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Comelec pressed for time if Cha-cha plebiscite held before 2025 polls

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday said time will be too short if the plebiscite to ratify the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution is held earlier than the May 2025 midterm elections. 

Comelec chairman George Garcia explained that the poll body still has to prepare and conduct a massive procurement of materials that will be used for the plebiscite, thus it might not be feasible to hold the referendum for the economic Charter change before the year ends.

“Medyo nagigipit na kami sa panahon. Kulang na kulang na kami sa oras sa paghahanda natin sa eleksyon na dalawa sa 2025. And so ‘yung pagko-conduct ng halalan bago matapos ang taon, medyo sa ating palagay ay gipit na rin po ang inyong Commission on Elections,” he said in an ambush interview.

(We are pressed for time. We don’t have enough time to prepare for the two elections in 2025. And so the conduct of the plebiscite before the year ends, based on my opinion, is too short a time for the Commission on Elections.)

Garcia made the remark after several members of the House of Representatives on Monday said the Cha-cha plebiscite should be held ahead of the 2025 midterm elections, arguing that the Constitution is more important to be tackled and should therefore be separate from the elections.

The Lower House also called on the Senate to hasten its passage of the Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 6 which lifts the foreign ownership limit of public utilities and other vital industries.

The Comelec chairman, however, assured that they will obey the decision of the Congress should it decide to conduct the plebiscite separate from the midterm polls.

“‘Yung katanungan kung pwede bang pagsabayin o hindi [on the question on whether the plebiscite and elections could be done simultaneously or not], that is a legal issue and a political issue which the Comelec cannot interfere. The Comelec will always respect the decision of our political departments—the executive and legislative departments of government,” he added.

The poll body earlier said that it is willing to conduct the Cha-cha plebiscite simultaneously with the 2025 polls since it will entail less amount of expenses. Garcia said a separate plebiscite would cost around P13 billion to hold.

The Comelec chairman also said that they have to suspend the ongoing voter registration if the national plebiscite will push through before the midterm elections.

“Kapag may pumasok na isang eleksyon, you have to suspend the ongoing registration of voters. Sabi ng batas na kapag ang eleksyon na mangyayari ay isang national election, kinakailangan na walang registration 90 days before the election. Kapag special election, at least 60 days before the elections,” Garcia said.

(When there’s an election, you have to suspend the ongoing registration of voters. The law says that when the election is a national election, there has to be no registration of voters 90 days before the election. When it is a special election, there should be no registration at least 60 days before the elections.)—RF, GMA Integrated News