Comelec mulls postponing polls amid emergency

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it is now considering postponing the May 9 polls after a Supreme Court (SC) ruling forced the poll body to overhaul months-long processes in only 60 days.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista was asked in a radio interview on Tuesday afternoon, March 8, if the poll body can still hold the elections on May 9 after an SC ruling thrust the Comelec in a state of emergency.

In his interview on dzMM on Tuesday, Bautista answered: “Hindi ko pa po masasagot ‘yan. ‘Yan po ang aming pag-aaralan bukas at sa mga susunod na araw.” (I can't answer that yet. That’s what we will study tomorrow and in the next few days.)

Bautista said the Comelec is holding an “emergency, all hands” meeting on Wednesday, March 9, to discuss its next steps after the SC ordered the Comelec to issue voting receipts.

The SC ruling practically requires the Comelec to redo things such as the following: 

'Constitution allows postponement'

Asked if Philippine laws allow postponing elections even for a few days or weeks, Bautista replied, “Puwede po.” (It is allowed.)

Bautista – former dean of the Far Eastern University law school, who also taught constitutional law – said the Constitution allows postponing elections. 

The Comelec chairman, however, said a law is needed to postpone the May 9 polls.

The 1987 Constitution states, “Unless otherwise provided by law, the regular election for President and Vice President shall be held on the second Monday of May.”

The same thing goes for senators and members of the House of Representatives.

Bautista added: “Ang dapat din nating alalahanin, June 30, 'yan po ang napakahalagang petsa, kasi diyan nga po mage-expire 'yung termino ng dating pangulo at pangalawang pangulo, at ng mga senador. Kailangan po, meron nang nahalalal.”

(We also need to remember that June 30 is a very important date, because that is when the terms of our president, vice president, and senators will expire. We would need to have elected their replacements by then.)

Manual polls also possible

Aside from possibly postponing the elections, the Comelec said it is also considering holding manual elections on May 9. 

Asked if holding manual elections is one of the Comelec’s options, Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim said, “We are considering all angles.” 

He also said the Comelec is discussing the possibility of manual elections in its emergency meeting on Wednesday. 

Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim, for his part, said he believes the SC ruling “will result in a derailment, as of the present time, of our timelines, and timelines will affect the date of the elections.”

“This is a very difficult situation that the Supreme Court has created for the country,” he said.

Despite what Lim called an unexpected emergency, Bautista said the Comelec will respect the SC’s ruling.

A former nominee for the position of chief justice, Bautista continued: “Pero ang sasabihin din namin is, dahil sa aming paggalang sa pasyang ito, ito ang puwedeng repercussions, mga consequences, na puwedeng mangyari.”

(But what we will say is, because of our respect for our decision, these will be the possible repercussions, the consequences, that could happen.) –

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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