PNA image file /file photo

A Pampanga lawmaker on Thursday urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consider the postponement of the 2022 national elections if the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) remains a threat in the next few years.

During the House panel deliberations on the poll body’s proposed budget for 2021, Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo warned of the increased risk of transmission of coronavirus infections with the holding of a national-level election in a pandemic environment.

“It is very nice that the Comelec is actually preparing way ahead of time for this scary day. I am very scared about this day come elections. I am definitely sure that if there is no vaccine yet, I am sure there will be so many contaminations during that day,” he said.

Arroyo also noted that the risk of voters contracting the coronavirus disease could lead to a low voter turnout.

“Also I believe since the youth and those who are actually registered citizens who are allowed to vote by law, will have a hard time registering whether they are transferring or not, or first time voters, I am positive many of them will not be able to register,” he said. “Come election day, no matter how prepared we are, it will cause a serious dent on our health situation. Has the thought that you will propose to postpone the elections triggered your minds.”

Arroyo said such a proposal should at least come from the poll body instead of members of Congress so that the public would not have integrity concerns regarding the motive behind the postponement.

“If it will come from us, then people might think that we have motives to extend our term. But when it comes from the Comelec… then perhaps people will consider it,” he said.

Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas, however, said the matter is up to Congress and President Rodrigo Duterte, not the Comelec.

During the same hearing, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez asked Congress to increase the agency’s budget for next year to procure more vote-counting machines and impose safety precautions amid the coronavirus threat.

Comelec had an original budget proposal of around PHP30.6 billion, but the Department of Budget and Management slashed it to PHP14.5 billion.

“Ini-expect natin na dadami ang ating mga botante dahil year-on-year, talaga namang tumataas ‘yung ating list of voters (We expect that the number of voters will increase, because the list of voters usually increase year-on-year),” Jimenez said. “At kapag marami ang botante at nagsisiksikan sila sa isang makina, medyo unsafe ‘yan pagdating sa sitwasyon nating pandemya ngayon (And if there are several voters crowding over a single machine, then it will be unsafe especially in a pandemic situation).” (PNA)