet to be detected in the country and experts from the OCTA Research Group do not expect a surge as bad as the one caused by the delta variant.

Buan clarified that they are seeking to postpone the elections for only a year or until May 2023 but a typographical error in the petition stated that it should be moved to May 2025.

"Kung mapapabigyan kami until 2025, better. Kasi siguro by that time, ang COVID ay wala na," he said.

(If we're allowed to postpone until 2025 then that's better. Because probably by that time, we no longer have COVID.)

Buan also appealed to political aspirants to abide by health protocols and Comelec rules in conducting public events, such as motorcades.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Philippines has confirmed 2.8 million COVID-19 cases with more than 50,000 deaths.

As of Sunday, the country only had 11,255 active infections, according to the health department.