Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Drilon nixes possible postponement of elections in some areas

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to refrain from sowing undue fears regarding the conduct of the 2016 elections, as he advised the agency to exhaust all possible means to ensure that the May 2016 polls will be held simultaneously all throughout the country.

Drilon issued the statement in response to Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim's statement that due to delayed printing of ballots because of systems incompatibility, "the elections in some areas may not happen on May 9."

Drilon, who is up for a re-election this year under the administration's Liberal Party, said that the Comelec is mandated by no less than the Constitution to conduct, without fail, clean, orderly and credible elections in the country.

Drilon emphasized that, as a rule, elections should be held simultaneously throughout the country and can only be postponed in exceptional cases. Under the Omnibus Election Code, postponement may only be effected for "serious causes such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majeure, and other analogous causes of such nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election should become impossible in any political subdivision."

"Failure to execute this very mandate is a violation of the Constitution," he said.

"The Comelec should exhaust all possible solutions instead of talking about postponement. There's still time to print the ballots," Drilon said.

"The Comelec should focus on doing all it could to fulfil its mandate and refrain from making speculations which will cause unnecessary fears and doubts among the public regarding the upcoming elections considering the already tense and toxic political atmosphere," Drilon added. Drilon said that the integrity of the elections will be impaired if the election is not simultaneously held throughout the country.

"The Comelec should avoid actions which may bring into question the credibility and integrity of the electoral process," Drilon said.

"Let's say, hypothetically, that the Comelec, as it had earlier mentioned, decided to postpone the elections in some areas. How would they pick the areas wherein the elections would be suspended? Would they suspend as well the transmission of the results until such time that the elections are held all throughout the country, so that the electorate would not be swayed by early election results?" Drilon asked.

"That is even more problematic and chaotic than to hire more printers to hasten the printing of ballots," Drilon said.

Meanwhile, Drilon reiterated his call for the Comelec to implement stronger campaign regulations "in order to put a stop to excessive and ridiculous campaign spending in the country."

He concluded that the Comelec should implement a strong disclosure requirement for all candidates and study a more effective mechanism to look into their campaign expenses. (Senate)

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