Malacañang thumbed down the call of Pampanga 2nd District Representative Mikey Arroyo to postpone the 2022 national elections due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We must not use the existing global health crisis as a ground to cancel and reschedule the elections as this would not sit well with the public," said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Friday, September 25, in a statement.
Any plan to postpone the elections, slated to take place in May 2022, would merit a challenge before the Supreme Court because the 1987 Constitution clearly states that elections are to take place on the second Monday of May. (READ: Can we postpone the 2022 elections?)
"The holding of elections is a public service that the government must ensure to deliver. The idea to postpone the 2022 elections, if and when it happens, presents constitutional challenges," said Roque, a lawyer.
He also allayed fears that the pandemic would scare off Filipino voters from casting their ballots, saying much can still be done to address this concern.
"The national election is still two years away and we still have sufficient time to prepare. We can learn from the examples of other countries, such as the United States, which will be holding an election later this year, on how they conduct polls during COVID-19 pandemic," said Roque.
Countries such as Sri Lanka, Belarus, Singapore, and South Korea successfully held elections despite the ongoing health crisis.
The 2022 elections is when Filipinos will vote for the successors of President Rodrigo Duterte, Vice President Leni Robredo, senators, and other officials.
In a press conference on Monday, September 28, Roque again stressed that postponing elections "can never be an option" for Malacañang "unless the Constitution is amended."
The presidential spokesperson also insisted President Rodrigo Duterte did not want to extend his term beyond 2022.
"The President is not interested in extending his term and he leaves it to the Filipino people, the sovereign people, to decide if they want to amend the Constitution to postpone the elections," Roque said.
Meanwhile, Roque downplayed the possible interference of China in the 2022 Philippine presidential elections after Facebook recently took down China-linked networks for violating its policy against foreign or government interference.
Among the topics discussed by Chinese network included Beijing’s interests in the South China Sea, Hong Kong, and content supportive of Duterte and his daughter Sara. It also tackled criticism of Rappler, overseas Filipino workers, as well as praise and criticism of China.
Roque said the Palace was not concerned by the development.
"I have been a strong adherent for freedom of expression and the free market place of ideas and Filipinos are smart enough to not believe everything they read on Facebook,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. – with reports from Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.