Editorial: Nationwide no election (‘No-El’) scenario on May 9 unlikely

·4 min read

Presidential aspirant Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said the Senate is ready to elect a Senate President to serve as acting President of the Republic should there be an attempt to postpone the national and local elections set on May 9, 2022.

Lacson issued this statement following the move of PDP-Laban (the Cusi wing allied with President Rodrigo Duterte) to reopen the filing of certificates of candidacy, which ended on Oct. 8, 2021.

The presidentiable on Monday, Jan. 3, issued a statement, saying he “would not like to think that the intention of the petition to reopen the filing of the COCs filed by the PDP-Laban is to delay the election on May 9, 2022—and pave the way for the extension of the term of office of the President beyond June 30, 2022. This is something the 1987 Constitution clearly forbids.”

Article 7, Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution provides for a line of succession in the event that the elected President of the Philippines is not able to discharge the duties of his office due to death, disability, or resignation, according to The Official Gazette.

The following is the line of succession:

1) Vice President — in cases of the death, disability, or resignation of the President;

2) Senate President — in cases of the death, disability, or resignation of the President and Vice President; and

3) Speaker of the House of Representatives — in cases of the death, disability, or resignation of the President, Vice President, and Senate President.

The terms of President Duterte and Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo will end at noon of June 30.

If the “No-El” scenario happens, Lacson said a new Senate President would be elected before Congress adjourns its sessions in June.

Lacson said the new Senate President, whose term will expire on June 30, 2025, will act as President “until a new President or Vice President shall have been chosen and qualified,” the senator explained.

‘No-El’ unlikely to happen

However, two local Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials said the “No-El” scenario is highly unlikely. And if it ever happens, the power vacuum is far from possibility.

Cebu Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano told SunStar Cebu Opinion that the elections must be held on the second Monday of May as mandated by the Constitution.

He said the Comelec has “the power to postpone elections for reasons of terrorism and the like where there is a showing that elections cannot be held in a particular locality.” The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, said Castillano, is also not a valid reason to delay the polls.

The other reasons for postponement of elections are “loss or destruction of paraphernalia or records, force majeure and other analogous causes of such nature that holding of a free, orderly and honest election becomes impossible in any political subdivision (province, city, municipality or barangay but not the entire country),” said Comelec Central Visayas spokesperson Ferdinand Gujilde.

“The pandemic does not fall under analogous cause because it does not make holding of free, orderly and honest election impossible. It can still be done with all health protocols in place,” Gujilde said. “But maybe, if there are areas where total lockdown may be imposed, but not the entire country.”

And if there is a postponement on May 9, 2022? Castillano said the “elections must be held 30 days from May 9, so there can be no vacuum of leadership as the turnover of power is still noon of June 30.”

Gujilde said incumbent officials need to step down at noon of June 30, 2022, and in the remote possibility there is no election, the presidential line of succession is followed.

Both election officials said postponement is impossible as the Comelec is also preparing for the elections in spite of the global health crisis.

“We are preparing for a pandemic election. The resolution on the guidelines for the electoral board incorporate health protocols,” Castillano said.

Voting for leaders is vital in a democratic system, and the Comelec prepared for the upcoming polls by promulgating Resolution 10727, which sets the guidelines for the electoral boards to follow.

“No-El is out of the equation as far as Comelec is concerned. We already conducted the plebiscite in Palawan at the height of pandemic and it succeeded without any report of increased Covid-19 incidence because of the plebiscite,” Gujilde said.

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