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Comelec sees no need to postpone 2022 polls amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) sees no need to postpone the May 9, 2022 elections even if the COVID-19 is not yet over by that time, its spokesperson said on Friday.

"Atas ng Constitution yan (election), hindi yan basta-basta mapapalitan," Director James Jimenez said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV. "At this point we don't see a need for it (postponement), hindi nakikita yung pangangailangan."

At a budget hearing at the House of Representatives on Thursday, Deputy Majority Leader Mikey Arroyo asked Comelec officials present to consider postponing the 2022 elections due to health and safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Constitution mandates that national elections be conducted every second Monday of May every three years.

Former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal had earlier said postponing the 2022 elections due to the pandemic is without basis, noting that other countries have managed or plan to hold elections even amid the height of the pandemic.

“Walang basehan ‘yan, kasi in fact ‘yung ibang bansa nag-eleksyon na. ‘Yung South Korea had elections early this year, Germany is going to have elections US is going to have elections. Kung kaya ng ibang bansa, bakit ‘di natin kaya?” he said on Super Radyo DzBB on Thursday.

Comelec preparations

Jimenez, in the Dobol B interview, said the pandemic has been the "basis" of the Comelec's already ongoing preparations for the 2022 elections.

"Actually, ang pinaghahandan ng Comelec ay yung 2022 na merong pandemya," he said. "As far as the Comelec is concerned, given na na by 2022 ay may pandemya pa rin."

"Yan ang pinaka-basis ng aming paghahanda, na kinakailangan nating mag-ingat kasi sa 2022, sa panahon ng halalan, merong pandemya at in fact ini-expect natin na wala pa diyang effective distribution ng vaccine," he added.

Asked to elaborate, Jimenez said the poll body is eyeing to expand the alternative voting method, the filing of certificate of candidacy be done online, and requiring voters to wear face shields and face masks.

Comelec executive director Bartolome Sinocruz Jr., during the budget hearing, said they are looking into conducting the elections for two to three days to minimize the number of voters flocking voting precincts if the pandemic is still ongoing by that time.

Jimenez also said the Comelec is also considering using large gymnasiums or covered courts as voting centers instead of small classrooms.

The poll body is also eyeing to purchase more vote-counting machines to improve the 800 voters per machine ratio during the 2019 midterm elections.

"Gusto natin mas maraming makina para mas konti ang taong gagamit sa isang makina," Jimenez said, adding this is the reason why the Comelec is asking for a bigger budget from Congress for next year.

"Definitely magpapataas ng budget yan (additional machines)," he said. —KBK, GMA News