Comelec may delay polls for 2M voters in ‘Pablo’ areas

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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But the NDRRMC needs to give Comelec a formal proposal on delaying elections in areas devastated by Typhoon Pablo, says Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr

UNBURIED BODIES. Hundreds of bodies remain unburied in New Bataan, Compostela Valley. Photo by John Javellana/Dec 25

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will “seriously” explore a proposal to delay elections in areas that have barely recovered from Typhoon Pablo, Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr said.

But the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), which floated the idea, will first have to submit a formal proposal to the Comelec, Brillantes told reporters in an interview Friday, December 28.

“We will have to consider, but they have to recommend. If that’s what they’re saying, they have to give reasons why, because it’s not easy to postpone elections. That’s extra work. It will entail expenses also if we postpone, especially because it’s automated,” Brillantes explained in a mix of English and Filipino.

Brillantes added it is “very good” that the NDRRMC is proposing this as early as 5 months before the scheduled May 13, 2013 elections. “That’s better, if they’re telling us this early that the people will need more time to recover. I don’t know the situation in those areas yet, but it’s okay, it will be seriously considered.” (Watch more in the video below)

In an earlier interview with Rappler, NDRRMC executive director Usec Benito Ramos said the Comelec should consider postponing polls in at least 6 areas devastated by Pablo. 

The typhoon killed at least 1,067 and wrought around P36.95-B in damages, according to NDRRMC’s latest update that was released December 25. In 8 regions, at least 385 schools – which also serve as polling precincts – sustained damages.

In deciding to postpone polls, however, the Comelec will have to consider factors aside from the devastation wrought by Pablo.

Rappler reported that delayed elections may give election operators a leeway to tilt election results in favor of their candidates through extended campaigning or even cheating.

Up to 2.13-M voters live in the 6 areas placed under a state of calamity due to Pablo – Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Misamis Oriental, Siquijor, Surigao del Sur, and Agusan del Sur. In terms of popularity surveys, this population makes up at least 7.1 percentage points, a critical number especially for the last few slots in the Senate’s Magic 12.

If Comelec approves this proposal, this will not be the first time the poll body will postpone elections due to calamity. In 2010, the Comelec postponed the October 25, 2010 Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) and barangay elections in 3 Isabela towns – Maconacon, Palanan, and Divilacan – due to the effects of Typhoon Juan (Megi).

In a resolution promulgated on October 21, 2010, the Comelec said that due to the typhoon’s effects, “the mandated task” of holding these elections “cannot be accomplished.” The poll body cited the following:

  • impassable roads, resulting in “the impossibility of delivery and distribution of accountable and non-accountable election forms and other election paraphernalia and supplies”
  • destruction of some structures and edifices, including polling places for the SK and barangay elections
  • lack of electric supply in affected municipalities 

The devastation wrought by Juan was barely a fraction of that by Pablo. Juan killed at least 26 and caused up to P8.31-B in damages.

Juan, however, ravaged the Philippines from October 16 to 21, 2010, less than a week before the 2010 SK and barangay elections. Pablo devastated the country from December 2 to 9 this year, 5 months before the 2013 elections. –

Donate to victims of Typhoon Pablo. Rappler’s “Text to Help” campaign makes helping as easy as sending a text message.

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email