Comelec suspends Palawan plebiscite due to coronavirus outbreak

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc approved the  postponement of the May 11 plebiscite that would ratify the division of Palawan into 3 separate provinces .  

In a memorandum dated Tuesday, April 7, the Comelec en banc said that because of the coronavirus outbreak it approved Acting Deputy Executive Director for Operations Teopisto Elnas Jr’s recommendation to postpone the May 11, 2020 Palawan Plebiscite.  

“The Commission en banc has approved, after due deliberation, your recommendation by reason of COVID-19 and the consequent enhanced community quarantine of the entire Luzon of which Palawan province is part, to postpone motu proprio (on its own) the May 11, 2020, Palawan Plebiscite to ratify the division of Palawan into 3 provinces,” read the memorandum signed by Acting Comelec Secretary Consuelo Diola.  

Under the Omnibus Election Code and established jurisprudence, the Comelec has the authority to suspend plebiscites if needed.  

Republic Act No. 11259, which divides Palawan into the provinces of Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur, was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in April 2019. 

In an earlier memorandum, the Comelec suspend all preparatory activities leading to the May 11 plebiscite because of the lockdown in Luzon put in place to quell the spread of the virus.  

According to the April 7 memorandum, the poll body’s law department also recommended the suspension fo the plebiscite as it would be “logistically impossible” to deploy personnel and election materials needed for the vote.  

“The spread of the COVID-19 is an unforeseen event which is beyond human control…. As such, the holding of a free and honest plebiscite on May 11, 2020 to ratify R.A. No. 11259 becomes impossible at the height of the spread of the COVID-19. 

The Comelec said it will issue a new calendar of activities for the plebiscite when Luzon lockdown is lifted on April 30.  

The Philippines has at least 3,660 coronavirus cases, with 163 deaths and 73 recoveries as of Monday, April 7. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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