An official of the Commission on Elections urged Filipinos to “send a message” by tweeting the hashtag “#IWillVoteIn2022” after a a lawmaker proposed to postpone the upcoming national elections.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, also the director of the Education and Information Department of the poll body, on Friday morning launched the hashtag after Rep. Mikey Arroyo (Pampanga) suggested to suspend the 2022 elections if the novel coronavirus pandemic gets worse by then.
“Send a message: #iwillvotein2022,” Jimenez tweeted.
The tweet earned more than 110 likes, almost retweets and 12 comments from Twitter users expressing their willingness to participate in the next polls despite Arroyo’s suggestion.
Jimenez said that the Comelec has been planning for the upcoming elections with the mindset that there is still the threat of COVID-19 at that time.
“Let us be very clear about this: The basis of all COMELEC planning for 2022 is that pandemic conditions will persist until then—na may COVID-19 pa rin, at kailangan pa rin natin ng ibayong pag-iingat para hindi magkahawa-hawa ang mga tao— whether botante or election worker man,” he tweeted.
To vote or not to vote?
At the House budget hearing for Comelec for 2021, Arroyo claimed that some of his constituents were reluctant to vote during a pandemic.
“I’ve been hearing in my district, the businessmen, the old people, they’re saying maybe they would just not vote because they’re scared to vote during that day. That’s just food for thought and the Comelec may choose to answer that or not,” he said.
“I’ve been doing my share of reading on this pandemic, and it seems that the earliest time we can realistically get a vaccine for everybody in our country will be September of October next year, assuming nothing goes wrong. Are we relying on that?” Arroyo added.
Senators Ping Lacson and Imee Marcos disagreed with the suggestion. Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III also opposed the idea, saying that the move “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? The tenure of elected government officials is fixed,” he said.
Lawyer Chel Diokno, the founding dean of De La Salle University’s College of Law, tweeted that lawmakers should think of a solution instead of supposedly extending themselves into office.
Comelec said that it has been studying protocols that may take place if the threat of COVID-19 still persists in 2022, such as the wearing of face masks and face shields and securing alternative voting methods.
Jimenez said that they are also thinking of potentially having an online filing of the Certificates of Candidacy, utilizing gymnasiums instead of school classrooms for the voting and extending the voting day itself for two to three days.
The poll body is also seeking for additional budget to purchase more voting machines and decrease the number of voters who will queue and process their votes in the machines.
Arroyo on Friday afternoon defended his suggestion and clarified that he is not filing any bill to postpone the elections.
“Tama po sila nasa Saligang Batas, we need to have elections. Tama po sila. Sa akin lang po, perhaps, when the time comes, kunyari 2022, talagang masama ang sitwasyon, then we can talk about it,” he said to ABS-CBN News.
“Hindi ko naman sinasabi na gawin eh. Ang sinasabi ko lang, pagdating ng panahon, in 2022, we don’t know what’s going to happen to us, the pandemic will either be better or it would be worse by that time. How worse will it be? Hopefully, not that bad. Pagdating doon, dun na nating pag-usapan nang malawakan,” Arroyo added.
“It’s just an idea, na kung talagang hindi na kaya ng ating protocols, edi pag-usap natin,” he stressed.
The lawmaker also said that he is not in favor of “no-el” or no elections and added that he only floated the idea with the possibility that the country is unable to manage the COVID-19 situation at that time.
Participating in the process of selecting public officials who will run localities and the country itself is a form of reinforcing democracy in a society, according to Jimenez.
“It is significant in that simply exercising your right of suffrage connects you to the great democratic tradition of individuals taking part in their own governance,” he said in an opinion column last June.