Election postponement can give voters more time to reflect on choices — lawyer

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016. Filed under: Philippine News
Activists hold a picket on Tuesday outside the Commission on Elections (Comelec) criticizing its apprehension in printing voter receipts. The Supreme Court recently issued a resolution mandating Comelec to activate the "voter-verified paper audit trail" to allow confirmation of votes.(MNS photo)

Activists hold a picket on Tuesday outside the Commission on Elections (Comelec) criticizing its apprehension in printing voter receipts. The Supreme Court recently issued a resolution mandating Comelec to activate the “voter-verified paper audit trail” to allow confirmation of votes.(MNS photo)

MANILA, Mar 15 (Mabuhay) — Amid opposition on the possibility of the postponement of elections, an election lawyer on Tuesday said the window of time that will result in moving the date of the polls may have positive effects.

In a statement, lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the period between May 9, the schedule of this year’s polls based on law, and the possible schedule of the postponed elections can afford voters time to reflect on their choices.

“If elections will be held June 9 instead of May 9, there would be no additional campaign period for candidates. Thus, looking [at] it from a positive point of view, the period of postponement could be used by the voters in analyzing or evaluating the qualities and programs of candidates and political parties, which the latter had offered to the voters during the campaign period,” he said.

Macalintal pointed out that the postponement would not mean an extension of the campaign period, which runs from Feb. 8 to May 7 for national candidates, and from Mar. 25 to May 7 for local candidates.

“With the postponement of polls, we can tell the candidates to give us a break as we now have all the time to study and evaluate their qualifications and platforms,” he said.

The lawyer also said election watchdogs and other concerned groups may use the time “for massive vote education on the dynamics of automated polls and the profiles of candidates and the value of our right to suffrage.”

“Instead of blaming Comelec, Congress or the Supreme Court, let us all work together to ensure a clean and credible elections, and trust the Comelec that it will perform its duties in accordance with the laws and in the highest interest of the public,” he added.

Since the Supreme Court announced its order last week that voting receipts must be issued, the poll body has repeatedly said the postponement of the polls may be in the horizon.

In a resolution released Friday afternoon, the Comelec said activities necessary to carry out the order takes them three months back in their preparations.

“Considering that undertaking all these activities sets the Comelec’s preparations back by approximately three months, it now appears that the Comelec will not be ready to conduct orderly and credible elections for overseas voters by the scheduled start of overseas voting on the 9th of April 2016; and that, in a similar vein, there will be insufficient time to complete preparations for orderly and credible elections on the 9th of May 2016,” it read.

It added that the additional preparations “might likewise constrain the Commission to recommend the postponement of the May 9, 2016 election to an appropriate date before June 30, 2016.”

In an interview on Monday, Comelec chief Andres Bautista said that “all options”—except no-el (no elections)—”are open at this point.”

However, they have not discussed when exactly elections will fall if the postponement happens. The poll chief said it may be “probably a few weeks” from May 9, as they look at leaders stepping down on June 30.

Representatives of political parties have said, however, that postponing the polls “is out of the question.”

In a meeting with Comelec and technology provider Smartmatic-TIM, there was a consensus from most of the parties present that elections must push through on May 9.

“The preparations to achieve that goal just has to be met,” said former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, who headed the steering committee for the first automated polls in 2010.

“I think Comelec is working naman on several options. What’s important is that we help Comelec and if there are problems, we assist them. The thrust now is that there are two stages of problems: the first one is the preparations—procurement of supplies, training, logistics. The second is what happens on election day itself,” said Larrazabal, now affiliated with the National People’s Coalition (NPC).

Asked if the remedies needed are attainable with less than two months of preparations, Larrazabal replied: “There’s still about 55 days left. Dapat we should focus on working triple or quadruple time so that we’ll have credible automated elections on May 9.” (MNS)

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